I still remember my first chance to “participate” in giving money to church. My mother placed the family check in my hands to put in the offering basket. My father promptly removed the family check from my hands when he heard me exclaim to a friend, “My parents gave me a check for X dollars!” Fast forward several years of my life and that X amount of dollars means a lot more to me than it did as a five year old. Instead of handing off my parents’ money, I worship by sacrificing a part of my income, and I realize the vital role that money plays in the service and abilities of the church. If a church has more money, it really can do more for others. Online giving is a new and very effective means for a church to receive more offering so that it can offer more.
Stabilizing the Offering
Online giving offers several advantages over that of traditional offering methods. Members who move away, for example, can continue to give towards a specific ministry or missionary from their previous church. Although perhaps the greatest benefit of online giving is the ability to set up recurring gifts. If an automatic transaction occurs each month before anything else, that payment has priority over later expenditures. This is much closer to first-fruits giving than a guilt-ridden fifty dollar bill in the offering plate.
On the other hand, an argument against recurring gifts is that it might lose the aspect of worship because the gift is forgotten. A fair rebuttal, however, is that people do not so easily forget where their money goes. Instead, think of the vacations in the summer, holidays in the winter, and sickness all year round. How many families take vacation, get sick, or simply forget their checkbook, only to later forget the missed offering next week? Recurring giving promotes and even enforces healthy giving habits. Recurring giving stabilizes giving.
Re-enfranchising Potential Givers
Online giving addresses more than just absent minded givers and forgotten check books. Personally, I have never carried a checkbook. The young adult generation of today grew up after the reign of plastic had already begun. In 2006, Visa Check Card released a series of commercials in which crowds moved and purchased seamlessly and synchronously with their cards, but everything literally crashed to an awkward halt as soon as that guy had to pull out cash. While I am a proponent of cash, the commercial still represents a significant amount of time and marketing dollars instilling into society that plastic is good and cash/checks are useless – I can feel Dave Ramsey cringe at that thought.
Like it or not, however, a generation that might never have used a check in their lives is entering into adulthood – and hopefully those people also enter the church. It could be said that the churches who refuse to adapt to online giving (which accepts check cards) are refusing to adapt to the changing society. This is not the place for a discussion on whether or not a church should completely change itself with the times, and I will admit that its perfectly fine to ask of a younger generation more tolerance and acceptance in matters of dress or even worship styles. But is it right to close off a large percentage of Christians from monetary worship unless they carry a foreign (foreign to them, at least) currency?
Making it Easier
In a discussion about money, it is impossible to forget the current state of the economy. With a worse economy, church members find it harder to give. Barna Group found that between 2008 and 2010, 45% of Americans donating to churches started giving less – and they have done so substantially. While a certain percentage of those who dropped their giving most likely lost their jobs or fell under other hard circumstances, this alone could not account for 45% of giving Christians. Could it be instead that most families simply found it less convenient to give as much or as often?
In 2003, Apple Computer launched the iTunes Music Store. Its purpose was to legitimately sell music in accordance with copyright law, but these were the days of Napster, Kazaa, and the like – it was incredibly easy to illegally download music for free. Many critiqued the store’s launch as a practice in futility. What took place instead was the salvation of the music industry. Steve Jobs believed that people would pay for a better experience – that average people do not necessarily want to steal and break copyright law, but they need a realistic method for doing the right thing. The iTunes Music Store and its simplicity was and is a huge success – I need not waste time attempting to prove Apple’s proliferation in the marketplace today. To switch from doing the wrong thing (downloading music illegally) to doing the right thing required little effort, so people made the switch.
Could this phenomena act the same way for potential givers in our churches? Perhaps it is not that the people in the pews feel that giving is a bad thing. Perhaps most would even agree that a full ten percent tithe is important. This does not play out in reality, however, and this is due, in part, to the traditional methods of taking up an offering. I do my finances at home in the living room and I never carry checks – this is a common financial comfort zone. When people are more comfortable, they will more willingly participate. If a church begins online giving, the switch from doing the wrong thing (not giving or not giving enough) to doing the right thing will require less effort. Maybe even less enough effort that our members make the switch. Who wouldn’t want to make giving to a church or nonprofit easier?
-Adam Bloch, Guest Blogger
 Barna Group, “The Economy’s Impart (Part 3 of 3): Donors Reduce Giving, Brace for the Long Haul,” http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/18-congregations/341-the-economys-impact-part-3-of-3-donors-reduce-giving-brace-for-the-long-haul?q=tithe.