Church Offerings

Written by Rev Wayne McHugh in March 2023

Perhaps you have heard people say something like, “All churches want is your money!” Some churches I’ve visited have deserved that accusation, but not many.

Offerings are ancient. In the Old Testament, the old system of sacrifices was considered offerings to the Lord. Sacrifice is not our framework, as Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for us. So what are offerings for us in the church today?

Giving back out of what we have been given

The Christian perspective is that all we have ultimately comes from God, and belongs to God. We have received it with grace, and we have it on trust. Because it is not ultimately ours, but God’s, it matters what we do with it.

That is not to say that God is keeping a ledger of every cent, or anything like that. But it does mean we should take God’s trust seriously.

One part of that is Church Offering. We often say things like, “we bring these offerings with thankful hearts, out of what we have received.” We give back some of what we have received into the work of our local church, which is primarily to point people to Jesus.

Christian History of Offerings

It is not a simple thing to trace the history of Christian giving. The books of Acts offers us only one occasion where an appeal is made for people to give generously (Acts 11:27-30). There are other instances that involve money, but they don’t equate to regular offerings.

We also learned in Acts 15 that it was decided that non-Jewish Christians didn’t have to follow the Jewish “Law of Moses.” There is no mention of the Old Testament “tithe” (one tenth) offering being continued.
Initially the church was a relatively disorganized collection of home based groups. No one would have been a paid worker of the church, and a person’s home was their own to look after. No income for the groups was required.

But as the church grew it became necessary to set people apart for leadership, and so they needed to be paid. Over time church buildings became legal and needed, and so along came buildings and their costs.
With all of this came offerings, but even then the history is unclear. For large periods of history, in many places, governments funded official churches, and so sometimes offerings were not required. But the general trend was towards offerings to pay for the costs of operating the local church.


Why do you need my money?

It can be tricky to get your head around “Church”. There is no “you” or “them”, there is only “us”. And the simple truth is that we need money in order for our church to function, and unfortunately quite a bit of it.

Myths abound that churches are rich. Some churches might be rich, but we are certainly not among them. Northside – Seaforth Uniting Church has no income apart from offerings, donations and fundraising efforts.

It is true that the sale of the Seaforth property has provided substantial funds, but that can only be used for building works, which most likely means partially funding the hall extension. It doesn’t help our day-to-day operations.

Northside Seaforth Uniting Church typically manages to maintain a fragile cash reserve of around $30,000, which is small considering our annual budget of around $180,000.

What expenses do we have?

By far the largest single expense we have is our minister. There are quite a few add-on expenses, on top of what the minister is paid, and this all occupies just under 50% of our typical budget. These costs are determined by our state (Synod) office, not locally.

The high cost of having a fulltime minister in the congregation is unfortunate. You can argue that a worker deserves their pay, but it is a real load for most of our congregations which are not blessed with hundreds of people.

It is possible to have a part-time minister, but history is showing us that this tends to be a pathway to oblivion. 80% becomes 60% and then less until no minister can be found.

If we are to be a growing local church, being proactive with the gospel and drawing people to Jesus, this cost of having a minister is part of the load.

Then we have to maintain all of our properties, pay rates and (skyrocketing) insurance, which averages just over 12% of our annual budget.

After all of those things we get down to our core business of ministry itself. We spend relatively little in this area, since there is very little left to spend. If we had greater income we could be more adventurous in this space.

Ideally, our local churches would like to pay all of our fixed expenses from the money that comes in from our offerings. Then our extra fundraising efforts would go to ministry efforts and initiatives. The reality is that it takes almost all of our income – offerings and fundraising – to cover our fixed expenses.


One other important expense

There is one other expense area that deserves its own section – what gets referred to as the “Combined Presbytery Mission Pool” (CPMP).

In the Uniting Church, we do not exist in isolation. We are actively part of a much larger family. We belong to the Presbytery of Central Queensland, and there are 7 presbyteries within the Uniting Church in Queensland.

Presbyteries have oversight of congregations within their bounds, to help when needed, and to correct when needed. Unfortunately, “when needed” happens more often than you would hope.

Congregations within our presbytery and state are not equally resourced. At present most congregations in our presbytery don’t have ministers, and quite a few probably never will again have a minister.

In 2022, the Presbytery of Central Queensland funded:

  • Our presbytery minister, fulltime
  • The minister based in Longreach (partially funded by the congregation). The congregation of Central Western Queensland (Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Alpha) a vital congregation, because of its remoteness. It is all we have west of Emerald.
  • A Rural Missions Ministry agent (RMM) (parttime), who provided particular care to the small congregations of Biloela, Moura, Banana, Baralaba, and to a lesser extent Blackwater.  Since late 2022 this position has been discontinued for lack of funds.
  • An office administrator, who has a load far exceeding the 20% for which she is paid

The presbytery has only one income source – the CPMP. To put it another way, the presbytery is only able to function through the contributions that congregations make to the CPMP.

It is possible to view this support poorly, but it truly is vital. We view ourselves as part of a wider church family – it is one of the strengths of the Uniting Church, and we care about each other. The CPMP is an important material expression of that care.

