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December 16, 2019
These 9 biblical points are game changers for church giving software in the 21st century.
December 4, 2019
Many pastors face difficult decisions in a digital age.
As generations shift, and elder boards become increasingly populated by millennials, ecclesiological issues at the intersection of orthodoxy and efficiency emerge that every church must answer.
One of those issues is that of digital giving platforms.
In ages past, passing the plate has been a reliable method of collecting charitable funds from church members for the mission of the church.
But now that funds are increasingly electronic, millennials make 41% of their purchases online, and “conversion rates” are three times higher on mobile platforms than on desktop platforms, churches must be able to address the question of digital giving services with theological depth—and this includes the role of mobile phones in church, the legitimacy of for-profit digital payment platforms, and the relationship between form and tradition.
In this article, we will unpack principles relevant to better understanding the issue of digital giving platforms from a biblical perspective.
The Bible speaks at length about money.
We know that there are ethical principles that should govern how we spend money.
But it’s important to know that God cares deeply about the integrity of how money is handled as well.
Don’t forget that how tithes to the church are administered is the only issue in the New Testament for which God struck a husband and wife dead (Acts 5:1–10).
If the story isn’t clear enough, Paul expressly teaches this same principle when he writes to the Corinthians.
“Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift” (2 Cor 8:16–20).
Paul chooses a publicly reputable servant to handle the money so that the integrity of the church is protected.
And the church in the 21st century is no stranger to embezzlement, fraud, and theft. In the past year alone several stories of faithful, Bible-believing churches have made their way to the news—with reports of pastors, elders, and church staff stealing from their congregation by poor cash handling and other forms of mismanagement.
Digital giving platforms are one way of maintaining a strict chain of custody on donated funds. Channeling the church’s tithes through a digital giving platform is one way of honoring Paul’s desire—and the Holy Spirit’s desire, according to Acts 5—for gifts not only to have integrity, but to have demonstrable integrity.
Paul continues in 2 Corinthians to explain the standards by which the administration of funds is to be measured: “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (2 Cor 8:21).
What does it mean to “do what is right” in the eyes of the Lord? It means ensuring that those handling money are proven, trustworthy, qualified men/women with a history of faithfulness. And more than that—it means we have a duty to report any mismanagement.
What does it mean to take “pains to do what is right … also in the eyes of man”? It means that the church “takes pains” to abide by the industry “best practices” in ensuring that no financial mismanagement has occurred. One of the ways that businesses guard against mismanagement is to channel every dollar through a credit, debit, or bank transfer, and to use accounting software that allows auditors to track all incoming and outgoing funds. Churches can do the same with digital giving software.
A digital giving platform serves as a reputable “third party” that can guarantee what monies were given and dispensed, and when—as opposed to in-house accounting software paired with cash donations, in which the opportunity for financial mismanagement and corruption never leaves. On a digital giving platform with protections against hacking and fraud, and no involvement in the politics of any single local church, these opportunities are simply impossible—making Paul’s standard much easier to meet.
Elsewhere to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes: “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22).
Paul labored to meet people in their unique circumstances as much as he could in order to advance the kingdom of God, without compromising the message of the gospel.
By offering multiple ways for their congregations to give online, churches are similarly meeting the needs of church members for ease and efficiency in the hopes of lessening the friction between generous hearts and the action of giving.
By failing to adopt a digital giving platform, church members are forced to use ATMs, checks, and ACH bank transfers—all of which are much more labor intensive than debit and credit cards that can be used in a digital giving platform.
This is why businesses take credit and debit cards—to make it easier to buy.
Businesses are happy to pay 1–2% per transaction if it means their overall transactions increase by more than 1–2%, which they do.
For example, churches who use Tithe.ly Giving increase their annual giving, on average, by 146% year-over-year.
Whether you are a church struggling to grow, a church plant, or a booming church strategizing how you can better serve your community, financial resources and the effectiveness of the methods you use to collect them cannot be ignored.
People like using digital methods of transferring money.
Last year, 22% of millennials bought groceries with an app.
And eCommerce is the preferred means of buying and donating by GenZ.
Paul writes in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
A friend of mine, a church elder, had a fellow elder say to him over the issue of digital giving: “Placing the envelope in the tray is an act of worship. Pressing a button isn’t an act of worship.”
