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Online Giving For Churches: How To Make Cheerful Givers

I used to be horrible at saving money. But several years ago, God used a particularly difficult season (financially and spiritually) to help me get my mind right. At the end of that lesson, I found myself ready to begin building my “rainy day” fund. Funny how that works.

So, I paused to consider my options. I could patiently endure the difficult process of transforming head and heart to become a disciplined saver. Or, I could take the easy path of convenience. I chose the latter. Enter online banking.

The benefits they promised were irresistible. And, the goal of those benefits was simple: to make a burdensome process easy and painless. So, I signed up online to use my bank’s automatic features to build my savings account. Once set up, a specified amount is now automatically transferred monthly from my checking account to my savings account.

You know what? They were right! It’s very easy to “set it and forget it”. It’s convenient. I don’t think much about saving money now, because I don’t need to. It just happens. I don’t have to lift a finger. And, the savings account consistently grows. That’s a total win for me, right?

What are our priorities for online giving?

No doubt, using online tools to manage money is convenient and prevalent. So it’s no surprise that, to many, adding an online giving option to their church website seems like a no-brainer. My church doesn’t currently offer online giving. Our congregation includes families serving in the military and other travel-prone industries. So, I think it would be a helpful feature.

But, as I think it through, trying to understand what the Lord wants (Ephesians 5:10, 15, 17) for our donation pages, I’m discovering I have a lot of  questions.

For instance, let’s take the benefits of online giving.

The profit and loss of motivating with “convenience”

Convenience is a benefit I see promoted a lot on church donation pages. Some churches follow the same worldly pattern of promising to make a seemingly “burdensome” process easy and painless. Unfortunately, using “convenience” as either a solitary or primary motivator for online giving shortchanges the believing giver.

For example, I’ve recently seen a few church website pages listing the following “benefits” of using their online giving option:
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  1. You’re fulfilling your good intentions. Most of us want to give regularly but busyness, absences and distractions frustrate our good intentions.
  2. You will simplify your life by giving automatically on the schedule and date you decide. No writing a check, remembering to bring it, or sending it to church if you miss.
  3. You will be helping the church, making record keeping much easier and income more consistent.
  4. You are taking a step of faith, deciding in advance to faithfully give.

These seem reasonable. But, what motivation for giving do these “benefits” encourage?

What kind of giving are we encouraging through our donation pages? What kind do we want to encourage? Why does it matter?

Is convenience for the church and the donor the most important goal we should be shooting for? What benefits are we communicating to encourage donors to use the page? What are the eternal implications of what we’re communicating?

Are the benefits we’re most concerned with pleasing to God? Are the needs we’re trying to meet in sync with the needs God says we actually have?

I want to explore these questions in the next several posts. I also want to consider ideas for creating an online giving option for our church website that encourages the kind of heart change God desires (and Christ followers need).

Making intentional, cheerful offerings is what He’s pleased with.

God’s priority for online giving

Without question, online giving offers great convenience, and many practical benefits to both church administration and those wishing to provide financial support. But, purposing to work for the benefit of our donors (Galatians 6:10) when planning and building our donation pages is even more beneficial.

Sincerely caring for God’s family by laboring to create donation pages that influence thoughtful, worshipful giving moves us beyond being concerned merely with the temporal. As Christ followers, it also fire-proofs our work (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

Touting the benefits of convenience is okay. But, even more, we should take care to encourage perfection (or maturity) in the Christian life. Fostering discipline, faithfulness, and heart-felt worship in giving, leads to maturity in the Christian life.

Maturity in the Christian life is God’s priority and a goal of all ministry, including online ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:28-29).

Let’s make cheerful givers

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

In his commentary of 2 Corinthians 9:7 in the MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur notes,

God has a unique, special love for those who are happily committed to generous giving. The Greek word for “cheerful” is the word from which we get “hilarious,” which suggests that God loves a heart that is enthusiastically thrilled with the pleasure of giving.

It’s that thoughtful, intentional, from-the-heart giving that God is especially pleased with. That’s the goal of our giving, whether we make our offering in the pew or on the website.

Convenience is not what’s most important. Making things easy isn’t the priority. Laboring through our church websites to foster maturity in the Christian life is the priority.

The work involves choosing and adding tools and features that meet practical needs while encouraging spiritual growth. Included in that work is the responsibility to facilitate heart-change through our promotional efforts. That doesn’t mean that promoting convenience is a bad thing, or that it shouldn’t be done. It just means that we should be careful not to point to modern convenience as being the singular or primary reason for online giving.

Modern convenience is no substitute for maturity in the Christian life. Our aim must be to build and use donation pages on our church websites to encourage and nurture Christian maturity in the lives of believing givers. Doing so makes “selling convenience” unnecessary, and results in the kind of generous, consistent giving that delights both God and man.

Does your church offer an online giving option?

If so, what kind of giving is your church encouraging online? If not, is online giving an option you’re kicking around?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. And, if you found this post helpful, please be sure to share it!

Image Credit: Elliott P. | Flickr

2 replies on “Online Giving For Churches: How To Make Cheerful Givers”

Great article. I really thought it’d be about how necessary and crucial online giving is but you took it to a deeper level.

Earlier today I read an article about how churches need to make their website meet the needs of the people who attend. That’s a good and practical point but one example of why this is necessary was a church seeker who decided not to consider a church because the church did not offer an online giving option. Maybe this contrasts with your point.

Debt and fees are something to consider too. I attended a church that had online giving but did not accept credit cards because of their opposition to debt. They didn’t want to tempt their sheep. It’s my understanding that processing electronic checks is cheaper than Visa, MasterCard, etc. Givers might not realize that their most convenient method of giving could cost the church more money than a less convenience method (American Express versus an electronic check, for example).

Thanks so much for your comment, Steven. Yes, payment methods are definitely a topic I’m planning to cover in a future post. But, yes, you get my point. Making a decision not to attend a church because they don’t offer online giving is not a church problem, it’s a heart problem (of the decision-maker).

The solution for that problem is for churches offering online giving to work towards influencing a change of heart and mind towards giving. Church donation pages provide the perfect opportunity to pick up, online, where the teachings about giving from the pulpit leave off. Convenience is an obvious benefit of online giving. It’s fruitless to waste time stating the obvious.

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