Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
A personal introduction to the CEO and co-founder of the world's leading church technology company.
December 16, 2019
Every year it becomes more important to become a technologically innovative church. Read this blog to find out why and how to stay ahead of the curve.
May 28, 2019
Pastors tell me quite often:
“We don’t need new technology.”
“The church will always exist.”
“Technology isn’t the gospel.”
These are half-truths.
It’s true that the church doesn’t exist to be a platform for the latest tech fads.
It’s true that God could convert a donkey with a wooden spoon.
It’s true that tech shouldn’t become the essence of your church.
But every church whose basic instinct toward technology is hesitancy rather than curiosity and industry is a struggling church.
They’re struggling to get members.
They’re struggling financially.
They’re struggling in their leadership.
In this article, I’m going to give you seven reasons why church leaders should make church innovation a core value of their church—rather than a dirty word.
Let’s jump right in!
Look at the technology your church uses right now.
Revolutionary innovation that started with clay tablets (c. 2500 B.C.).
Imagine all the oral-tradition-only advocates who were skeptical off all these “written things.” There’s nothing like a good ‘ole spoken story, I say. But without books, we don’t have Western Culture. Thank God for those innovative enough to transition from orally transmitted knowledge to written, codified communication.
Once revolutionary innovative technology (invented in 1440 A.D.).
There was huge backlash to the printing press. There was a 15th century technopanic that believed the printing press would corrode the moral fiber of Europe. Priests believed that writing documents by hand better instilled hard work and understanding of the content in those who wrote it. And yet, if it weren’t for those early technophiles like Martin Luther who spread tracts and Christian writings throughout Europe, the adoption of the printing press could have been significantly delayed. .
Very innovative technology (invented in 1925 A.D.).
Christians originally thought the speaker system was the domain of the devil because he was the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Thankfully, through biblical scholars, we now know that Paul clearly meant by “air” the unseen spiritual world all around us—that Satan wages war in the domain of the spiritual, since “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12).
Thanks to innovation-minded church leaders like Billy Graham, millions today have become Christians and are expanding the cause of Christ all over the world.
Once innovative technology (invented in 1970 A.D.).
Every church uses email.
Yet, when it was invented, there was widespread suspicion about whether it was trustworthy, and many believed it cheapened the authenticity of communication which was supposedly richer and more meaningful in handwritten and printed form.
Yet, email marketing today has become one of the primary means of church communication, organization, mobilization, missions, and evangelism.
A recently innovative technology (2005 A.D.).
There was less pushback against this technology, because churches were already becoming tech-friendly. But an enormous gap grew between early adopters and late adopters. Early adopters were able to build enormous brands, and the “mega church” grew from a novelty in big cities to a plausible model and goal for church planting in smaller towns.
The technology your church uses is more about doing what you’ve always done.
Text marketing. Church management system. Automated digital giving. A church app. YouTube livestreaming. Member monitoring.
These realities will be considered “best practices” in 20 years, just like the printing press and email. Yet, just like every technology, it will disrupt the current church climate and provide early adopters a chance to grow, and leave late-adopters to look amateurish and old-fashioned in a new world.
King Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Prov. 24:33-34).
Let’s be clear about one thing:
Resistance to innovation can be coming from a place of misinformation or misunderstanding .
Besides, there are several common barriers to adopting technology in your church.
Because innovation is hard. It has a steep learning curve. It requires work.
A pastor may not think it’s his job to be innovative, but if he doesn’t do it, no one else will. If a book publishing CEO resisted working with Amazon in 2006-2010 by standing on some moral principal, that would have meant he was bad at his job. Pastors have many responsibilities. Learning and implementing innovative tech is only one of them, but it is still a responsibility.
Rural communities may not feel the impact of the need to innovate until years after urban contexts. But tech innovation will eventually be a global issue about which every church must make a decision.
50 years ago, tech innovation wasn’t moving at such a fast pace, so that role wasn’t as pronounced. In the 21st century, the pastor’s technological responsibilities are very pronounced.
The silver lining?
The more you innovate, the easier innovation gets.
