No cash. No checks. No surprise. firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: I’m in Nashville learning this week! I’m working toward becoming a “Certified Executive in Religious Fundraising” through the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy (whew – that is quite a mouthful). This post seemed to be a good follow-up on last week’s Millennial post. Plus, it will give you a chance to listen again to one of life’s most infectious and joyful songs. Check it out.
In [a previous 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, released this month, shows that card payments – credit and debit – now account for more than two-thirds of all non-cash payments, while the number of checks paid continues to decline. [In the ensuing years, this trend has only increased. For an updated study, take a read of the 2018 TSYS U.S. Consumer Payment Survey – it’s fascinating.]
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 30's or older," she said. [Update: those people are now in their mid-40's or older (gasp).]
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’s 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?
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.”
Originally posted on February 26, 2014.