I love the Church, not the building, the people. Something beautiful happens when people gather together to worship God, connect and support each other, learn from God’s Word, and pursue the Great Commission. At its best, it’s a light to a dark world; it was for me. I put my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 21. My only exposure to church was the church I was attending. It was at that church where I first heard the Gospel. I was baptized, married, held my mother’s memorial, and dedicated my first daughter at that church. The Church has a special place in my heart.
But if we’re being honest, it would sound strange if you were to describe a church service to someone who had never heard of Christianity. Most churches follow the same basic formula for their service: A time of welcome and greeting, a song, announcements, another song, a message, another song, and then the offering. Of course, subtle differences reflect the character of the church, like the set of songs, how they share announcements, and the length of the message, but I’ve always been interested in their approach to the offering.
It’s always befuddled me that the offering is such an odd time in a church service. The Bible mentions money over 2,000 times, yet many churches shy away from talking about it. Like any other organization, churches need money to function. Churches have utility bills, salaries, rent or mortgages, insurance, supplies, and even support for others – and all require money. To create a way for people to donate, some churches pass a plate, others a basket. One church passed plastic buckets (seems a bit optimistic), and another had a velvet bag attached to a pole the usher ran down each aisle (like catching fancy fish). Finally, some simply have envelopes either in the pew or someplace strategic. Why does it have to be so weird?
The Time to Change
Thankfully, those outdated methods are less common in 2023 than twenty years ago, thanks to digital giving. When the church I serve decided to offer online or digital giving, the congregation was slow to adapt. But over time, the culture accepted digital giving, and we had a decision to make – do we keep passing the offering basket? The deciding moment for our church came when I recognized that passing an empty basket made many uncomfortable. Digital givers started putting their note sheets or bulletin shells in the basket because they didn’t want people to think they weren’t giving. We certainly didn’t want people to give out of guilt or compulsion. Every church finance person is familiar with 2 Corinthians 9:7, where the Apostle Paul says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We knew it was time to stop passing the basket.
Adapting To Change
A February 2023 Barna report found that 44% of US Adults are digital givers. That’s an encouraging number since churches are often slow to adapt to changes, especially when it comes to how they worship, and giving is part of worship. One of the driving factors seems to be the confidence that continues to grow in using online or digital platforms. Many Americans are now familiar with apps like Zelle and Venmo, increasing their confidence the transaction is safe, secure, and will go to the church. As an added benefit to the church, The National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices (NSCEP) shows that churches that adapt to digital solutions tend to have higher giving than churches that do not. NSCEP’s study finds a primary reason for the increase is the ability to set up recurring gifts, allowing donors to give automatically, even when they are not on the church campus. These are all great reasons to introduce digital as an option to your church.
It’s important to note the Barna report shows that 44% of Americans are digital givers, which means that 56% are not. With that in mind, each church must continue providing a way for analog givers to worship God with their tithes and offerings. One option for churches deciding to stop passing the plate is to provide a box or other receptacle for those who want to give. Providing alternate methods for those who need more time to move to digital giving is essential. Just because our favorite worship songs are available on streaming services doesn’t mean churches should stop singing songs during the service. Remember that for some, bringing their tithe or offering to the church and donating is part of their time of worship.
I love the Church and want it to continue to reach people with the good news, to be a safe place to worship God, and to dig deeper into what it means to follow Jesus. I want the offering time to be less weird and more effective, and digital giving can get us there.short url: