RIP to Offering Buckets

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You know how it is. Ideas are like fragile, beautiful butterflies. They come fluttering into view and capture your vision. You don’t want to dump cold water on someone else’s idea. It destroys its innocence and appeal. You want the occasional, random idea to spark life and perhaps even generate new ideas.

Such was a staff meeting in early February. We were discussing the need to rethink how and when in the service we take up offering. We are like many churches, relying on random volunteers each Sunday to walk the aisles, slowly passing baskets back and forth. In order to provide time for the offering, there’s usually a song sung during the offering, which means that everyone is also standing as the offering baskets are passed.

This is fine, but often it can prevent spontaneity. It also hinders people from writing on their response card if they’ve made a spiritual decision during the service or if they have a prayer request. On occasion when the worship leader may forget to “announce” the offering, the volunteers are uncertain as to when to “go” and pass the baskets.

I’d heard it being done in other churches, so on that particular staff meeting, I threw out the idea of using buckets. The implementation would mean we’d put them at the end of each aisle, and at the appropriate moments, we would simply say, “Pass the buckets during this time,” and people could place their offering and their welcome/response cards in the bucket as it came by. Then it was suggested we put pens in the buckets and pass them early in the service, so that people could have a pen to write on their response card. Then it was suggested that we pass the buckets at the very end of the service, during a final song, so that people could respond to the sermon or express a need/prayer request if they were prompted to do so.

Instead of spending money on some Northstar “branded” buckets, we decided to get some cheap buckets at Dollar Tree. That way, we’d have very little financial investment if the bucket experiment came up empty.

It all sounded so simple.

The actual implementation was… awkward. The first Sunday, we told people, “During this song, we will pass the buckets. Take out a pen if you need one.” The song was sung, and maybe 25% of the rows passed their buckets. The conclusion of the service went a little better with the second pass as Tanner said, “Pass the buckets NOW.”

In staff meeting the following week, we wondered if the bucket passing concept was too difficult for our people. 😉 And it was awkward in a lesser attended second service when some rows may only have a few people sitting on them – they had to get up and go to the end of the aisle to get a bucket and then take it to the other end of the aisle?

We pressed on.

The second Sunday’s implementation was a bit better, but during the sermon in the first service, there were at least three people who “kicked the bucket.” As the buckets rattled around, spilling their pens, I could hear the bucket naysayers in the coming week’s staff meeting already.

We tried the buckets for two more weeks, finally eliminating the first pass of the buckets for the pens. We put a basket on a table in the back of the auditorium full of pens in case anyone wanted one. They could grab them before service or during the greeting time. We also just assumed people brought pens with them..

What we learned

We’re back to having actual humans pass baskets during a song now. The buckets are a fading memory. However, we seemed to get more response cards when we were using the buckets. We moved the offering time to the end of the service during the bucket dynasty and decided to keep it there, assuming it helps people use the response cards during the sermon, if they feel prompted to indicate a spiritual decision or prayer request.

I miss the buckets.

At a recent staff lunch, I asked the staff their quick takes on the buckets. Neal was also able to grab some quick input on a Sunday morning during setup. Here’s what everyone’s input was:

What’s your Bucket Bit?

Leave a comment below about your impressions from the bucket days of Northstar. Should we try again? Did you love them/hate them? Where did we go wrong in the implementation? 

Neal had one last comment:

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