Categories
Web Content

Ask The Readers: Is A Corporate Sponsor Page A Good Church Website Idea?

Not long ago, while updating a couple of my social media accounts, one of the services prompted me to get in touch with an old friend I haven’t seen in quite a long time.

Curious, I thought I’d look him up to see where ministry had taken him. It didn’t take long to learn where he was pastoring, so I browsed over to the church website to see what they were all about.

The website looked good. I’m always happy to see that, especially with small churches.

Then, I clicked on their About Us section and, well…I was kinda…I don’t know, shocked?

I mean, I’d never considered that a church would solicit corporate sponsorship as a means to generate revenue, let alone post an info page and proposal on their church website.

So, yeah, I guess it threw me for a loop!

Does it matter where the money comes from?

I was all set to write a post that included this idea along with a list of others that I thought were poor content ideas for church websites. I made some notes, created a rough a outline, and filed it away in my “Ideas” folder.

Then today, while researching a completely different topic, a Google search led me to SmartChurch.com.

As I was scrolling down the page, reading the article I’d found, another title in the sidebar caught my eye: How Your Church Website Is Breaking The Law.

Click.

The author, Raul Rivera, invites readers to ponder the question:

If the IRS were to review my (church) website, will it be 100% compliant?

Then, he takes a quick look at three areas where church websites may be in dutch:

  1. What your church is selling online
  2. The pastor’s blog
  3. Selling ads versus corporate sponsorship

Yeah. After blinking a few times, I had to read that last one again, too.

According to Mr. Rivera,

Many churches these days raise extra revenue by selling ads in their church bulletin, on their website, and in other materials. Any paid promotion of a private business is classified as advertising and an unrelated business activity. The good news is that the IRS has created a safe harbor for churches to raise advertising revenues by selling ads known as corporate sponsorships. There is a legal difference between selling ads and selling corporate sponsorships. The IRS allows tax-free corporate sponsorships so long as they meet certain criteria such as publishing their logo, or slogan, website address and their telephone number, and as long as they do not contain qualitative or comparative descriptions of the sponsors’ products or services. What you must not do is publish the sponsors’ prices, or other wording that promotes savings, value or endorsement.

Now, this article was written back in 2012, so I don’t know if the IRS has changed any of the rules.

Still, I had no idea.

When is corporate sponsorship appropriate?

I had a sense that there was more to this topic, so I did a little digging, and found this article by Kristina Krill on Church Marketing Sucks.

I’m sure there are many more voices discussing this topic around the blogosphere. But this is such a new idea to me, I just had to ask you guys…

Should churches solicit corporate sponsorships?

Is soliciting corporate sponsorships an appropriate activity for churches under any circumstances?

Can receiving corporate sponsorship cloud your church’s message?

Does it encourage consumerism?

What steps can be taken to keep that from happening?

Does the Bible contain similar examples we can study and consider?

Would your church consider soliciting corporate sponsorships?

Under what conditions?

Is adding a corporate sponsorship page a good church website idea?

Should churches use their main website to solicit corporate sponsorships?

If a church wanted to solicit sponsorships for an event, would they do well to create a separate event website?

If adding a corporate sponsorship page is a good church website idea, where should it be placed in the architecture?

So, corporate sponsorship pages a good church website idea: right or wrong? What’s appropriate? What isn’t? What matters most?

What’s surprising?

Categories
Tools & Resources

Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website (Part 2)

In my last post, Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website (Part 1),  I presented an overview of what you can expect as you begin researching options for enabling online giving through your church website. Well, that article should have actually been “Part 2”, and this article, “Part 1”.

That’s because, if you’re just getting started with online giving, and read that article first, you may have been left wondering,

With so many options and so many features, how in the world do I choose the perfect solution for my church?

I was asking myself that very same question when I discovered the multitude of solutions available. I learned my church already had options available through Church Community Builder and WordPress, applications we’re already using. So, I started checking them out.

