Carlos takes up offering

Each week an offering is taken at Special Gathering.

Several years ago a local church wanted to give The Special Gathering of Indian River a special love gift. We strive to become part of a church’s budget and this congregation gave us a monthly donation but they also wanted to give something extra for the end of the year.  The missions committee requested that we use their gift to purchase something that our members needed.  So they asked us if there was something that they could give to each member. 

We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is to evangelize and disciple people with developmental disabilities.  I shared that many of our members don’t have Bibles and we would like to give them a Bible.  The youth pastor of the church was a good friend of mine.  He took me aside and said, “I’ve learned that people appreciate what they have more, if they earn it themselves.  You need to teach your members how to tithe.  Then you can buy them the Bibles they need.”  I understood and agreed with his reasoning. 

However, within the mentally challenged community where we minister there are several problems with this logic.  First, most of our members have little access to money.  Unless they have an outside job, they are probably paid to do piece work.  This means their pay checks are minimal, perhaps $.50 or $4 a week.  If they receive a Social Security check, it is without a doubt handled by a parent or a group home staff.  If they live in their own apartment, it will be used for rent, groceries and household necessities, again the money will be handled by an independent living coach.  Most of the business end of their money will be parceled out to them.

Second, the members of our population have been taught in ten kajillion ways to not buck authority.  If their independent living coach or house parent says, “This is what you give to Special Gathering.”  Then that is what they give…no question asked.

Third, there are definate deficiencies in the understanding of many men and women who are developmentally delayed.  Often when we think of developmental difficulties, reading, conversation and socialization come to mind.  Nevertheless, these aren’t the only deficiencies that exist.  Tracy doesn’t know a nickel from a 50 dollar bill.  Of course, she can tell the difference in the shape and the structure but the significance goes beyond her reasoning skills.  Deb is married.  She is an excellent reader.  Her conversation skills are superior.  But Deb’s deficits lie within the realm of those scary numbers.  People who struggled with Algebra in school can perhaps grasp their dilemma.

  Simply put, they don’t understand the concept of money.  To them, $.05 is as valuable as $5,000.  Therefore, giving an offering has a different significance to them.  A tithe is well beyond their intellectual reach.  Deb always brags that she gives beyond her tithe, as she puts her quarter into the offering plate.  I believe God understands Deb’s heart and multiples her blessing.

The fourth reason is that if our members tithed on their pay checks, most of them are giving much beyond what is required.  If your pay check is $6 a month and you put $1 into the offering plate each week, you have given 66 percent of your earnings.  Incidently, $1 is what most of our members put into the offering plate.  As to what their pay may be, $6 is probably a stretch. 

These are several of the reasons that we depend on the generosity of local churches to help with the expenses of evangelizing and discipling this important population.  Christ commissioned the local church with this essential task. 

How are you able to empower your members to give to the Lord?  Are many of your members stumped by the concept of numbers and money?  Is this an issue that you have dealt with in a positive way?