If you work in a church, you know that September and October means….STEWARDSHIP SEASON! The time during the year when, regardless of what philosophy, style or program/curriculum you’re using…when it all comes down to it…the church is asking for MONEY.
Yes, that’s right. That kind of money. There are different ways to go about talking about stewardship. Older models involved making a budget, and then sharing it with parishioners and saying “Help us make this budget work!” Newer models talk about making the budget after you know what your congregation’s giving is going to look like. And other models yet, like the one we used at Asbury, involved telling stories about the ministries of your church, trying to not share any budget numbers at all, and making the stewardship time be more focused on the spiritual act of giving, having people pray about their tithes and offerings, and not waving a budget in front of people’s faces at all.
There are certainly ways to go about stewardship that are probably better than others…but when it all comes down to it, churches need money to run. For most people who operate in a traditional church setting, you have buildings. And those buildings take money to keep running. Churches have staff that need to be paid. There are programs to fund, curriculum to buy, Presbyteries and other denominational groups to support, and on and on and on…
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Card Swipes in Church Make Giving Easier.” The article highlights the different ways that churches, synagogues and other religious groups have dealt with giving in their communities. There are a few companies featured that offer ways for churches to move into either the online giving world or make it easier for members of their communities to give on Sundays by placing giving kiosks in the church facilities. I personally think the giving kiosk (especially with the iPad, featured on the left for only $1,799) is very cool, and wouldn’t even be that noticeable depending on where you put it, I know there are others who wouldn’t even begin to think about this possibility.
The article did highlight reasons why the old method of passing the plate is still preferred by people:
- It is a liturgical act, part of the worship service.
- People like being able to physically put the money in the plate, and some parents like their kids to see them actually giving
- “Catholic guilt” – the pressure of others’ eyes on you as the plates pass
I can understand those (except for maybe #3), but it seems that these companies who are finding ways for people to pay on Sundays with a credit card (be it an iPad, a kiosk, or even just an iPhone or iPad with a Square card reader) say that giving increases, one company quoting 20-30%. I know that I rarely, if ever, carry cash or a checkbook with me, and I’m guessing that’s the case for more and more people in our churches today. So, it seems like we’re totally missing the boat if we deny those who only have plastic in their wallets to give on a given Sunday.
Sure we might say, “Well, they’ll just make a note of it, and bring money for this week and next when they come back next Sunday” or “I’m sure they’ll remember to bring cash or their checkbook next week” – but I doubt that is the case. Whereas, if there was an opportunity for them to swipe a credit card, whether in worship or on their way out of the church, I wonder what that might do for our churches?
What are your thoughts? Do you see the benefits of acknowledging that this might be one way the church needs to move into the 21st century in order to guarantee its survival? Has anyone gone this direction with their church, and if so, have you seen an increase in giving? What are the reasons to avoid moving in this direction? And are those really that important that we would hold out giving people another avenue of giving?