By William McConnell
It was always an exciting Sunday. Not just any Sunday. Not just the normal Sunday when you get ready for church, attend Sunday School with your friends, sit with Grandmother McConnell on the third pew from the front on the right side of the sanctuary (and dare not misbehave), sing the hymns, attempt to stay awake through the sermon, and enjoy Sunday dinner of pot roast, Southern cooked vegetables, and amazingly (now I would say, cloyingly) sweet tea.
This is the Sunday when the front pew of the church is filled with box upon box (it looked like THOUSANDS of boxes) of offering envelopes. Each box contained one envelope for each week of the year – dated and numbered to make sure our gifts were anonymous and weekly. On top of each box was the name of a family or an individual who was a member of the church. And, one of those boxes had my name on it!
I don’t remember filling out a pledge card in those days. But, I do remember that a weekly offering was expected every Sunday after I joined that church in what was the rural part of Mecklenburg (now Charlotte) Presbytery.
“Weekly Allowance” was never in my family’s vocabulary. The chores you did around the house, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, and working with Daddy in his garden were just the things you were expected to do because you were loved, housed, clothed, fed, and nurtured in our home. But somehow, I did have a little money to put in my offering envelopes. If memory serves, my first weekly offerings were 10 cents. After some years, I decided (or maybe, daddy decided) my weekly offering should rise to the princely sum of 25 cents. Around one dollar a month – almost nothing by 2019 standards and not much more than that then. But, to a growing boy in the late 1960s and early 1970s ̶ a small fortune.
As I watched daddy write our family’s weekly offering check and put it into his envelope, I proudly put my dime or quarter into mine and prepared to place it in the offering plate at worship. Giving wasn’t an optional activity. It was part of normal preparation for a normal worship service on every normal Sunday.
My gifts weren’t large. If I missed a few weeks, which I’m sure I did, the absence of my gift would not be felt. But, I learned that giving is a normal part of what it means to be a normal Christian in a normal church on a normal Sunday in a normal community of faith. Giving is a normal response to God’s far-from-normal gifts to us.
So, now my gifts are larger, they are drafted from my bank account monthly, and I do provide my congregation a pledge card so that they can anticipate my gift. But regardless, today’s normal gifts have their genesis in those small normal offerings so many years ago.
As children serve God with us in God’s church, can we encourage their giving, however small, to be a normal part of their far-from-normal lives?
Is any Sunday really normal?
William McConnell, CFRE, is a Mission Engagement Advisor for the Presbyterian Mission Agency serving the Central region of the United States.