The following is a true conversation between a 35-year-old and his father.
“The first check I write is to the church,” said his father, with pride.
“The only check I write is to the church,” said the 35-year-old, with a sigh.
Today we pay for things in ways unimaginable a couple decades ago. Few people sit down once a month to pay the bills and write checks and mail them. Many bills are automated. We pay with apps from Apple Pay to Venmo, even moving money between friends quickly and easily.
In the world of the church we see electronic giving being adopted, slowly and steadily. There is reluctance to lose the faithful action of placing a gift in the offering plate and watching as all those gifts are walked to the front of the church.
There will likely always be a place for that action in the life of the church and there is something holy and beautiful about the action, and the reminder all these gifts come first from God.
Still, in the church we might want to consider making it easier for people to be generous, not more difficult.
If you are in your early 20’s today there is a good chance you have never written a single check in your life. There is a good chance you don’t even have a checkbook.
Would you like those people in your church community to learn generosity? Would you like them to have an opportunity to faithfully support the mission and ministry of your community? If so electronic giving in some form, whether online giving, text to give, or even a kiosk in the church with a device to receive credit or debit card gifts should be part of your practice.
There should be more ways for people to give and practice generosity, not fewer. At the same time, the method of giving should be appropriate for the giver.
For some online giving with a reoccurring scheduled gift to the church makes sense. For others the act of placing a gift in an offering plate is so important this is their way to give.
Remember electronic giving is not for everyone. For example, if someone is older than 70.5 and has an IRA/401k, they should give through that. By giving directly from one of these retirement vehicles the donor will likely realize a significant tax savings, which could also allow them to be more generous towards the church.
As the world of money keeps changing and as each generation develops new habits the church must adapt and adjust to give people to opportunity to grow in faithfulness as they grow in generosity. Otherwise we might as well tell them their gifts don’t matter.
Paul Walters is a parish pastor, serving in Troy, Michigan. He also spends part of his time leading the Stewardship for All Seasons (SAS) and Building a Culture of Generosity (BCG) programs for GSB. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org