Grow in e-giving

August 17th, 2015

Stand in the parking lot at any growing church and you’ll see all sorts of families hustling children in, carrying babies, and unloading grandparents at the door. What you won’t see as much is mothers slicking children’s hair back and tucking in shirts and families carrying Bibles and purses. Why? Times have changed. And, although God’s word is still the same, how people carry­ it has changed. People are bringing their Bibles, but instead of carrying a leather-bound book, they’re pulling out their phones when the scripture is given and following along. Technology has changed a lot of things, and the church must recognize these changes to be effective.

On any given Sunday, the average churchgoers have already accessed their televisions and radios for the morning headlines and their phones for the weather and have probably checked in on social media before they ever get to church. Nielsen’s “Total Audience Report” from the fourth quarter of 2014 revealed that American adults (18 and over) spent over eleven hours per day using electronic media. As of January 2015, over half of the world’s 7.2 billion people were mobile phone users. Electronic giving may be a new term to you, but to the tech-savvy families of today, it’s where they live.

The mission of your church is connected to the Great Commission. You “go and make disciples” through ongoing programming like worship services; Bible studies; children, youth, singles, and older adult ministries typically hosted in your facilities. Your church may have a special interest in foreign missions, home missions, an unreached people group in your city, or an off-campus outreach. Most of the ways we share God’s love with people require resources. It requires people and money to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And if your ministries are transforming lives, if they are bringing new families in, people want to support that. They want to be a part of what God is doing. Many times we hinder their participation by only engaging them during the fifteen seconds the offering plate is passed down their row in the worship service. Then only those families with cash or a check, if given enough time to fill it out, can respond.

For churches that want to increase their income for ministry and mission, electronic giving alternatives are essential. Electronic funds transfer (bill pay, e-check, Automated Clearing House [ACH]) and a mobile giving app are a couple common ways to complement an effective church website as you introduce digital tools for growing stewardship. Electronic giving is an option that will allow people to give in a familiar and accessible way. They can give at church, in their own homes, or on the go—whenever and wherever they are prompted to give. Americans are increasingly using e-checks and debit, credit, and prepaid cards for financial transactions, and they will use them in the church bookstore, to pay for youth camp, and to give an offering. Most electronic payment methods have a small cost associated with them, but don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish.” With a good communication plan, you will receive more money from your existing giving units and establish new ones.

Regardless of which forms of payment you use, always, always, always give people the option to make a recurring gift. Let the contributor choose whether they want to make a one-time gift, a weekly gift, or a monthly gift. They may want to give regularly immediately following pay day. Recurring gifts happen regardless of attendance patterns. Recurring gifts help a growing disciple prioritize their spiritual habit of giving.

I highly recommend that you partner with a respected service provider for electronic payment processing. They will help you set up the web page that assists your donors with making a gift and provide a variety of ways to connect to it. I would only choose a provider that has a mobile giving app, even if you don’t start out using it. Here’s a tip: have a young adult on your church staff make a $1 donation using the mobile app and tell you if it’s fast and easy. It’s important to ask the service provider if their program will work easily with your church management software and if they will help you respond to potential questions about data security.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate passing the offering plate; it’s to provide additional options and different entry points into giving. There is no need to alienate the family who brings their tithe check each week and has for years. They are happy and have a habit of giving already; they will fill in the envelope, have it ready before the offering, and be blessed because they gave. Those who have experienced the growth of the church through real sacrifice and tithing are not as many as they once were. We have new families, changed by the same God, who know their money and resources are not their own, but they don’t always plan ahead to give. Let’s give them a place to start a habit. It’s a new way for the church to be more effective, relevant, and grow its resource base. Let’s meet people where they are.

comments powered by Disqus