13th Sabbath Offering: What It Is and Why It Matters

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has emphasized service and mission work from its earliest days. That’s why there’s a collective “offering calendar” most Adventist congregations follow to support these efforts.

Each Sabbath a different church-supported ministry gets the spotlight, so they can share their goals and fundraising needs. Then, when the offering is collected, it goes to that ministry.

The 13th Sabbath offering is different. There’s one each quarter of the year, and it’s a rotating slot reserved for current mission projects.

To better understand how this special offering opportunity works, we’ll explore:

Let’s first do a quick review of how the Adventist church makes use of tithes and offerings.

How tithes and offerings are collected and distributed

A hand stacking coins for a special offering

“Tithe” refers to the 10% portion of our income that is returned to God out of gratitude for providing for us, day in and day out (Genesis 14:20, Leviticus 27:30, Malachi 3:10). We do this by paying that 10% to our worldwide church, so it can be distributed throughout and keep its churches and ministries running.

“Offering” refers to free-will donations that are separate from our tithe.

While worldwide church leadership has prayerfully determined where tithe money should go, we decide where our offerings go, since we’re choosing to give more than our tithe as we’re convicted and inspired.

There’s always an option to send our offerings directly to the ministry we want to help. But for those that have chosen to habitually give a little more each Sabbath or every so often, the Adventist Church’s offering calendar helps church members stay apprised of the active ministries in the church and what their current needs are.

A different ministry is featured each Sabbath, and those inspired to give are provided a chance to make a donation through the church when they pass around the offering plate.

The giving process is the same on a 13th Sabbath. What’s different involves how the featured ministry is chosen.

What is the “Thirteenth Sabbath” and how did it become an offering opportunity?

The 13th Sabbath simply refers to the last Sabbath of every quarter. While the previous 12 Sabbaths of the quarter each feature an established Adventist ministry and its current giving needs, the 13th is a rotating spot reserved for current mission projects.

And it’s a big deal. Since mission work is such a high priority for Adventists, they tend to put meaningful effort into 13th Sabbath offering calls.

Some churches let the children do a special skit or tell a story related to the current mission project. Some churches show video footage of what’s happening out in the mission field. Others might invite someone involved with the mission project to give a short testimony or share recent developments and challenges.

This special mission emphasis began in 1909, when  the Church was deciding how to put Sabbath school offering funds to best use. They were also discussing how to keep church members informed of all the mission work happening and what those missions needed.

As this discussion progressed, an idea began forming. What if there was a designated week each quarter to tell everyone what’s happening in the mission field? And what if that could also provide an opportunity to express specific fundraising needs?

So in 1912, the first recorded 13th Sabbath offering was called for. The funds collected greatly helped the development of the River Plate Academy and school of theology in Argentina.

Ever since, this initiative has helped fund important mission projects around the world. Adventist congregations from every country pool their funds through the General Conference (or World Headquarters) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Then, 25% of those funds go directly to the featured mission project, and the remaining 75% goes toward all other active mission projects.

Many of these projects involve constructing a building, like a church, school, or medical clinic in an underserved area. Other projects might be digging wells, teaching classes on water purification, or providing a series of Bible classes for kids while also teaching them to read.

Since these are goodwill projects that aren’t directly funded through church operations covered by tithe, they rely on donations. And the 13th Sabbath opportunities give them a way to let the rest of the church know what they’re doing, while also expressing the challenges they’re up against and how donated funds would be put to use.

How have 13th Sabbath offerings impacted the mission field?

Schoolchildren in Africa who receive support from the Seventh-day Adventist mission offering

As mentioned earlier, the first recorded 13th Sabbath offering helped grow a school in Argentina. Today, that very campus has grown to include an elementary school, high school, and university, with 3,500 total students enrolled.1

A much more recent offering, in 2013, built two clinics in the wilds of Papua New Guinea.2 The South Pacific division selected the Bahula village in Morobe Province and the Arufi village in Western Province because no other basic medical facilities existed nearby. So you can imagine how great of an impact those clinics have made in those communities!

Without these opportunities for mission projects to be featured, many important initiatives would fall through the cracks.

There are thousands of people that want to give toward much-needed mission services around the world. But it can be an overwhelming search to try to find out all the active mission information on your own.

That’s why a regularly featured offering opportunity like this is so vital. It connects these generous donors with the very type of projects they’re inspired to give toward.

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