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While the Rev. Richard Burstall promotes the availability of online giving at Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church, receiving gifts in the traditional plates is still a part of each service.

COURTESY PHOTO

While the Rev. Richard Burstall promotes the availability of online giving at Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church, receiving gifts in the traditional plates is still a part of each service.

Online giving can increase blessings – for givers and churches

 

The Rev. Jeremy Steele
July-August 2016

Making the transition to offering online giving is bigger than acquiring the needed technology and simplifying giving for some congregants. The availability of online giving provides a potentially significant way for increasing total donations.

That is the argument the Rev. Richard Burstall brought to the finance team at Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church in Grayling, Michigan. "I'm in my 40s, and I haven't written a check in I don't know how long," he told them. Burstall explained that the only place that not carrying checks or cash was a problem was when he wanted to give in church.

This lack of diversity in payment methods disproportionally affects younger churchgoers who are more prone not to use cash or checks in their daily life. If congregations want to make full participation in the life of the church available to younger generations, they need to move forward and open the blessing of financial giving to them by allowing electronic giving. Churches offering electronic giving – along with the traditional cash and checks – find that a growing percentage of older members are also choosing to handle their financial obligations electronically.

After some mission-focused discussion, the people of Michelson Memorial Church decided to make it easy for all generations to be faithful givers in their church. They chose to sign up with the service recommended by the United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration: Vanco Payment Solutions.

Beyond the trust that comes from knowing the denomination's finance agency has vetted the company, Vanco provides much more for churches than a simple payment system. It offers downloadable resources (http://bit.ly/vancoonlinegiving) to help churches explore this new territory before they ever make formal contact with a company representative.

From there, Vanco has simple planning tools to help guide churches toward implementation. Once the process is complete, people are able to give through a web browser, smart phone app or text message.

The result for Michelson Memorial? Many younger individuals and families have been able to become regular givers even when sports tournaments keep them out of church. At the same time, nothing has changed for those who prefer to put a check in an offering envelope.

Finance leaders experience some unexpected benefits. When it comes time to count the offering for online transactions, they don't have to assemble a team of volunteers. They simply open the report that came in their email and input that information into the church database. For some churches, the cost of processing the offering decreases with online giving. More and more banks are charging lower service fees for online transactions than they do to process checks.

Though the convenience and saving money are nice bonuses, the real benefit is giving all of God's people equal access to the blessing of financial giving. As churches like Michelson Memorial embrace the missional growth possibilities in online giving, everyone can grow in discipleship through faithful giving.

The Rev. Jeremy Steele is Next Generation minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He is also an author, blogger at jeremywords.com and a frequent contributor to MyCom, an e-newsletter published by United Methodist Communications.