I didn’t get very far before realizing that I’d started the process at the wrong step. D’oh!

Being the geeky gal that I am, I was eager to begin looking at software. However, in my haste, I’d forgotten that the process for choosing an online giving solution doesn’t begin with evaluating options. The process begins with planning. So, I backed up, and regrouped.

These steps are essentially the same ones you’d follow when choosing any software solution for your church.

Steps For Choosing An Online Giving Solution

STEP 1: Plan (Proverbs 2:11)[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Pray for God’s guidance and for His wisdom (Proverbs 3:6, 16:9; James 1:5)
  • Thoroughly define requirements (what we need) and goals (why we need it)

[/list]

STEP 2: Research & Evaluate[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Determine what solutions are available (including options through software we’re already using)
  • Evaluate those solutions, strictly adhering to the needs and goals defined in Step 1
  • Narrow the list of contenders to two or three options

[/list]

STEP 3: Test Drive & Choose[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Take each contender for a test drive, if possible
  • Choose the best option

[/list]

Those steps seem simple to me. Time-consuming, but simple.

Now, I realize you may still have many more questions about online giving. So, I’ve gathered a few additional resources together for you. I hope you’ll find them helpful as you plan, evaluate, and choose an option to enable online giving through your church website.

Downloadable Online Giving Guides & Tools

[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Software Comparison Charts & Lists

[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Church Management Software Comparison Chart
    Source: Christian Computing Magazine
    Comparison of 40 software Church Management Software (ChMS) solutions. A few of these options have an online giving component. I used this chart to discover that my church’s ChMS includes an online giving tool.
  • Top Donation Management Software
    Source: Capterra
    Capterra is a free service churches can use to help them find the right software. Capterra offers one of the most comprehensive lists I’ve seen of business software solutions on the Web.

[/list]

Image Credit: zhouxuan 12345678 | Flickr cc

Categories
Tools & Resources

Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website (Part 1)

Choosing an online giving solution for your church website should be pretty painless, right?

Well, as I’ve been researching the idea of proposing online giving to my church, I’ve discovered there’s a lot to consider. I didn’t want to rush blindly into adding a donation page to my church’s website. It seemed prudent to first examine what our priorities for adding online giving should be.

That exercise led me to explore why making spiritually-profitable donation pages is crucial, especially for the benefit of believing givers. Then, I looked at 14 ideas and examples of great church donation page content that can encourage gracious giving.

Now I’m ready to turn my attention to learning what online giving solutions are available for churches. I had assumed there would only be a few options specifically made for churches. Boy, was I wrong! A quick Google search revealed an overwhelming number of church-focused providers and services. Pages and pages of them, in fact.

With so many options, I really didn’t know where to begin. Then, as I poured over feature pages, pricing structures, and delivery methods, I realized that narrowing my focus to find the right option for my church website was actually easier than I first thought.

Turns out, online giving solutions appear to come in one of five flavors:

  1. Client-installed computer software
  2. Software as a Service (or SaaS) Providers
  3. Web Content Management System Add-ons
  4. Church CMS Service Providers
  5. Church Management Software Options

The goal of this post is not to review or recommend individual options or service providers. Rather, I mean to present an overview of what you can expect as you begin your own research to find the best online giving solution for your church website.

Online Giving Solutions For Churches

Client-installed computer software

Some online giving solutions are packaged and delivered as computer software programs. The software may be packaged as digital files available for download to a client’s computer. Some are only available as boxed CDs. In either case, your computer will need to meet minimum system requirements in order for the software to be installed and properly run.

Examples of client-installed computer software include the following:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Providers

With this category of software, service providers host the software application and deliver it to customers over a network or the Internet. Automatic updates, easy administration, and global accessibility are just a few of the benefits associated with this software distribution model. Web-based options for online giving range from general purpose payment tools to feature-rich, ministry-focused applications.

