Electronic Giving and YOUR Church

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This summer, Diaconal Ministries Canada will be talking about some Hot Topics! This week's topic is Electronic Giving.

A question we get often at Diaconal Ministries is about stewardship and offerings and electronic giving. While it's easy to quickly assume we are talking about trying to reach the younger/next generation, I think we can agree that fewer people are walking around with cash in their wallets these days. Which means fewer people are likely coming to church with cash in their wallets. Since we've become so accustomed to automatic bill payments, "paying with plastic", or sending e-transfers, how can churches ensure that their members are given the opportunity to support the church's ministries in ways that are more accessible and readily available?

At this point some of you are asking, "Why is this a necessary conversation? Why can't 'these people' just give the way we always have; put your money in the offering plate each week like the rest of 'us'."  

Perhaps the deeper (and better?) question here is about stewardship: how are your church members prayerfully and carefully planning their giving in a way that reflects that everything they have belongs to the Lord. Before we "poo-poo" this new way of giving, it's important to remember that whether a member desires to pay "with plastic", by automated bank withdrawls, or by cash or cheque each week via the budget envelopes, all are seeking ways to give cheerfully and consistently to the Lord and His Church. Isn't that awesome?!

SO! What is your diaconate/church doing to include other ways of giving?

  • **Do your members use PAR, the denominational automated giving system? 
  • **Are your members encouraged to give through The Bridge App or your own church's app? 
  • **Does your church accept e-transfers?
  • **Do you subscribe to a Text-To-Give service? 
  • **Do you have a Giving Kiosk in the back of the church that takes debit or credit cards?

We'd love to hear what your church is doing—what's worked, what hasn't, what you did and why you did it, how your church members are responding, etc.

SHARE YOUR COMMENTS, IDEAS and/or QUESTIONS BELOW! WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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Participant

Interesting topic and worth a discussion.  I haven't investigated those resources but now I'll have to.

My first thought is that giving money is a form of worship (as is giving time and abilities).  One thing that old-school offering plates has going for it is it makes that act visible, tangible, physical, intentional, and integrated with our other forms of worship on Sundays.  With online giving the transaction can be less mindful, especially if it was automatic and scheduled.  Perhaps a compromise would be to place an RFID reader in the offering plate and have people tap their smartphones to it as it goes by (tongue in cheek of course).  Actually your idea of a kiosk, etc. would play well with this concept.

A while back when I looked into it, some platforms (I'm not sure about PAR or Bridge) were accompanied by a significant service fee.  It's important to change with the times, but it feels selfish to see a portion of my tithe go not to the work of the church for the sake of my own convenience.

Community Builder

Hi Darren! Thanks for chiming in; you raise some great points, especially about service fees. Lots of research has gone into discovering whether those 'losses' are justified by the increase in donations, therefore making them a small 'compromise' for the greater gain. But does that mean it's still wise stewardship of our resources?

We wonder too how deacons could facilitate this conversation in their churches and if other options for giving/donating were offered, how they would go about informing (and educating) their congregation along the way in order to keep the spiritual (and not just the practical) in the forefront of people's hearts and minds.

Community Builder

There is something almost 'holy' about bringing your offerings to the Lord on Sunday during worship. This isn't archaic or old-fashioned.

I think that a blend of technology and stewardly giving might accomplish both the church's need for regular giving and the worshipper's need to give ... and to be seen to give.

Using PAR or some similar form of electronic automatic withdrawal gives the church treasurer the assurance that the budget is being met (more or less). Parishioners are encouraged to tithe and to make that regular commitment each week or each month.

But when the offering plate is passed down the pew and it remains empty, what message is that sending to our children and grandchildren? That the offering is an option.

I suggest that the bulk of our offering be given electronically but that our true giving (as the Lord has blessed us that week) goes into the offering plate. Furthermore, our children should also be actively involved in the offering, giving a portion of their weekly allowance or income to the church. Unless children get into the habit of giving to the church, they will grow up with the view that passing an empty offering plate down the pew is some sort of archaic ritual. For many it has become precisely that.

 

Community Builder

Hello Keith! Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts. Your points are exactly why we posted this question/discussion topic! There is so much to consider, not just the practical.

We're intrigued by your comment about using a "blend of technology and stewardly giving might accomplish both the church's need for regular giving and the worshipper's need to give ... and to be seen to give." Would you be able to expand on what this could look like? Would you say our churches (aka our denomination) has done its job in educating and equipping members about wise stewardship and also the concepts of giving tithes vs. giving offerings?

Community Builder

Electronic giving fulfills the church treasurer's desire to have regular, guaranteed cash flow. It's a corporate response to what should be a very personal exercise; ie. giving unto the Lord.

This function has absolutely nothing to do with the notion of 'bringing our offerings' to church.

There is something humbling and deliberate about sitting down in the kitchen before heading off to worship and actually writing a physical check payable to the church.

I think that we need to have both: giving a portion of what we'd normally give via PAR or some other electronic plan, but then also topping that up, so to speak, with the physical exercise of putting something into the offering plate.

Thanks for introducing this topic. These questions have come up many times with our Canadian churches that are using The Bridge App. A good number of them have embraced the app as a definite vehicle to use in making their regular donations. Members have expressed appreciation for a tool that allows them to continue to donate to their church and its specific causes regardless of whether they are present at church. Being away on business or on vacation is no longer a barrier to maintaining their pattern of giving.

A resource article that I have shared with churches and one that others may find helpful is the article in the December 2018 issue of The Anglican Journal. This article is entitled "Managing Church Giving in an Age of Electronic Money" (scroll to the end of the document) and provides some helpful insights to various aspects of electronic giving.

Community Builder

Thanks for sharing your insights Dorothy. We'll definitely take a look at that article. We are happy to hear that The Bridge App is meeting that need for many in the denomination.

Admin

If you're using a church management system (ChMS), check whether it offers online/recurring/text giving. If the fees are competitive, then doing it through your ChMS means no duplicate data entry of each donation. Giving history is logged automatically and some systems allow members to log in to do donation-related things (e.g. view giving history, adjust recurring gifts) as well as other functions (e.g. adjust their directory info, communication preferences).