The Future of the Offering Plate Part 3: Embrace the Future!
And so friends, we come to the sad conclusion of the mini-series: the Future of the Offering Plate (F.O.P.). This is part III (hey! just like the Star Wars trilogy) and the #icanhardlybreathe exciting conclusion. But don’t be fooled, there just may be a “Carrie”-like surprise ending (but less scary) because so many of you have written in with such great ideas. But, there will be no bloopers…sorry to disappoint.
Recently I was at a church meeting where someone thought the demise of checks and cash was highly suspect. Apparently, this idea has made the rounds before. It may very well be true that checks and cash will still be here in 20 years. However, if you have a younger congregation – and by “younger,” I mean 55 years old or less – you will notice that few of those sweet young things carry around a checkbook anymore. And just how much loose change is being put in your offering plate these days? I bet not as much as was being put in a mere ten years ago…simply because people are not carrying checks or as much money. People are more accustomed to giving electronically or with a credit card.
So the choice is clear – keep collecting cash and checks and hope that the prognosticators (isn’t that the most awesome word?) are wrong OR, embrace the possibilities technology offers – the same technology that is already being utilized successfully by many forward-thinking non-profits and some churches.
And here are some futuristic thoughts from and for you, dear readers:
T.J. Putman from Salem First Presbyterian, OR, and the Executive Director of Salem’s Interfaith Hospitality Network, had three ideas:
- “While the offering plate is passed the Pastor will share instructions to give through your phone. Imagine ‘Pay your pledge through your phone by sending a text to 2Cor9:7 and leave the amount in the message’
- Passive offering taken at a touch screen kiosk (iPad and a credit card reader) at the back of the sanctuary. Possibly more active with a kiosk at the front of a sanctuary, where people go forward with their tithes. [Cesie here: I’ll throw in a reminder about swiping the “Square”]
- A majority will setup a recurring gift to be sent to the church [aka EFT – Electronic Fund Transfer].”
Ted Sedler from Beaverton FUMC, OR said, “And then there’s the Smart Phone app. What if each church had an app and you did live donations during the service?...The future of the offering plate is electronic. Giving together is important. [Electronic] giving in the future could be as simple as, or even simpler than, putting a check in an envelope and dropping it in the offering plate.”
Rev. Bill Mullette-Bauer (former Director of Stewardship and Finance for the OR-ID Annual Conference, retired), mentioned, “Most healthy churches are already allowing people to give by automatic transfers and on-line giving. We’re also seeing more using mobile giving…I visited a congregation where during the offering they show on the video screen how to use their phones to give.”
And finally, Sally Cowell (FUMC, Salem) reminds us that it is important to acknowledge all gifts, even electronic ones, during a time of thanks: “Perhaps churches might begin acknowledging the different ways people give by including phrases in the ‘offering prayer’ like ‘for these gifts today and for all of the other gifts that are given through fund transfers and other means, we thank you, oh God.”
So there you have it, dear friends. I hope you are fired up to give just one of these ideas a try during the coming year. Between elevating the offering plate, having clear expectations, and embracing technology, you will be helping your congregation become more generous – just in time to fund your ministries that will change your community and your world. F.O.P.: the end.
P.S. Some of the websites that are listed are not necessarily being recommended - they are merely examples.
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 over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is sad that the series is over...like M.A.S.H. or Mad Men or the Daily Show, all good things must end. 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; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.