As congregations find their incomes stressed and expenses rising (insurance doubled 2021-2022 and is expected to continue to rise above CPI), they are not able to give as much to the CPMP. That results in a lower CPMP, and therefore less ministry around Queensland can be funded.

In the Uniting Church there has always been something like the CPMP – it is not a new thing. It is also a good thing that we give money to this purpose. The challenge is affording it.


How much offering should I give?

How much offering to give is a complex question. In the end it is entirely between you and God.
There is an Old Testament thing called a “tithe”, a term still used in many churches today. It indicates 10%. Some people choose to give 10% of their income in their offering, because that was what God originally established.

However as we learned in 2022 in our Acts series, the early church decided that Christian Gentiles (non-Jews) were free from the law of Moses, apart from a couple of things which didn’t include tithing. And of course they were to observe the teachings of Jesus, which did not include tithing. Therefore, if you choose to tithe it is your own decision – it is not laid upon you.

If not the tithe, how much then? It is a tough question. We call it a “free-will offering”, because we give it with thanks to God. Many other non-profit organisations have fees but churches do not.

If you are short of money for your living needs, we obviously expect that the needs of your family must be met. What you can give is between you and God. Remember the widow’s single coin that Jesus praised?

If you are blessed with plenty of money then perhaps this is one gift that you bring to your church. We also know there are many ways to be generous with money in the world. No congregation would exist without those who are able to give a lot, just as no congregation would exist without those who can only give a little, and everything in between.

How should I give it?

All my life the normal way for offerings to be given is in the offering plate/bag at church. As we become increasingly cashless, more and more people choose to provide their offerings digitally.

So ingrained is the offering bag/plate for many people that some churches have introduced tokens to place in the plate if you have given electronically. Now that about 70% of our offerings come in electronically, we all understand that what we see on Sundays is a fraction of what is given.

When we pray God’s blessing on the offering on Sunday, it is for all of the offerings received, and really we are praying for the ministry that our church is able to do in Jesus’ name.

If you do want to contribute electronically, our banking details are:

  • BSB: 014010
  • Account No.: 286372829
  • Account name (usually not needed): Northside UCA

If reading this has given you the urge to make an offering contribution right away, it can be done below.

  1. Enter the amount you wish to contribute.
  2. Click “Offering”. This will take you to the PayPal page.
  3. If you have a PayPal account, login to PayPal and complete the transaction. If you want to use a card, click the card option below the login.
Your Offering $
Other Amount
Any reference you would like to leave (optional) eg OFFERING or BUILDING:


Money has always been a truly complex topic, sometimes even considered tabboo. Right now we’re all experiencing increasing costs of living, and incomes not keeping pace with those increases. The same is true for your church – increasing costs and income not keeping pace.

The only way your church can get ahead of its expenses and increase its investment into its ministry activities is through the offerings. We do extra fundraising, and that is also vital, but our primary income is offerings.

Our purpose as a church is to point to Jesus, and to encourage one another to live life as people of Jesus. We would love to do that without involving money, but reality demands otherwise.

You may by now have realized that finances are tight. The reality is that we have had deficits in 2021 and 2022, and inflationary forces are threatening to blow that out badly.

We need offerings or fundraising to raise our income substantially to get ahead of our expenses, first so we can survive, and secondly so we can actually put money into the gospel, beyond fixed expenses.

This document is to help you be aware of this reality. I hope you have found it helpful.


If you’ve made it this far, yay! This is the bonus section.

No special treatment

If there is any temptation to think that those who give a lot are more important or have better standing in our church, please resist that temptation.

The church is meant to be different to the way the world works around us. In the world, money buys importance; big contributors get special treatment. Sometimes a building gets named after them, a bridge or other landmark. In the church things are different, offerings are in secret, between you and God, and our prize is in heaven, not on memorial plaques.

Apart from the treasurer, and only because of the way that online banking works, no one knows what anyone else gives through the offering. And the treasurer tells no one. That is intentional. We can’t treat people “special” if we don’t know who they are.

One gift among many

Everyone is equal under Jesus. That is one way the church is beautifully different from the world.
Money/offerings is only one gift of many that we bring to God through our church. There are many gifts, and all are important.

Sometimes people who can give a lot of money don’t have time to give much else. Sometimes people who can only give a little money are able to give more of their time, along with other skills they bring. We are a beautifully diverse bunch – that is part of the beauty of “church” as God has designed us.

Your church doesn’t just want your money

I began with this myth, so I’ll end with it. The need for money is the one conversation we all wish we didn’t need to have. But it would be very strange for us to not talk about money when it becomes a major need.

Hence the need for this conversation.

I sense the desire in our congregation to see God make a difference in our city and region through us. I share that desire, and maybe you do too.

Absolutely no way is our church only interested in your money. We are interested in your relationship with God, that it be strong and confident; in your relationship with us all that it be healthy and full of trust. We want you and many others to experience God’s love. Compared to that, the issue of money is way down the list of priorities.

However, our congregation is feeling the pinch of rising expenses. We have got to raise our income, or soon there will be a whole new level of urgency about finance. At the same time, we want our real attention to be on Jesus.

Yours in the service of Jesus,
Rev Wayne McHugh