Vineyard Lab: Digital Giving at Church

Vineyard Labs is my way of crowd-sourcing. I want to hear your thoughts on stuff we're considering doing at the Maryville Vineyard Church. Please feel free to weigh in.


We’re always kicking ideas around at the Maryville Vineyard. At the moment, we’re working on how to create more and better digital giving options.

We have online giving available via PayPal. People are using it more and more, which is cool. Some folks give from their paychecks with an automatic withdrawal that comes to us in the mail. This is becoming more and more common.

We don’t have direct deposit available at the moment, but I think that’s coming soon.

People are using these options more and more because carrying cash and writing checks have gone the way of the red-back hymnal. There are lots of folks in our church who don’t own a checkbook and don’t carry cash. Some only write checks to the church, and for every other form of payment they’ve switched to a more convenient and often automated option (my family is in this group).

E-GIVING, E-HERESY?

For a group of early-adopters like us, we are uncharacteristically behind the times on this one.

Here are a few reasons why: 

  1. We’re really carefully, and even a bit paranoid, about the church looking ‘greasy’ as it pertains to money. It’s about worship, not about tactics or bottom-lines. We know the church at large has a crappy reputation and we want desperately to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
  2. Automated options (which would undoubtedly increase the consistency and ultimately the amount of giving) may effect the physical act of worship and obedience that faithful giving should be.
  3. It’s not free. And we LOVE free!
  4. What if people use credit cards irresponsibly and we contribute to the debt problem? We want to help people get out of debt, not help them into it!
  5. Where? We’ve got space problems at our church. If we set up some kind of giving kiosks, where would we do that?
  6. The stubborn pastor has been ‘praying about it’ for five years now.

Some of my more recent thoughts about those things:

  1. We’re really carefully, and even a bit paranoid, about the church looking ‘greasy’ as it pertains to money. It’s about worship, not about tactics or bottom-lines. We know the church at large has a crappy reputation and we want desperately to be a part of the solution, and not the problem.
    • I need to get over it. The church also has a crappy reputation for being behind the times and out of touch, and now we’re adding to THAT problem. It’s not ‘greasy’ it’s thoughtful and convenient.
  2. Automated options (which would undoubtedly increase the consistency and ultimately the amount of giving) seem to effect the physical act of worship and obedience that faithful giving should be.
    • This is a dumb concern, and I’ve been legalistic about it. The worship is found in the generosity and in the sacrifice that comes with living on less money in order to support the Lord’s church. 
  3. It’s not free. And we LOVE free!
    • This part still stinks. But it’s cheaper than ever (about 2.5%), and studies show that giving generally increases much more than that when these options are made available.
  4. What if people use credit cards irresponsibly and we contribute to the debt problem? We want to help people get out of debt, not help them into it!
    • This is fear-based, pharisaical and comes from a refusal to give godly people the benefit of the doubt. I’m a bit embarrassed that I was hung up on this one for so long.
  5. Where? We’ve got space problems at our church. If we set up some kind of giving kiosks, where would we do that?
    • The cafe moving upstairs (soon!) will help this a lot. I’ve got a few ideas about under used spaces, too. You got any ideas?
  6. The stubborn pastor has been ‘praying about it’ for five years now.
    • I’m over it now.

Now here are a bunch of questions for you:

I’m really hoping you’ll leave a comment and help us answer them (whether you’re a vineyardite or not!):

  1. What’s your opinion? Is this a good idea?
  2. If we set up direct deposit, would you use it?
  3. If we had a giving kiosk that took debit/credit cards would you prefer that option?
  4. Does your employer offer automatic withdrawal, and do you think that’s a good way to give faithfully?
  5. Will you forgive me for not trusting you enough to let you use your own credit card?

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21 Responses to “Vineyard Lab: Digital Giving at Church”

  1. Justin January 29, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    For the love, please do this! AWESOME idea!!!!

  2. Katie January 29, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    1. I think it’s an excellent idea.
    2. I would definitely use direct deposit – what a wonderful way to work it into our budget automatically as we already do other expenses!
    3. I would probably not use a kiosk as it feels a little too public, and I want my giving to be between me and God (and of course, the wonderful financial committee).
    4. Not sure if my employer offers this option.
    5. Of course!

    • Aaron January 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      Thanks for the input, Katie! And thanks for the forgiveness, too. Did you notice that Justin Cook left me hangin’ on that?! Good thoughts on #3, this is one of my concerns as well. We’re thinking about setting it up at the information area (where you could be doing any number of things), and maybe in a more discreet area or two.

  3. Becky January 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    1. I love all things technology and hugely favor a church that’s “with it.”
    2. As someone who gets a regular paycheck I would love this option but I doubt people who have varying incomes would use it. Definitely needs a cost/benefit analysis.
    3. I would never use a kiosk and probably forget it’s there until I ran into someone using it.
    4. Yes and definitely. God understand that I’m forgetful sometimes.
    5. Only this once, but thanks for worrying about us.

    • Aaron January 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

      thanks, becky! Any thoughts/ideas about using a credit/debit card at church? is discretion the biggest obstacle?

      • Becky January 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

        Discretion doesn’t really bother me at all. Check my reply to “The Dawson’s”

  4. Justin January 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Oh yeah! Of course you’re forgiven, because, well, that’s mine to give…or so I’ve been told.

