Churches Introduce Electronic Tithing

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, May. 6, 2013 12:00 am  

Passing the collection plate has been a staple of many Sunday church services since the 19th century. The concept of a person turning a portion of earnings over to God dates back to Old Testament days.

While the act of tithing might be centuries old, churches are doing what they can to provide parishioners with 21st century giving options. The use of cash and checks continues to decline in most areas of day-to-day life. E-commerce sales topped $1 trillion globally in 2012, so churches — institutions that have relied for years on cash and check donations — are finding it critical to adapt to changing consumer habits.

Cross Church of northwest Arkansas provides an example of what those many options can look like.

Anyone attending one of the nine services offered across three main Cross Church campuses can certainly opt for the traditional money in the offering plate route. But the church offers direct deposit and online giving options for the 9,047 people who are involved in weekly ministry there. And this month the church is installing a “giving kiosk” — a method of giving by debit or credit card — in each of its Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale locations.

Currently, electronic giving accounts for 17.5 percent of giving at Cross Church.

“I think one day, it will be the majority of our people giving online, just as the majority of people in our culture do many financial transactions online,” said Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church. “It is secure and convenient. Many churches are beginning to use giving kiosks in their church lobbies for people to take advantage of while they are attending worship. This is all a cultural reality. Either the church can adjust or get left behind.”

While a sampling of congregations in Arkansas seems to suggest that the bulk of giving is still done through cash or check, churches recognize the need to expand the giving options available. Check use declined nationally by 35 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Mark Brooks, author of a recent blog post that encouraged pastors to implement opportunities for giving beyond the passing of the offering plate. Checks, Brooks wrote, made up 61 percent of all payments in 2000 and represented just 26 percent of transactions 10 years later.

Brooks, founder of Charis Giving Solutions, wrote that churches should no longer force “those who attend our churches to adapt to our 20th century means of collecting money.”

Easy Tithe, SecureGive

Businesses centered on online giving first began popping up in the early 2000s. Larger and newer congregations tended to adopt the platforms first thanks to younger members and regular attenders.

Easy Tithe and SecureGive are two of the more popular services. Both companies are contracted with churches in Arkansas. Easy Tithe was founded more than 10 years ago in Dallas as an alternative to churches that were using PayPal to collect money outside of church services.

Churches that use Easy Tithe have an option of three plans that cost up to $49 per month, plus transaction fees. SecureGive, developed by a Georgia pastor in 2003, charges from $39 to $799 per month. SecureGive services include online giving, mobile giving and giving kiosks.



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