Pressing a button may not feel as worshipful for older generations.
But implementing a digital giving platform doesn’t mean you can’t also pass the plate. It just means that you use both methods to make sure your means of financial collection doesn’t alienate (and miss out on) the resources of younger generations for whom digital giving is a much more native experience.
Giving to the church has always been a practice that God desires of his people.
Giving generously is one of God’s ordained ways of worshiping him and serving his church:
“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov 3:9–10). More than that, giving is a blessing: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
The Apostle Paul used giving to the church as a litmus test for spiritual maturity: “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:8–9).
Whether the issue is worship, blessing, or maturity, giving generously is clearly a critical element of discipleship and spiritual maturity.
Discipleship is hard enough. The church shouldn’t make it harder to give every month by requiring people to opt in every single week and use physical cash and checks. The church should make the spiritual act of giving as easy as possible. There are no extra spiritual blessings for giving God the firstfruits of your labor “the old fashioned way.” The Bible doesn’t celebrate old-timey methods of giving. It just celebrates giving. Full stop.
Some pastors see digital giving platforms as the equivalent of “money changers” at the temple (Matthew 21:12–17).
But we shouldn't think of digital giving platforms that take a percentage as “money changers.”
This metaphor is actually quite misguided for several reasons.
First, the local church isn’t the temple—the people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells are God’s temple (1 Cor 6:19). This becomes evident atf Pentecost (Acts 2:1–13).
Second, what digital giving platforms do today would have been unimaginable in the first century. In fact, digital giving platforms are the opposite of money changers. Rather than taxing worshipers, they enable them to more easily give. Imagine a group of devoted synagogue members in the first century traveling throughout all of Israel, gathering alms to the temple, as a convenience service that made it easier for the whole Jewish community to support the mission of God. That would be the real first century analogy of what digital giving platforms actually do for the 21st-century church. They make worship easier and allow more money to get to the church, rather than stealing from the church as the money changers did.
Furthermore, we don’t consider the cost of collection plates as “stealing” by the collection plate companies.
We don’t consider the cost of envelopes, financial advisors, and other financial consultants an inappropriate cost. Quite the opposite—these systems exist to protect the integrity of the money.
Most digital giving platforms do this better than any human staff could—it protects the money from theft, it automatically counts it, it makes recurring giving easier, and it protects the church from seasonal financial swings so that its resources are both more stable and integrous.
This is admittedly a pragmatic argument.
This is not a theological argument.
But, since there is no theological principle that requires gifts to the church to be made with cash or check, the inevitability of digital giving services makes room for an argument that churches should be early adopters.
The church has always had communities who are suspicious of technology. This is fitting, since the church is called to preserve orthodoxy, and preserving tradition is an admirable instinct—even if it sometimes becomes mistranslated as a desire to preserve old-timey methods.
Nevertheless, churches will only financially benefit from becoming more fluent in digital methods of collecting tithes and offerings now.
With analog methods of giving, it’s not as easy to see who is giving, how much they’re giving, and how regularly they give.
With many digital giving platforms, it’s possible to see how much each member tithes, how frequently, and to what causes they have given special gifts.
This allows pastors to get a better sense of a member’s involvement in the church, which becomes increasingly difficult with churches larger in size.
Churches don’t always express gratitude for financial donations.
This was a priority for Paul, as we see in his letter to the Philippian church:
“I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Phil 4:18–20).
Paul made it a point to thank those who gave to his ministry.
A digital giving platform enables a church to better track and express gratitude to those who gave.
This enables the church to have a better sense of partnership in the gospel, rather than church members feeling a top-down command to give to the church out of obligation.
Paul cherished this kind of partnership, to which the expression of gratitude is key.
Does your method of collecting donations and offerings allow you to easily express gratitude to each member each time they give for the amount they give?
The matter of digital giving platforms in the church has deep ecclesiological implications.
Pastors will do well to discuss it with their elders, consider the theological arguments for implementing one, and consider the ecclesiological benefits likewise.
Whatever course your church chooses, it will eventually adopt digital giving.
If it’s not under the administration of your current pastor, it will likely be under the administration of the next.
This is the world we live in—and Christ is still Lord of all of it.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.