Inspiring Generosity


Wanna Catch H#ll? Change Things Up.

                                                    Evidence! @ Facebook

Last week, the ever-fabulous Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Director of Stewardship and Connectional Ministries for the United Methodist Church, posted a most intriguing article on the UMC Stewardship Facebook page (you have “liked” that page, right?!).
How’s this for a headline?
Australian Church Catches Hell after Introducing Electronic Offering Plates.
“Wow,” I said to myself (I frequently have fascinating conversations with me). “This looks pretty serious. I must read on.” So, I did.
Turns out St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney had the audacity to try something new. Lord, have mercy.
The. Most. Shocking. Thing. Ever…St. Mary’s gave people the option to give using a credit card. That’s nothing unusual, really. But here’s the twist: the credit card reader was attached to the offering plate. Jeepers! As the ushers passed the offering plates down the pews, people could tap their credit cards and give in $10 increments.
I’m not sure why the outrage about this stuck in my craw, but it did.

Maybe it was the tweet by Dylan: “I made an audible OMFG when I saw this shared on Facebook...” Seriously, OMFG? Wash that boy’s mouth out with soap.

Or the big beef? Instead of increments of $10, the amount should have been – not higher mind you – but 80% lower…$2.00.

Ah, thank goodness, there was one positive comment by some poor anonymous soul: “I hate it when I turn up to mass and realise I don’t have any cash. I would love this option at my parish.”
It’s my guess, that St. Mary’s adequately prepared their congregation for the change. Their bulletin states: “The option to make an offering via credit card is available at this mass. Please note: You can continue to donate with cash or pass the plate on.”
If you’re smart, you do prepare people. You don’t just spring your latest and greatest idea on the unsuspecting. About fifteen years ago, our former church organist surprised us all by bringing an electronic keyboard into the traditional service. Before a single note was played, the reverberation from it nearly made everyone go deaf. There has never been another electronic keyboard in the sanctuary.
Poor planning,
poor communication, and
poor execution can kill your best idea.
St. Mary’s problem? They were so excited about this new innovation (and rightly so) that they posted (boasted?) about it on Facebook. You have no control how people – many of whom have never been to your church – will receive (or share) the information that’s on Facebook. Once St. Mary’s started getting serious blowback via social media, they took the post down.
That’s a cautionary tale – not about the horror of electronic giving in the church – but being aware of how people who don’t know you might perceive your new and “radical” idea. Fortunately, there’s no indication that St. Mary’s has trashed their new offering plates.
But brothers and sisters, if you do choose to do something risky (knowing that it’s the only way change happens), be sure that you have done
excellent planning,
excellent communication,
and excellent execution.
Be confident. And, be prepared for your how your new idea will be received if it gets out there to people who are not in your sphere of influence. You just might see the headline, “Awesome Church Catches Hell for Trying a New Idea.” Adjust, but don’t waver. It’s worth the change.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She wonders, if she started passing an electronic offering plate at the dinner table, would her spouse or children contribute? Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.