The Offering Conundrum: When Checks and Cash are No Longer Relevant
In last week’s blog I gave some suggestions on ways to make the offering time more of a celebration. In response, a kind reader wrote that he felt uncomfortable when the offering plate makes its rounds. He wrote, “I suspect I'm not the only one that gives to the church electronically or by sending a check via mail, leaving us empty handed when the plate is passed.”
And there’s the conundrum (isn’t that a great word?): fewer and fewer people are carrying cash and checks around…and yet we persist in this communal experience of passing the plate during worship. The 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study (I read it so you don't have to) released this month, shows that card payments – credit and debit – now account for more than two-thirds of all noncash payments, while the number of checks paid continues to decline.
And in an NPR story “Can the Checkbook Make a Comeback?” a Safeway checker notes that in her experience, only about 1 in 10 customers pays by check. "You won't see a checkbook come out unless the person is late 30s or older," she said.
So, for those of you with older congregations or those in more rural situations – you’re probably safe from thinking about this…for now. Older people still use checks and carry cash. The ritual of passing the plate is something that is a great tradition that is embraced because those people have something physical to put in the plate.
But what about churches that are trying to attract a younger population or people who feel comfortable with technology? What options do you have for them? If your people are giving electronically through monthly withdrawals from their checking accounts, how can they participate when the offering plate makes it rounds? Do you have a card available that says, “In gratitude for all that God has given me, I have given electronically”? Are there prayer requests or response forms that can be dropped in so that they too can participate in putting something in the plate?
Probably more importantly, have you started giving some thought to having a finance committee member available after worship (or before worship) with a tablet (as in a computer) or a “square” on a smart phone to take their offering? This is a place where the mainline church can be ahead of the curve rather than playing catch up a decade after this kind of commerce is considered “normal” by the rest of society.
There really is nothing sacred about cash or checks. It is the intent of the person’s heart and the belief that all they have in their wallets, bank accounts, stocks, and paychecks is a gift from God to be used in service to make this world a better place. That is what is sacred. As we get closer and closer to being a cash-less and check-less society, let’s make sure that people with hearts to give are given every opportunity to do so.
And here’s your moment of bliss today – how do you think people would feel if you showed this video or played this song during the offering time? The video even features a church choir. Come on, get “Happy.”
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise nearly $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.