Here we are in the digital age. Money moves on the Internet, a bitcoin is worth $125, people bank on their smartphones, PayPal has more money than Fort Knox, and churches use online tithing. Or do they? Some churches are notorious for their Luddite tendencies — using Juno email addresses as late as 2010, showcasing animated flashing fonts on their website, and preferring pews to chairs. There’s nothing wrong with pews, garrish fonts, or Juno, of course. The problem, however, comes when churches shun a potentially better way.
In the minds of the more techno-savvy church leaders of our day, online giving is that better way — a promised land of bigger offerings and better giving. Now if only churchgoers would embrace it! We think that online giving is the way of the future — a more relevant means of worship through giving. There is nothing more sacred about placing a check into a felt-lined metal offering plate than there is a transferring money via PayPal. For that reason, each church must decide for itself how, when, or if to use online giving.
We’ve provided a three-step framework. Whether you’re interested in online tithing, frustrated that online tithing is slow on the uptake, or an old pro at online tithing, this guide will serve you well.
1. Start with the right understanding: You can’t force people to tithe on the website.
The best way to go into the game is with a healthy pastoral understanding that you can’t make people do something that they don’t want to do with their tithe money. Some people have a healthy fear of online anything, especially if it involves a credit card or personal information. Your role as a church leader is to understand your people, their culture, and what works best. If online tithing doesn’t work best, don’t try to force it. Here are a few suggestions for exploring this brave new world:
Casually survey your people about online tithing before you jump in. A few well-timed questions to key individuals in the church will help you know whether to proceed or to call it quits on the whole online tithing deal.
Understand the culture and demographic of your church. At the risk of stereotyping, it is safe to say that a certain type of people will use online tithing, while others will not. For the most part, young, mobile-connected, tech-savvy individuals will have no problem tithing with their smartphone. Others who are unfamiliar with technology or who lack experience or trust in the security of online commerce will be less likely to give online. It could be that your church has a number of both types of individuals. There are probably also a lot of people in the between stage, too.
Keep in mind, this is about about money — God’s money. Emotions can run high and sensitivities can run thin, so walk cautiously. Whatever the case, remember that online tithing is a tool to use, not a practice to enforce. Use it only if it can be well received, used, and appreciated in your ministry.
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2. Explain everything (like, explain everything).
Don’t simply pop a “Donate Now!” button on your church website and expect the funds to start gushing in. There’s a process that you should follow, and it’s built upon this trio of communication — information, education, and inspiration.
Information: What is online tithing? Get the facts out there. Online tithing might be a total unknown to some people. Explain it in simple and straightforward terms. Anticipate objections, answer questions, and provide the information. It’s best to do this in a public service so everyone can hear what’s going on.
Education: How do I do online tithing? Once people have the information, it’s time for the education. Show your attendees how they can give online. One great way educate is to use your projector, going through the process step-by-step on the screen so everyone can see how it works.
Inspiration: What are the benefits of online tithing? Finally, add a bit of motivation to the equation. Unless online tithing provides some advantage, people probably aren’t going to be interested. Explain that online tithing provides convenience, secure transfer of money, the ability to give even while away, etc.
3. Give it a try.
Online tithing is ready for you to begin, but are you ready for it? Make sure these two features are in place.
Make sure your website is ready. The most successful online giving comes from churches whose website is primed and ready. A shoddy, buggy, unappealing website provides a poor source of motivation for people to give their money online. A website works kind of like a barometer of trust. The better-looking the website, the more professional, secure, and competent the church seems to the viewer. Before you eagerly rush to install a PayPal plugin, make sure your website as a whole is ready for the transition.
Use the right method of online offering. Thankfully, implementing online tithing into your church web presence is easy. Sharefaith church websites provide a simple way to do so, giving you the security and peace of mind you need.
There are plenty of companies out there who will try to compel you to use their innovative online giving method, promising huge offerings and major financial improvement. Interestingly enough, the biggest financial improvement is for the company itself, often pocketing a significant percentage of each gift. While it’s no crime to charge for a legitimate service, there are less expensive ways of implementing online tithing into your ministry. Sharefaith websites provide one such way.
When you implement online tithing, keep your expectations modest. Most churches report an increase in giving once they implement online donation methods, but results will vary. Improvement may not be immediate. Give it some time, and hopefully, it will catch on.