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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