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Electronic transactions enable faithful giving

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WINNIPEG

People give because they believe in the vision and mission of the church,” says Kim Knight, director of operations and administration at Waterloo (Ont.) MB Church. Throughout history, churches have adapted to their ways of receiving those tithes and offerings.

Today, as more and more people handle their finances electronically, a growing number of Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches are providing opportunities for electronic giving.

“We want to respect people who feel uncomfortable with technology, but we also want to respect people who don’t use cash or cheques,” says Brent Miller, pastor of College Drive Community Church, Lethbridge, Alta.

That’s why his church introduced an automated debit program about a year ago and is testing the benefits of a self-serve debit machine in the building.

Average attendance at services is about 135 people. Between 15 to 20 percent of monthly gifts are now received electronically through the automated debit program which pre-authorizes monthly withdrawals. The fee for this service is 50 cents per person, per month.

“It helps you plan your giving,” says Miller. “It meets Paul’s teachings to the Corinthians that offerings be purposeful, planned and strategic.”

The debit machine, he explains, is used primarily for church rentals and parking permits for students attending nearby Lethbridge College. The monthly fee for this service is $50.

In Ontario, Waterloo MB Church has been offering pre-authorized electronic giving for more than 10 years. Average attendance at services is 700 people.

Only 25 percent of people who give regularly use this service, but those who use it appreciate the convenience, says Knight.

In response to requests for online and mobile giving options, the church now accepts credit card donations through the church’s website and new mobile app. Transaction fees for electronic gifts is 1.9 percent of funds donated.

“There are practical sides to giving,” says Knight. “People want receipts. They want to earn points on credit cards. Churches need to keep options for giving current with cultural conveniences.”

The technology for electronic giving has been proven and is widely accepted and used by people of all ages, says David Leung. He recently concluded his service as a CCMBC stewardship team member, teaching and coaching in the areas of financial stewardship and leadership development.

“We can’t turn back the clock – right now, it is not whether we want to do it, but how best to do it,” he says.

However, before churches introduce electronic giving, Leung suggests they consider factors such as integration with accounting systems, user friendliness, set-up costs and ongoing costs.

Without being part of an electronic payment network, says Leung, it isn’t cost effective for smaller churches like his congregation, Pacific Grace Mandarin Church in Burnaby, B.C., to offer online giving options.

“Irrespective of a myriad ways of giving, it is important to recognize that sacrificial giving is a joyful surrender to a heavenly purpose and affirms Christ’s lordship,” says Leung. “King David said in 2 Samuel 24:24, ‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’”

—Gladys Terichow

 

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RW October 19, 2014 - 15:38

As I read through this article I was stunned at the irony of the title “… faithful giving”. The article speaks of anything but faithful giving.

Instead the article reveals how the church is being conformed to the patterns of this world. The reasons given for going electronic include “convenience”, people want “to earn points on credit cards”, and contemporary “cultural conveniences”.

Does electronic giving build up faithful stewardship, or simply allow people to earn credit card points simply to buy unnecessary items or take luxury trips?

Indeed, the purpose of the article is to announce a modern way of giving, but it fails to give any positive Scriptural teaching on giving, or warn people about about the perils of debt.

Imagine receiving a birthday gift from a family member by way of electronic deposit to your bank account without any greeting card, phone call or personal contact. How would you feel about such a gift? Without the expression of relationship between the giver and the receiver (such as love, appreciation or personal contact), the gift becomes empty and meaningless. Ask any parent, and you’ll learn quickly that a hand-made, thoughtful, personal card is priceless, whereas a store-bought card delivered in the post without a signature is exactly the opposite. Isn’t that what electronic giving looks like from God’s point of view? Yes, a card is given/received, but was it heartfelt and meaningful?

Before churches introduce electronic giving, may I suggest some other important factors for consideration? What about the theological implications of impersonal giving, and the perils of debt, and the missed opportunity for growth in faithful stewardship? I’m not convinced that the benefits of electronic giving are worth the price we will pay today and in the coming generation of those who give to the church.

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