    • Aaron January 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

      Thx, Justin! If it’s your’s to give, then it’s mine to take!

  5. Tammy January 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    1. Yes, it’s a good idea. Even the old folks over 40 (lol) can figure it out or not use it.
    2. I use direct deposit so that would be a great option.
    3. We used the kiosk for the Christmas gift giving and I used paypal over Christmas break. I would probably write a check before I’d use the kiosk for monthly thithing.
    4. My employers offer automatic withdrawal and I would use this option.
    5. Of course, I try not to throw many stones. They always seem to be curve balls and slam me up side of the head!

    • Aaron January 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

      thanks for the input, Tammy!

  6. Elise January 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    1. Overall, I think it’s a good idea.
    2. In our unique situation, we would not use direct deposit (self-employed).
    3. Yes, we would use a kiosk to use a debit/credit card for giving. We normally don’t carry the checkbook, so this would be great.
    4. Self employed – does not apply.
    5. Of course!

    • Aaron January 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

      thanks, Elise! Appreciate the forgiveness. Your grace is sufficient for me!

  7. The Dawson's January 30, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    The Dawson’s usually keep our cash stashed in our red backed hymnal. With that being said,we have often times found ourself wanting to give and not having the cash on hand at the time have left with every intention of running it back at a later service but sadly enough become distracted by a squirrel and forget. A kiosk or online giving would be super awesome for us. And Aaron of course we forgive you!!

    • Aaron January 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      that’s a good cash stash strategy! Who would think to look for it, there?

    • Becky January 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      I didn’t consider this but I think it’s very valid… I rarely carry cash so on those surprise Sunday’s that we’re asked to give, I have no way to make a donation. A kiosk would be great in that situation.

  8. Brandy January 30, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    I think it would be a GREAT move!! And, I forgive you for not trusting us with our own credit cards… 😉

  9. Samuel February 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    So I’m a little late to this party but . . .
    1. Yes I think all of these ideas are good
    2. If direct deposit were available . . . i don’t know; i mean part of me says sure but another part of me thinks there is something to the “act” of giving as opposed to a ‘fire and forget’ thought process. wouldn’t this be kind of like having someone else take your sacrifices to Jerusalem? But this is just for me and my thoughts and probably speaks to a more internal issue than anything
    3. i think this is a plausible idea; there is the space issue and equipment costs that would go into setup. i think location would matter also though; seems more cheesy if it’s not in the sanctuary . . . again, just me though. it would certainly need to be private
    4. i think this goes back to my answer to the first question. yes my employer allows for direct deposit and I could ‘technically’ ask for your routing and account number and set it up. I really think it’s a personal thing with me though; i think it’s better to have my employer put 10% in a special account (or savings or something) and then just write the check out of there. . . . hrm, or maybe have them do 11% and use the extra percent to cover fees etc. BUT that’s just me trying to figure stuff out for myself
    5. Of course you’re forgiven; in the end you’re looking out for our best interest.

    • Aaron February 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Samuel, I understand that tension about the physical act of worship. I was hung up on it for a long time. But I’ve come to think that the greater act of worship is living on less money because of the sacrifice made…and, if this helps people do that faithfully, then it’s a win. Maybe that’s a spin…but I don’t think so.

  10. Phil February 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    A little late, but…
    Generally, I don’t see a problem with opening all mainstream forms of giving up to the congregation. It’s not the physical method utilized that would make it “greasy” for me; that would depend more on how it’s presented.
    As far as #5 is concerned, I think it’s a valid consideration. I mean, if you have a policy in conseling people or when presented with the question “Should I borrow money to give to the church?”, etc., and that policy is a “no”, then I think it’s important to realize that this will probably happen more frequently with a kiosk than, say, someone bouncing a check. So, in that case I would consider having the kiosk be “debit card only”. If you don’t have a policy regarding borrowed-money-giving, then I think the point is mute.

  11. Shannon Walls February 26, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    1. I think the most important aspect of giving is the condition of one’s heart. With that being said, I cannot see God getting hung up on which method we choose in order to make sure our church receives the funds. Since technology has changed the way we use money, I think this is a natural move for the church as well. In Bible times, they literally brought their first fruits to the temple, in the past we wrote a check (which results in the church waiting a few days to secure those first fruits), now we can use automatic withdrawals or debit cards.
    2. My giving to church is the only place I still use checks. I can understand the physical act of giving weekly, bi-weekly, etc. but I can also understand following the financial customs of the current times which eliminate the need for paper checks. I would give my tithes/offerings however I needed to.
    3. I’m not sure I am wholly comfortable with a kiosk, although I don’t think it’s “wrong.” Any time there are changes, people can be a little uncomfortable at first. With time, if a kiosk is implemented, it will not be a big deal.
    4. I’m not sure if my employer offers auto withdrawals but I do think it’s an excellent method of faithful giving.
    5. I will forgive you for not trusting people to use credit cards and say that I am in 100% agreement of that. I think allowing people to use credit (something I don’t think God is necessarily keen on) could be disastrous and considered a stumbling block for some.

    Let me just say that on my first visit to the Vineyard last year, I was SO impressed with how giving was “done.” I think it’s amazing that no offering plate is passed, and people truly give with no obligation or pressure from outside sources.

    • Aaron February 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

      Shannon, that’s great to hear! Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement.

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