Years ago, if you’d asked a pastor about digital giving, they probably would’ve called it a fad. But it’s quickly becoming the norm, because people are already used to paying for everything from coffee to haircuts with their phones.
There are a lot of benefits to digital giving, too. It can increase overall giving. It makes recurring giving easier. And it’s far more secure than passing the offering plate.
But whether your church already has digital giving options or you’re just starting to think about making the switch, there are three challenges you’re bound to run into: tradition, ignorance, and skepticism.
You might be dealing with these issues right now, or they may be things you’ll face down the road. Either way, here’s what your church can do to overcome them.
The single greatest obstacle churches face with digital giving is the fact that it changes the way your church has always collected the offering. For years, or even decades, your congregation has learned that the time to give is when the offering plate passes by. And that’s not going to change overnight.
Even though people are used to digital transactions, they still have to overcome the giving habits they’ve developed over the years. This is why it’s crucial that you prioritize digital giving, not just offer it. You can’t tell people about it once, keep passing the plate, and expect people to do something different.
If you want to overcome this hurdle, you should talk about digital giving almost as often as you pass the plate.
Digital transactions are pretty intuitive and most people are comfortable with them in other facets of their lives. Still, it’s easy for churches to assume that seniors are going to be upset or confused by the transition. If a lot of your church’s giving probably comes from Baby Boomers, it’s understandable why that would make you hesitant.
But even older Americans are embracing technology. In 2000, only 14 percent of seniors had Internet access at home. Now 67 percent of them do, and 42 percent have smartphones. That percentage is only going to increase as our world becomes increasingly digital.
You don’t have to teach them how to use the Internet or what apps are. You just have to show them that digital giving is worth it.
It doesn’t take very long to do a live demonstration of digital giving. You can text-to-give, use an app, or fill out a webform in seconds. Don’t just tell people it’s easy. Show them exactly how it’s done. This also provides a great opportunity to talk about recurring giving, which will make digital giving more appealing to people who tithe regularly or want to give more frequently.
You’ll also want to make sure that everyone on staff is familiar with the process because any one of them could get a question about digital giving. And if they don’t know how to do it, that ignorance will ripple through your congregation.
Before you roll out digital giving, you’re bound to have someone suggest that digital giving is somehow less spiritual. Since people don’t have to consciously think about recurring giving, some might be concerned that digital givers aren’t choosing to give their money to God, so they’re not giving cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), and they’re not overcoming the temptation not to give.
But the Bible doesn’t say anything about the method we use to give. Passing the offering basket isn’t a biblical ritual. And it’s just as easy to grudgingly write a check or put cash in the basket without even thinking about it. It’s also easier to feel pressured to give when the offering comes your way, while the usher waits at the end of your row.
God cares about our heart, and He wants us to give what we’ve set aside to give. When you set up recurring giving, you’re making the intentional decision to give a specific amount every month, and you have to plan around that choice every month, even if the transaction happens automatically.
Some might also question if people will even use digital giving options. This especially becomes a problem if you’re having trouble getting traction.
“See?” they’ll say. “Nobody even wants it.”
The reality is, if you work to overcome those first two obstacles (tradition and ignorance), this skepticism won’t be an issue. If you teach people how to use digital giving and show them that it’s not only a legitimate way to give, but a better way, they’re going to use it—because they’re already using their phones to pay for things all the time.