“The church used to pay the pastor with chickens and women kept the church going for 30 years with bake sales,” reflected Rev. Andrew Bell on the 122-year history of St. John Lutheran Church.
Since seven families started the church in 1896, the church has understandably experienced many shifts, changing to fit the needs of its community over the years. Like every church in the United States, St. John Lutheran Church is learning how to adapt to the way people prefer to spend or donate money.
According to one study, many Americans no longer carry cash and actually prefer to use their debit or credit card to make purchases. Practically speaking for the church, this means many people prefer to make a donation with their debit or credit card, or directly from their bank account (ACH).
Up until four years ago, St. John Lutheran Church only provided their congregation with the ability to donate with either cash or check. To get ahead of the changes in consumer behavior, Rev. Andrew Bell knew he needed to make it easy for people to give online as well. Unfortunately, his plans didn’t work out as expected.
“The online giving provider we used was clunky, and it was difficult for people to figure out how to use,” reminisced Rev. Bell. “After a few years, we only had four families using the online software.”
Rev. Bell began exploring different options, but it wasn’t until the church’s online giving provider shut down and didn’t allow people to make a donation for a couple of months that he knew he had to make a change—again.
In moving forward, Rev. Bell wasn’t only looking for a different online and mobile giving platform. He was also interested in finding a partner who would help him to relaunch his church’s online giving, leading more people to use this method and therefore increase giving.
During his research, Rev. Bell had his eyes on creating an easier online and mobile experience for his church. He desired to make online and mobile giving simple, and fast. He knew these features would lead his church to feel more inclined to sign up and use these options.
Tithe.ly was on Rev. Bell’s radar, but it wasn’t until another pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)—who also uses Tithe.ly Giving—encouraged him to sign up, that he took a deeper look.
“The other churches we spoke with had a wonderful experience and Tithe.ly provided the features we needed without an enormous cost,” remarked Rev. Bell. One significant feature Rev. Bell desired to offer his congregation was a mobile giving app. He knew this feature was one additional way the church could make it easier for people to give.
“We recently rolled out the church app with Tithe.ly, and we were blown away by the response,” said Rev. Bell. He went on to say: “Our original goal was to sign up 50 people, but we already have 110 users after a couple of months.” When considering only four people previously used online giving, this is a significant jump.
To lead people to download and use their church app, Rev. Bell provided a demonstration during their offering time. “I set a timer for two minutes, shared the screen on my phone with the congregation on our projector, and I showed the church how easy it is to download the app and make a donation in no time at all,” shared Rev. Bell.
Since Rev. Bell’s demonstration, the church continues to remind people during church announcements and in their bulletin that they can give online, via text, or with their church app. By just letting people know how they can give, Rev. Bell has tapped into one of the best ways to increase giving online—be informative, not flashy.
With Tithe.ly, St. John Lutheran Church has also found it easy and time-saving to use Tithe.ly Events to create online registrations and accept online payments.
“We have rich German history, and every year, we host a big Oktoberfest event,” said Rev. Bell. He added, “This year, we’re providing online tickets and using Tithe.ly’s online event registration, which was super easy to set up and use.”
Since St. John Lutheran Church has implemented their new online and mobile giving platform with Tithe.ly, Rev. Bell has observed a significant increase in giving.
“Today, we have a few dozen people and families who use it, we’re approaching 30 recurring givers, and another dozen or so who use it here and there—including one-time givers.”
Rev. Bell went on to say: “Our giving is up nearly 15 percent. This is an increase in overall giving—not just online.” For their church, this means more people are participating in God’s work and the church will have access to additional financial resources for ministry.
When I asked Rev. Bell why his church has experienced such a marked change, he said, “[Tithe.ly is] really user-friendly, easy-to-use, and it’s just so smooth.” He added, “It made all the difference in the world when people tried it and saw how easy it is.”