If you make technological innovation part of your church culture, it will be easier for you to innovate in the future.
Learning is a skill you can learn to do better.
If you can learn to learn well, you can learn to innovate quickly.
And if you can learn to innovate quickly, you can learn to innovate well.
It’s easy for churches to think that “the old way of doing things” is God’s preferred way.
The weird implication:
Technology is selling out the richness of God’s tradition for a cheap fad.
Again—we don’t say this about books. We don’t say this about printed materials. We don’t say this about email. And we are saying it less about social media.
Newer tools will become commonplace among churches at a faster and faster rate.
Innovation isn’t selling out. It’s doing God’s work excellently and responsibly.
Of course, there is a way to sell out.
If your church tech becomes the centerpiece of every church meeting, then that’s not a problem with the tech—it’s a problem with the hearts of the leaders.
Tech is one way of exalting Christ.
And, in an age where tech is only getting better and better, excellent use of technology is becoming an unavoidable element of that exaltation.
The Bible doesn’t praise “being old-fashioned” as a virtue.
Because Christianity has been handed down to us over time through a great tradition of thinkers, it’s easy to think that tradition itself calls us backward.
But if you look at the history of the church, it’s easy to see that the Christian concept of tradition is meant to propel innovation, not stifle it.
We also see this reality painted clearly in Bible verses about technology.
All remembrance is geared toward action.
Remembering the Christian tradition is like remembering skill training. It guides and informs new action.
Therefore, the Christian tradition encourages the rich embrace of technological innovation into the life of the church, not its rejection.
Not all innovation is effective.
Tech must be adopted excellently and launched persuasively. Tech poorly adopted and amateurishly executed can become a liability to a church, rather than an asset.
But technological innovation that is implemented excellently in a church will produce results that every church should have.
For example, Tithe.ly Giving, a digital tithing automation software, increases tithes in churches that adopt it by 165% year over year.
What could your church do with 165% more money this year?
To do the math, take your annual budget, and multiply it by 2.65. That’s a 165% increase.
And Tithe.ly, unlike other platforms, is free.
There’s no contract.
There’s no monthly fee.
The only reason you wouldn’t want to use a morally neutral tool proven to meet your goals is that you don’t really believe in meeting your goals.
The technology is not morally objectionable.
The path is free.
Why wouldn’t you use it?
Even though the learning curve is shorter than it’s ever been, and the return on investment is higher than its ever been, those who don’t want to innovate in their churches will simply destine themselves to innovate as latecomers 10 years down the road.
People like the idea of being part of something that does what it does well.
Whether that’s a team, a community, a product, or a church, they want to know that those they do business with are professional.
Technological innovation is a way of showcasing that professionalism.
High-quality print materials.
Efficient, well-managed software.
High-tech giving solutions.
The more you can give people a “Wow, that’s cool” experience in your church, the more they will be willing to follow your lead.
If you can showcase professionalism with technological innovation, it actually adds spiritual credibility to your message for those who are new.
Think about it from the opposite angle.
People already think religious people are anti-tech Luddites who think tech is evil (justified or not, that’s Hollywood for you).
If your church is super low-tech, it will look dated and unprofessional. People will simply assume that there is a theological reason for this.
Having well-executed technological innovation in your church is one way to prompt newcomers to think: “Maybe my preconceptions don’t apply to these people.”
Of course, there could be a downside to any innovation.
With sophistication comes complexity.
But there is no necessary downside.
A fork is technically technology.
What would you do without a fork?
You’d eat with your hands.
Forks make it easier to eat Italian food.
Is there a downside to the fork?
Only that you have to buy a fork and wash it.
But what’s the benefit?
You can enjoy Italian food without getting your hands burned and messy.
So there is no necessary net cost—or, downside—to technology.
If you use it right and use the right tools, there is no downside to technology.
Where should you start as a church with technology?
The best place to being is with Tithe.ly.
I know that it can be time-consuming and difficult to learn new technology (and even a bit scary, if we’re honest).
But it’s worth it.
You won’t find a simpler, more rewarding place to start implementing helpful, clean technology into your church communications and branding strategy today.
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.