Examples of SaaS providers include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Web Content Management System Add-ons

Web content management systems (CMS) allow users with little knowledge of web programming or mark-up languages to easily create and manage website content.  Content management systems enable you to easily extend the features of your website by installing free or premium (paid) add-on software programs. Depending on the CMS, these add-on software programs may be called plugins or extensions, or may be known by other names.

Examples of content management systems that offer donation page add-on software include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Church CMS Service Providers

Church CMS service providers specialize in offering feature-rich, hosted website design and maintenance solutions that meet the unique needs of churches and ministries. Many of these ministry-focused service providers either bundle online giving features into the core functionality of their CMS, or offer an online giving solution as a separate add-on option.

Examples of church CMS providers who offer online giving solutions include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Church Management Software Options

Churches use church management software to help them organize and automate many of their day-to-day operations. These specialized software programs enable churches to more easily manage such tasks as event planning, accounting and report generation, and volunteer management.

Some church management software programs include an online giving component that can be easily integrated into your church website. Examples include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

What’s next?

My church uses Church Community Builder to help us get things done. Our website is powered by WordPress. So, that’s where I’ll begin my review and service comparison.

Choosing an online giving solution is not as difficult as you might think. In my next post, I’ll include a list of resources to make reviewing and narrowing down your options that much easier.

Image Credit: zhouxuan 12345678 | Flickr cc

Categories
Web Content

14 Ideas For Building Profitable Church Donation Page Content

Offering the convenience of online giving is one practical way we can use our church website to care for God’s family (Galatians 6:10).

I began this series of posts by considering how some churches focus on the “convenience factor” when creating content for their donation pages. Churches misguide Christian donors when they prioritize hyping modern convenience in an effort to persuade and motivate online giving.

Making the most of every opportunity to foster maturity in the Christian life is God’s priority, and should be ours (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:28-29). As our websites are meant to extend the influence and effectiveness of our church ministries online, it naturally follows that we should also make the most of every opportunity there too, right?

So how can we build donation pages that foster spiritual growth, and encourage Christians to excel in gracious giving (2 Corinthians 8:6-7)?

Making the pages of our church website spiritually profitable is just as easily done as said when we’re talking about, say, publishing sermon content online. But, what about church donation pages? What content can we add to make them spiritually profitable for the giver, while meeting their practical needs?

You’re adding a new service to your church website, so your team should start by making a plan. One simple and fun way to begin is by making a list of the most basic questions someone might have about using our online solution to give to our church. Once we have our list of questions in hand, it’s simply a matter of brainstorming ways we can respond to those questions. Then, create or assemble whatever content you’ve chosen to use.

How you structure and lay out your donation page(s) will depend on several factors, including what content your team chooses to publish. For this article, we’ll just be focusing on ideas for content.

Donation Page Content Ideas For Churches

Here are 14 ideas to help you and your team get your creative juices flowing. These are great examples of creative, engaging, and informative church donation page content that responds to a few of the most basic who-what-where-when-why-and-how questions our donors may have.

Question #1: WHY should I give? (4 Ideas)

First things first. Communicate the true priorities for gracious giving by adding content that encourages and teaches the biblical reasons for (and, results of) faithful, intentional giving from the heart.

Grace Church links relevant sermon content taught at their church. Linking to audio content would work well, too. NOTE: If you use a sermon snippet on the donation page, be sure to also provide a link to the entire message/series in your Sermon Library.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3506″ align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ link=”http://gracechurchsc.org/contact/online-giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” autoHeight=”true” quality=”100″]

Celebration Church links video testimonies shared by members of their congregation.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3509″ alt=”Celebration Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://celebrationchurchtx.com/give/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Gateway Church added commentary containing links to relevant Scriptures on giving.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3511″ alt=”Gateway Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://gatewaypeople.com/tithes/why-tithe” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Cross Pointe Church links to quality discipleship resources produced by respected Bible teachers.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3512″ alt=”Cross Pointe Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.crosspointechurch.com/giving/index.htm” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #2: WHO will benefit from my offering? (2 Ideas)

People don’t merely give to “organizations”. People give to people and support causes. Gracious givers are excited to know how God is using their giving to bless others.

