Money-Making Schemes in Black Churches' New Year’s Services

Updated on January 10, 2020
Cheryl E Preston profile image

Cheryl is a freelance writer, newspaper columnist, poet, and Liberal Arts major.

Opinion: Traditions Are Turning Into For-Profit Events

There are New Year’s traditions that have been passed down through the generations that are now being rebranded as spiritual principles. They are being passed off in many churches each December 31st as instructions from heaven that bring prosperity. In truth, this is nothing more than a money-making gimmick used to increase the offerings to the church.

New Year’s Eve watch night services in black churches evolved from the setting in which African American slaves waited to hear the news that they had been set free. Ironically, this has turned into a different kind of bondage, where the church is the plantation and the spiritual leader has the role of the master. The phrase used for such situations is: "The passa is the new massa," or "The parster is the new marster."

New Year's Eve, 1862

What began as a historical event has been turned into something that would make those first freed slaves flip over in their graves. Here is how it all came about. On New Year’s Eve 1862, African Americans filled churches as they awaited the news that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, setting them free. Those who were not in church knelt and prayed right where they were on the plantations.

This tradition has continued for 157 years, with black Americans attending church worship services on December 31st. What has changed in recent years, however, is what takes place in many of these gatherings. With all due respect to the God-fearing pastors, there are a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing.

The 2020 Scam

While most congregations continue in the tradition of praying, singing, and having a sermon, other gatherings on December 31st are nothing more than fundraisers that utilize secular New Year traditions. It has long been said that whatever you are doing when the New Year comes in, you will continue to do throughout that year. Pastors capitalize on this by telling parishioners that if they attend the December 31st service and give that time and money to the Lord, He will bless them to serve Him and have extra money to give in church all year long.

The number of the year is used to manipulate specific sums of money from the people. In 2000, congregants were asked to give $2000, $200, or $20. For 2020, there have already been television preachers asking the viewing audience to sow a seed of $220, $2020, or $20.20 or $2.20.

There are also slogans that motivate people to give. In past years people heard rhymes such as “2003 much more money for me,” and in “2007 everyone was going be looking like heaven.” For 2020, many are promoting the slogan that those who give the requested sum of money will have clear spiritual vision. This is capitalizing on 20/20 representing normal natural vision.

Oh Promise Me

Telling people that giving money in church on New Year's Eve will guarantee extra money throughout the year reminds me of superstitions that older generations believed in. They said eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day or making sure a man entered your home first on January 1st would guarantee good luck all year long. I knew people who absolutely would not allow a woman to come into their home until a male had done so first. There was also a practice of putting money in your window sill and pulling it out on January 1st to ensure you would be receiving money all year long.

The promises during church services on New Year’s Eve have not manifested any more than the superstitions that have been passed down for many years. Those who attend worship services are supposed to be people who walk by faith, yet they fall for money-making schemes and gimmicks that are based on folklore and superstition.

If sitting in a congregation on New Year's Eve and giving a specific amount of money determined your financial future for the next 12 months, then this would be a principle, like Dorothy clicking her heels three times in the Wizard of Oz and repeating “There’s no place like home.” If a principle is automatic and systematic, then you don’t need faith.

© 2019 Cheryl E Preston


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    • Cheryl E Preston profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 months ago from Roanoke

      Wow that’s interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • OGUNDARE OLUSEGUN profile image


      6 months ago from NIGERIA

      @ Cheryl E Preston, I think it is common, I also attend a similar church here in Nigeria, in fact, I have been brought up in that order, and while i was a Pastor under a Senior Pastor, that was what we used to do, to tell the congregation...

    • Cheryl E Preston profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 months ago from Roanoke

      Yes Margaret. I belonged to a church where this manipulation took place.

    • revmjm profile image

      Margaret Minnicks 

      6 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Cheryl, you have explained the traditions just as I know them to be. It grieves my spirit to see those things happening in church on New Year's Eve. Is anything sacred anymore?

      Thanks for sharing because some people don't know about those money-making scams that are replacing faith.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      6 months ago from Washington DC

      In all of my 74 years, although I had heard something about it, I wasn't certain of the origin of New Year's Watch Meetings, Cheryl. Thanks for that information although it has not been my tradition since my new birth but it is something to add to the Laodicean-ness of the today's Black Church's inclusion as Laodicean.

    • Cheryl E Preston profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 months ago from Roanoke

      Thank you so much for reading

    • Brenda Arledge profile image


      6 months ago from Washington Court House


      There is alot here I have not heard of the superstitions.

      In my family we were told to eat pork that had been cooked with silver coins for prosperity.

      Admittedly I do try to do this one...usually ribs and sauerkraut without the coin's.

      Sad the church is asking people for specific amounts of money. But interesting for the reason the service was held in the beginning.

      Nice write.

    • Cheryl E Preston profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 months ago from Roanoke

      Yes very true

    • OGUNDARE OLUSEGUN profile image


      6 months ago from NIGERIA

      Wow! This is intriguing. The best is knowing the bible for many are yet falling for this, even the supposed spirit filed people. Good work!


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