Bought a book lately? Me too.
How'd you pay? I used Visa. I ordered it from Amazon, on my phone, and since I'm a Prime member, the book delivered the next day. My card's on file, so it was only a few clicks. Now, when I can, I do try to go to my local independent bookstore, instead of the behemoth Amazon. That's where I purchased my second-to-last book. And there I used my debit card to pay. I suppose I could have used cash, but I don't usually carry much actual cash on me. I prefer to use my debit card. I never pay for something at a store with a check, although I will send checks from my phone using my banking app.
I'm not a Millennial. I am like most people in the world today who expect to be able to pay our merchants, institutions, and, yes, churches the way we pay everybody else: Easily.
Are you still requiring your parishioners to pay only with cash or checks? Then you're shutting the door on their generosity and it's time to stop.
Sometimes treasurers or wardens will say, Oh we looked at that, and decided it wasn't worth it. Really? Not worth making it easier for people to pay their pledges? Nor worth enabling a spontaneous gift in support of an outreach program or other initiative?
Maybe it's some holdover to a long-gone past, thinking that churches can operate on a completely different sphere than all of the other institutions in our lives: "If they care enough, our members will do what they need to do."
OK, if that's the reasoning among your leadership, you really have to get over it. Every church in this diocese should be able to smoothly and easily accept different kinds of payments from different kinds of people, just like any decent bookstore needs to make it easy and pleasant to buy a book, especially if they are going to compete with mega-Amazon. Yes, there is a cost to the transactions. You should still be doing it.
Need data? Research in 2015 (and that's already 4 years ago) showed that 74% of Americans write no more than one check a month. Noticing the impact in your collection plate? 80% of Americans carry $50 cash or less in their wallet. And phones are more and more important: 39% of smartphone owners used their phone to pay at least one bill in the last month. Lots of useful statistics on this blog: pushpay.com/blog/church-giving-statistics.
If someone wants to give you money, don't make it a hassle!
Many of our congregations use Vanco Payments for online giving and payment processing. Click here for more information on the diocesan website.
Perhaps you've already added electronic giving. Maybe a while ago. Is it obvious on your website or is it hidden, several clicks in? Do you continue to tell people? Do you remind them in your Bulletin, and in Stewardship materials? This is a good time to take a cold, hard look at what the "user experience" is on your church website. Is it clear where you go to make a gift? To pledge online? And look at non-pledge payments. Do you ever ask parishioners for special gifts outside of the service? Flowers or music? Outreach? Again, it should be easy and obvious.
This article first appeared in Stewardship Matters, an online newsletter on stewardship that comes out monthly from the Stewardship office of the Diocese of Newark, To subscribe, send an email to Cynthia McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have lots of additional stewardship resources available for your use, including the Diocese of Newark website and our Stewardship Matters Facebook page.
Please reach if you have suggestions for future topics, or would like information on scheduled workshops. We can also provide small group stewardship coaching in your congregation, Some topics include: Stewardship best Practices; Just in Time Stewardship; Asset Mapping; and Spiritual Giftedness.