Worship Wars 13: Ushers and Offerings

Posted on February 25, 2008. Filed under: Bi-vocational Ministry, Worship Wars |

“Preacher, we don’t do it that way because the Cowboys games start at either noon or 1pm. And some of us like to eat lunch on time!” That was the answer to my suggestion that the money counters count the offering and take it to the bank after the worship service. Why did I challenge their tradition of counting the offering during the worship service and leaving the church early to make the deposit?

I had thought this one through and believed that I had an ironclad case that would convince the men of the church to take care of the offering after the worship service. (1) My home church in Georgia, Benning Hills Baptist, Columbus, did it exactly the way I described. I had heard of other churches doing that way too, so it was not a “Baptist tradition” to take the offering to the bank during the worship service. (2) They could make an after hours deposit at the bank at any time. (3) Our worship attendance was so small that the addition of the two men from the office would be of positive benefit to the whole church and perhaps make a better impression on visitors. (4) Attending the worship service would be of spiritual benefit to the men who also served as money counters.

My making this suggestion in a deacon’s meeting was not only rejected, but laughed at. One deacon, Louis, said, “I don’t need to hear you preach anyway. I can hear the singing and that’s the important thing.” Then he gave the excuse of the Cowboys and lunch with his family. His wife, Lois, also later chastised me for the suggestion because it would disrupt family life as they always had the kids and grandkids over for Sunday dinner.

Once again, I found that a spiritual, common sense proposal of mine, caused a controversy and failed to bring anything positive to the church.

Today, at Redeemer Church, we take the offering at the end of the service, the financial team and elders count it after the service is complete and take it to the bank later. I have heard zero complaints about missing the Dallas Cowboys games or getting a late lunch. Why?

I really think it is a matter of priorities. One group of men were serving the Church, the other group is serving the Lord. One group of men loves the church, another loves the Lord. In my former church, taking care of the church’s business took priority over worshiping the Lord, but here at Redeemer worshiping the Lord is the #1 priority.

The way my former church operated was the classic committee style of administration that you learn about in seminary in the Survey of Education and Administration course. We had a finance committee (deacons, pastor, treasurer), an Usher committee (all other men of the church who did not also sing in the choir), and the money counters (a slightly smaller committee than the ushers, but comprised of about the same group of men). Basically each man served about 3 out of 4 Sundays in one capacity or another. The men did serve willingly and joyfully (just don’t make me go down the center aisle-I don’t want to pray out loud!). The younger men were not allowed to serve as money counters, but they could serve as ushers.

Towards the end of my pastorate, the men were often doing double duty since there were not as many men left to serve. Because I was asked to resign (fired), I know that 3 families left the church and those included 4 ushers,  2 of whom were also money counters. That left only 4-5 men left to do the ushering and counting.

But, what did that church do RIGHT when it came to dealing with the money? In a previous posting (Preacher, You’re Crooked!) I told you about some of the shady financial dealings of the church. But here is an example of the church doing it right. One group of men collected the offering, another group counted (always 2 men, never related, with a rotation that tried to put men with a different partner frequently) and the treasurer and assistant treasurer never did either ushering or counting. That was a pretty good system to protect the integrity of the men and the offerings.

One of the things that is quite traditional in Baptist churches is collecting the offering in Sunday School as well as in worship. I grew up giving my offering in Sunday School. But as I began pastoring and studying worship, I grew to not much care for the Sunday School offering method because I found that giving during the worship service contributed to my sense of worship while giving during Sunday School seemed a bit more like just giving to the Church. In reality I know that if I give to the Lord joyfully, cheerfully, and in faith, it really doesn’t much matter where or when I give. I have a friend at work who has to work on Sundays and cannot attend worship. He stops by the church office after every payday to faithfully give his tithe. That is his act of worship and what a beautiful example that is. So maybe when we give is not all that important, but it is helpful to me if I give during worship.

I remember one of the faithful men of my former church whose health reached a point where he was not so steady on his feet. Physically he was no longer able to help take up the offering and serve as usher. He was greatly saddened by this, as was the whole church. Something as simple and innocuous as taking up the offering or counting the money and taking it to the bank is a wonderful opportunity to serve the Lord, to lead in worship, and contribute to the ministry of the church. Many faithful men take great pleasure in serving the Lord in these positions which are as ancient as the Levites serving with Moses in the desert Tabernacle.

In today’s world I believe the church needs to focus on offerings as a part of our worship to the Lord and I believe that ushers need to be trained in CPR/First Aid and have a license to carry a concealed weapon. Violence in churches is increasing and we need to take seriously the concept of defending our churches spiritually, doctrinally and physically. Ushers need to be coached in emergency procedures such as what to do in case of a fire, storm, ill church member or violent assault.

Monday, February 25, 2008– Due to pressing work obligations, I have not been able to continue the Worship Wars series for several weeks. This week’s edition is going to focus on offerings, ushers and money-counters. These stories are of my time as pastor of a small, elderly, traditional, neighborhood Southern Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. I was the bi-vocational pastor of this church from 1992-2007. Bi-vocational means that I worked another full-time job because the church could not pay for a full time pastor. I worked my job 40-50 hours a week and also pastored, preaching 3 times a week, teaching Sunday School, and taking care of much of the administrative tasks, visitation and all the other normal activities of a full time minister. This church was founded in about 1955 and peaked in attendance at around 300+ in 1968. Decline was pretty consistent after 1968 with some brief upswings here and there. The church had a longstanding reputation as a “problem church” and I was the first and only pastor to stay beyond 3 years. These blogs are an effort at examining what is wrong with churches today, what did I do that was wrong, what could I have done better, and they serve as a warning to any young ministers who may read this blog. Pastoring is a bloodsport in the sense that eternal souls are on the line, and churches and pastors get severely wounded in the process.


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2 Responses to “Worship Wars 13: Ushers and Offerings”

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very interesting… I am going to come back and read more of your chapters.

Thanks Judith! Come back anytime.

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