Wausau Alliance Church lists and briefly describes the specific church Giving Funds donors can designate their offerings to.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3514″ alt=”Wausau Alliance Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.wausaualliance.org/home/connect/give-online/giving-funds/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

LifeChurch.tv lists and briefly describes the local and global programs and causes their church supports financially.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3515″ alt=”LifeChurch.tv Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”https://www.lifechurch.tv/giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #3: WHERE is the money going? (2 Ideas)

A little transparency goes a long way. Just as important as wanting to know who will benefit from their offerings, gracious givers want you to “show them the money”. They want to be assured that the church is faithfully stewarding the money entrusted to them.

Fellowship Bible Church offers a downloadable report of how the year’s funds were spent.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3518″ alt=”Fellowship Bible Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.fellowshipnashville.org/contact/online-giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Elevation Church created a incredible media experience. Their “year in review” video, highlights the ways people benefited through ministries and programs funded by their donor’s gifts and offerings. A downloadable PDF of the annual report is also available.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3519″ alt=”Elevation Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://annualreport2012.elevationchurch.org/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #4: WHEN and HOW can I give? (3 Ideas)

Make it clear that online giving IS NOT replacing “in the pew” giving (unless it is…which I hope it’s not). And, remember, when it comes to tech savviness, people are at all levels. Make it super easy for inexperienced givers to use the service.

Willow Creek Community Church lists all of the options (times and locations) for giving to their church, including online. NOTE: Be sure to include all acceptable methods for giving money (e.g. cash, personal checks, debit cards, etc.),  according to the giving options available.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3520″ alt=”Willow Creek Community Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.willowcreek.org/giving” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Word of Life Fellowship Church provides clear, detailed, printable, step-by-step instructions for using their service.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3531″ alt=”Word of Life Fellowship Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.wlfconline.org/content.cfm?id=357″ linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Community Bible Church offers a link to less detailed, printable PDF instructions. Their service provides a wizard that walks users through the process step-by-step.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3529″ alt=”Community Bible Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”https://www.communitybible.com/online-giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #5: WHAT other kinds of gifts can I give? (1 Idea)

Money isn’t the only acceptable form of donation. Some churches also accept gifts of real estate, stocks, and other assets. If your church accepts gifts other than money, be sure to communicate that on your donation page.

NorthRidge Church  lists all of the non-cash ways to give, segmented by category.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3522″ alt=”NorthRidge Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://northridgechurch.com/stewardship/giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #6: What if I’m new to giving? (1 Idea)

There are many creative ways churches can use their donation pages to teach and encourage those new to giving.

Horizons Church introduces new givers to the discipline of giving to God by encouraging them to participate in a short-term (90-day) giving challenge.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3523″ alt=”Horizons Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.myhorizonschurch.com/giving/90-day-challenge” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #7: What if I have more questions? (1 Idea)

Undoubtedly, people will have many more questions about using your donation page. Consider adding an FAQs section or page to address their questions and concerns, and to provide additional contact information, if available.

Eagle Brook Church added an FAQs page to respond to the questions most frequently asked.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3524″ alt=”Eagle Brook Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://eaglebrookchurch.com/giving/giving-faqs/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Seen any great church donation page content?

Elevation’s media report made me want to pull out my wallet! What about you? Have you seen any great church donation pages in your travels? Post a link to the church’s donation page in the Comments below, so we can all be inspired!

In my next post, I want to take a look at options for online giving software and service providers.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with a friend.

Image Credit: Dean Croshere | Flickr

Categories
Web Content

Online Giving For Churches: Is It Spiritually Profitable?

