The Salvation Army has always been, in its purest form, about reaching out to those in the community to “save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity.” Is there any way a corps can ignore this call to mobilize and be true to our DNA? And for a corps to be missional, it must have the resources to act. What place does the offering have as we mobilize?
As a child, I remember the corps treasurer coming to the pulpit to call for our cartridges, looking for ammunition for the war effort. Today, we announce it as a time to give our tithes and offerings, which it is. But it is also a call to the saints to provide the means by which we can act. This is the lifeblood of the mission. Without resources, the mission can only be a dream. Some say that the Lord will provide. I suggest he already has, and it is in our pockets—to hold on to or offer with open hands.
So how do we approach this important part of the service? Could the offertory be a time to outline our strategy, explain our objectives and provide an update on how the mission is moving forward? Could we acknowledge that, unless everyone takes part, the existence of the corps and the fulfilment of our purpose is in jeopardy? Could we cast vision, and offer prayer that focuses on the mission, rather than the givers?
It is critical to understand how money fuels mission. Knowing where to place resources isn't always easy, especially when there may not be agreement among stakeholders. The offering is a time to build alignment within the body of believers, and to gain the buy-in that we need to plan and act strategically. It is an opportunity for the leadership to appeal for those resources that are in our pockets.
In A Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwen writes, “Every time we approach people for money, we must be sure that we are inviting them into this vision of fruitfulness and into a vision that is fruitful.”
As a corps officer, I tried an experiment one year. I asked our corps to stop all fundraising. No more selling pencils and candy, no more peddling candles and cookies. Instead, with the support of the leadership team, we opted to ask our people to tithe in support of the mission. We promised every group the funds they needed, if people would give generously. We were able to fund all our programs and, frankly, I think people were glad not to have to find the loonies and toonies.
Talking to our people about money should be less about money and more about mission. The Salvation Army needs all of our people to be prepared to support the mission, to be mission stations where the community is transformed because Salvationists are mobilized.
The other thing I have learned in leadership is that generous people are satisfied people. Their open hands bring them joy and fulfilment in a way that can't be described, only experienced.
“Each of you should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NCV).
Lt-Colonel Fred Waters is the secretary for business administration in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.