10-21_Blog

Should I Encourage People to Give In-Person Anymore?

Many church leaders are aware of the benefits that come along with the widespread adoption of digital giving by church members:

First, churches that embrace digital giving regularly see an increase in generosity.

Second, recurring digital gifts can provide a more predictable giving pattern, allowing church leaders to make better financial decisions for the church.

Third, digital giving can free up staff and volunteers, who are typically used to count and transfer gifts, to focus on other areas of ministry.

Finally, digital giving provides the church with useful data, allowing ministers to better communicate to and disciple its members.

Given the benefits of digital giving versus in-person, some ministers are asking the question, “Should I encourage people to give in-person anymore?” The temptation would be to completely dismiss in-person giving. But is that the right move? Here are a few points to consider:

1. Some still like to give in person.

Church members have their preferred mode of giving, and for some, that preferred mode is in person. Even if the traditional offering plate is no longer passed during the church service, these members like to bring their check or cash to the physical church building. Is the number of those who prefer this mode of giving shrinking? It is. But are they still in the church? They are.

Don’t dismiss or generalize this group too quickly. There are real reasons why some prefer in-person giving. This leads us to the second point to consider.

2. There are real reasons why some like to give in person.

Many who prefer in-person giving are not just stuck in their ways or are suspicious of anything that happens online. They have real reasons why they prefer to take their gift to the physical church. For some, the act of giving physically during or immediately after the service is a regular reminder that generosity is an act of worship. In a similar vein, others say digital giving, specifically recurring giving, detaches their heart from the gift. They sometimes even forget they are giving.

Certainly, there are ways in which church leaders can help this group understand that digital giving is no less of an act of worship than in-person giving, but the fact remains that those who prefer in-person giving have real reasons for their preference that goes beyond tradition or suspicion.

And even if they prefer in-person giving, the pandemic has helped many see the need for digital giving options. This leads us to our next point.

3. The pandemic helped people embrace digital giving.

Over the past few years, many churches have seen an uptick in their digital giving usage. In 2020, the pandemic caused most churches to shift from in-person gatherings to online gatherings. Since in-person giving was no longer an option, the shift required many church leaders to encourage digital giving. Even churches that did not have an online giving option prior to the pandemic found themselves incorporating a digital giving platform on their website.

Members responded.

Many who were previously hesitant to give digitally found themselves employing and enjoying their new mode of giving. They realized that if they can watch church services on Facebook and shop on Amazon, they can give online as well. During the lockdown, church leaders saw their members give generously through their online platform. Now that in-person services have returned, members continue to embrace digital giving.

So, members are increasingly embracing online giving, and church leaders know the significant benefits to this. But some still prefer in-person giving for legitimate reasons. What is a church leader to do? This gets us to our next point.

4. You can encourage online giving without discouraging in-person giving.

Church leaders are called to shepherd hearts. So, they must be cognizant of everyone in the room, even when discussing generosity. Ultimately, church members need to be encouraged to be generous, regardless of the way in which they give. So, here are a few suggestions for how church leaders can encourage online giving without discouraging in-person giving.

Continue to carve out a section of the service for generosity. Ensuring that everyone in the room had an opportunity to put money in the plate took time. Since returning to in-person services, some churches have done away with passing offering plates. Even if your church decides to do the same, protect the offering time slot. This will continue to communicate that generosity is an act of worship. During that time, talk about what the Bible says about generosity, pray, and direct attenders how they can give.

Flip it around. Traditionally, most churches made in-person giving the focal point of the offertory time. Online giving was an afterthought. Flip it around. During the offertory time, focus on online giving. Make digital giving the starting point and assumed mode of giving. Provide instructions on how attenders can give online through their phone or computer.

Educate the church on the benefits of digital giving. Assume that those in attendance do not understand the benefits of online giving. Discuss some of the practical benefits of digital giving—reduced hours counting money and the ability to make better financial decisions. Many will never understand how online giving helps the church unless someone educates them.

5. There’s a middle ground.

Just because someone doesn’t want to give from their computer or phone doesn’t mean their only option is putting money in the plate. There’s a middle ground. Giving kiosks provide an opportunity for giving in-person while also giving digitally. With SecureGive kiosks your members don’t have to download any apps or create accounts. They can simply walk up to a kiosk, enter their amount, and swipe their card. It’s in-person giving, but digital at the same time.

Inform your church how someone can give in-person. Don’t forget the in-person giver. Provide them with easy options for giving, like collection boxes or giving kiosks.

Acknowledge that both are acts of worship. Teach the congregation that the motivation of the heart trumps the mode of giving. God is not concerned about in-person versus online giving. He is concerned about individuals’ hearts rightly aligned with His heart. So, celebrate both modes of giving as acts of worship.

You can encourage digital giving without discouraging those who prefer in-person giving. Flip it around—adopt the digital giving first presentation. But acknowledge and provide options for in-person givers.

 

Developing generous disciples is of primary importance. Whether they give digitally, or in-person is of lesser importance. Encourage generosity because God is generous. Highlight the digital giving option, but, ultimately, celebrate however a person decides to give.

Art Rainer
Art Rainer

Art Rainer is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.

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