Is online giving for churches spiritually profitable? Can it be? I think so.

In my last post, I talked about how some churches communicate the benefits of online giving on their church donation pages. I explained that building spiritually-profitable donation pages is God’s design for our church websites. That’s because using church donation pages to foster maturity in the Christian life is His priority (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:28-29). Making the most of every opportunity to encourage Christian maturity is good (Galatians 6:10), and should be our priority, too.

Whether your church offers online giving or not, the ideas discussed in that post offer a perspective of our donation pages as discipleship opportunities for influencing the kind of intentional, heart-felt giving that pleases God (2 Corinthians 9:7).

As I mentioned in that post, my church doesn’t currently offer an online giving solution. Researching the option has been a real eye-opener for me. For example, I was surprised to discover that some people consider all online giving to be a “tool of the devil.” I don’t agree with that. But I do believe that, like any other tool meant for good, online giving has the potential to be used in ways that are unprofitable.

Russell Woodbridge, seminary professor and co-author of Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?, expressed numerous concerns he had for churches embracing online giving. At the time of his writing, he believed that,

Online giving may be financially profitable for the church, but it is unprofitable for corporate and individual spirituality.

Though I do not agree with his conclusion, I do think he raises some very valid concerns. I thought these were good starting points for thinking through the possible effects online giving might have on our ministry and the people we serve.

Here are the four main concerns he addresses, along with my thoughts and recommendations I would propose to my own church:

Will online giving be a supplement or detriment to the Sunday worship?

Woodbridge discusses two main concerns for how online giving may be detrimental to the Sunday worship:

  1. Giving is both an individual and corporate act of worship and the expediency of online giving may detract from thoughtful worship as we give.
  2. Observing everyone giving to the Kingdom (during Sunday worship) allows the church body to share life together and build community.

I agree with his concerns, but not with his conclusion. If we were talking about completely replacing corporate giving with online giving, I would agree. That would be detrimental.

Collecting an offering during the worship service allows the church body an opportunity to worship God corporately, share life together, and build community. But even corporate giving can be practiced with distant hearts and wrong motives.

My recommendation: I agree with Woodbridge: God is most concerned with the attitude of the heart as we give. So, I would propose that my church take care to create content for our church donation page that supplements and even expands upon the sound doctrine taught from the pulpit. Truth-filled teaching and support—offline and online—on topics like money, stewardship, giving, etc., will encourage worshipful giving regardless of the method used to offer the gift.

Will online giving help or harm members of a local church?

Woodbridge states,

Online giving can reinforce the individualism and pragmatism that engulfs the church.

He goes on to explore possible reasons why people don’t want to give when the plate is passed. He suggests that some churches attempt to solve the lack of giving by believing that making giving easier is the solution. So, as a knee-jerk response, they turn to online giving and put their faith in the claims made by software companies: financial contributions will increase substantially.

While Woodbridge’s concern seems more focused on the heart of the giver, I’m concerned about the motivation of church leaders offering the solution. I would ask, “Who are we putting our hope in to supply the resources we need? Who are we really depending on?”

As Christ followers, these are the kinds of “thin lines” we encounter every day. Sometimes, we don’t even realize what side of the line we’re on until our faith is tested. And, loss or lack is a great faith-tester.

My recommendation: I agree with Woodbridge: this issue of giving is ultimately related to the condition of our hearts. So, I would propose that the leadership of my church be careful to consider our own motivations for adding an online giving solution to our ministry. The desire to make giving convenient is okay. But, we must be diligent to guard against overlooking the moral principles underlying giving, like faith (Matthew 23:23-24), and teaching others to do the same.

Will automated giving inadvertently foster the notion that giving to God is similar to paying bills or taxes?

I agree with Woodbridge’s line of thinking here. In fact, I think the adage, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” applies.

In my previous post, I explained how convenient it is for me to use my bank’s automatic options to manage money. Using “set it and forget it”, recurring options for building savings accounts and paying debts is great. But, giving our offerings to God is not like paying bills (at least, it shouldn’t be).

