Churches Introduce Electronic Tithing

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

Business — or as Easy Tithe President Matt Murph describes it, “the economy of the church” — is booming. Murph said the number of churches signing up for his company’s services has increased each year. Things really took off four years ago, he said.

“Really, what I’d call the tidal wave — there’s always that point where something becomes mainstream — it was 2009,” Murph said. “Frankly, after 2009, if you’re not doing online giving and you haven’t done it to any extent, you’re probably playing catch-up.”

Adhering to national trends, larger churches were among the early adopters in Arkansas. Smaller churches are beginning to expand their means of collection.

Little Rock’s Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church has more than 4,000 members and first implemented online giving in 2007. Direct deposit was offered nearly 12 years ago, the church’s director of finance, Mark Barr, said.

A study done by PHUMC in June 2012 revealed that of those who gave, 22 percent chose direct deposit and 7 percent used online or PayPal options. A majority of giving still came through mail (34 percent) or worship services (37 percent), but “as our givers become younger, cash and checks are becoming more obsolete,” Barr said.

Second Baptist Church in Little Rock implemented online giving last fall for its 210 regular attendees. Administrative Pastor Charles Fuller said no numbers are available yet for his church, but providing the option now will help members adapt for the future.

“The few months we’ve offered the option are not a long enough time for it to really establish itself as a part of our giving culture,” Fuller said. “I do believe that it will eventually be the way that most of our contributions come to the church.”

Aiming for Convenience

At Little Rock’s Church at Rock Creek, which averages about 3,500 in attendance, check and cash giving remain the primary options. Nearly 70 percent of giving is done by check, said executive pastor Sean McKean. Online giving sits at about 17 percent, a number that does seem to increase monthly. The church installed two giving kiosks two years ago.

McKean said in his experience visiting with churches of similar size nationally, that online giving is 30 percent or higher. He’s heard of churches reporting 70 percent of donations coming from sources other than cash or check.

“A lot of people get to church on Sunday mornings and maybe they’ve forgotten their checkbook or don’t have cash,” McKean said, “but most people do carry in their wallets a debit card. … We’re trying to make it as convenient as possible to either give online or come to church and be able to use your debit or credit card.”

Digital options don’t simply provide convenience for parishioners. There is also a bit of consistency that can come from methods of giving that don’t require dropping an envelope in the offering plate.

Giving to churches typically cycles up during the months from January through May. That’s when attendance increases for most churches. Attendance begins to dip during the summer months and, not coincidentally, church budgets often take a hit.

Some who give will make it a point to give, even when not attending. Others forget as attention — and money — shifts to vacations or weekends on the lake. Encouraging the direct-deposit option or establishing the habit of giving online could help eliminate some of those major cash-flow swings.

“Periodically, culture influences something good upon the church and we felt [expanding giving options] was good and timely for everyone, the giver and the church,” Floyd said. “Electronic giving is a great asset since so many people are across the world for business or pleasure. This gives them the opportunity to be faithful to giving, even when they are absent.”



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