Christian giving is an act of love and worship. Wrapped up in that act is a completely distinct motivation that calls for an intentional, fully-present gesture—mind, body, and spirit—every time we give.

My recommendation: I would propose that we do not offer an option for automatic, recurring gifts. I would propose that the giver must personally bring his offering, each time, to the donation page. Every time he comes, he’ll be presented with encouraging, supportive web page content that teaches and reminds him of the true benefits of Christian giving. With God’s help, the fruit of those online exchanges will be a change of heart and mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Should the church ask its members to use credit cards to give?

I’ve seen arguments in favor of discouraging the use of credit cards to make offerings. One of the most common, for a church’s part, is their desire to not encourage increasing debt on the part of the giver. Another common argument relates to churches avoiding the processing fees banks charge for each transaction.

My argument mirrors Woodbridge’s concern. In his article, he asks,

By using a credit card, is the member not giving out of the resources of VISA® rather than out of what he actually possesses?

My response: ABSOLUTELY! So, given that reality, I don’t understand why churches offer this option for giving at all. For clarity, let’s look at a couple of definitions. First, here’s how Merriam-Webster defines “credit”:

Money that a bank or business will allow a person to use and then pay back in the future.

Now, here’s how Investopedia defines “credit card”:

A card issued by a financial company giving the holder an option to borrow funds, usually at point of sale.

So, what are we saying by accepting credit cards on our church donation pages? Giving to God with borrowed funds is an acceptable offering. Seriously?

For online giving, I believe options that deduct money directly from an individual’s personal account best serve the giver and the church. It ensures the giver’s gift is offered, by faith, out of resources he himself possesses. Beginning with the account of the very first offering (Genesis 4:3-5), this is the pattern we see in the Bible of acceptable giving demonstrated (Hebrews 11:4).

Yes, God is concerned with our hearts in giving. But, giving the first and very best out of one’s own resources is a basic principle of practicing faithful stewardship. God approves of that kind of giving.

My recommendation: I would propose that my church not offer the option to accept credits cards online. Debit/check cards or other options that deduct funds directly from an individual’s personal account would be acceptable.

Embracing online giving for discipleship

Online giving provides a unique opportunity for our churches to embrace technology for discipleship. Prayerfully thinking through questions of impact and effect upon our ministry and the people we serve is crucial. Taking time to do so, guides us to carefully make choices that ensure our donation pages will:

  • supplement Sunday worship
  • help members of our local church
  • reinforce Christian giving as an act of love and worship
  • and, offer a convenient method for giving out of our own resources

In my next post, I’ll offer ideas for creating spiritually-profitable donation page content. I’ll be sure to include a few examples, too!

Do you think online giving can be spiritually profitable?

What do you think about using credit cards for offerings? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

Image credit: Kevin Dooley | Flickr

Categories
Web Content

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:
[framed_box rounded=”true”]

  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.

[/framed_box]
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

Categories
Tools & Resources

7 Donation WordPress Plugins for Your Church Website

Developing your church website on WordPress is a great solution for most churches. It’s free, there are thousands of great themes, and you can extend the functionality of your site by using plug-ins. Today I wanted to share with you my favorite donation WordPress plug-ins. Online giving is a huge reason to have a church website. Online giving makes giving convenient for your church members to give regularly.  So enjoy this list of the best WordPress donation plugins.

Categories
Web Content

Importance of Online Giving For Churches

This post discusses one of the primary issues concerning online giving for churches.

A pastor I know is looking into adding online giving to his church website. He is having a hard time justifying processing fees being taken out of the tithe. All credit card processing companies charge a small fee per transaction, usually 3% of the total transaction. So this raises an interesting question: Is it wrong to pay 3% of a church member’s tithe to a credit card company?

Let’s look at it from both sides of the issue.