About 6 years ago I was talking to a missionary who was staying at our house during their visit to our church. In the course of our conversation we started talking about the difficulties of raising support and how churches had the same struggle.
Eventually, the topic of taking offering came up and, with it, the concept of online giving, which was fairly new at the time.
I’ll never forget this conversation because this missionary looked at me with sternness in his eyes and said, “That sounds like an abomination to me, I would never associate with a church that let people give online with a credit card.”
Fast forward to current day and my wife and I continue to support that very missionary, and as we do with all of our missions giving, by automatic withdrawal through their online, recurring giving system that their mission board set up.
The truth is, a lot of people have hang-ups regarding online giving the same as they did when people first started giving by checks, and then by mailing in their checks. The real source of these hang-ups, though, isn’t Biblical Truth, it’s because people simply don’t like change (unless their the one’s making it).
Compare it to electric musical instruments. When electric guitars and keyboards first started showing up in worship services, folks were aghast. “How could we embrace instruments of Satan in our time of worship?” What most of those people didn’t know is that the revered piano faced the same condemnation when it was first introduced in churches. Up to that point, the piano had been primarily a worldly instrument, used only in heathen places like saloons, burlesque rooms, and operas. The problem with the objectors, is that they were actually objecting based on worldly reasoning, not Biblical Truth.
When we consider online giving for our church, we need to do so in the context of sound doctrine, not by personal preferences or what is convenient.
The truth is, the Bible does not speak or give direction on the means of which tithes and offerings are to be collected. If we consider this for a moment, it quickly makes sense. Throughout time, and throughout the world people support ministry by giving a portion of what the Lord has blessed them in many different ways.
This point was driven home to me a short time ago when another missionary shared with me how people gave to their church in a third world country. He said that one particular time, a man on foot led some livestock to his church from many miles away. It was a long and difficult trip. When the man arrived he told the missionary that he wanted to obey Scripture and give from what he was blessed, so he was dropping off this livestock (goats, chickens, etc) as his offering.
In America, we give from how God has blessed us, but we transfer it to the church in the form of money. God is no more impressed by the currency in which we give, than He is with the amount we give. God sees the heart.
If we teach our people to give from the heart, not just with money, but with time, talents, abilities, and other sacrifice, then the method by which they transfer money to the church’s account will mean very little.
Another point to keep in mind, most good online giving tools allow churches to limit giving to debit cards and checking accounts, so they don’t have to worry that people are running up big credit card debt through their giving.
When you take into account the fact that most people do not carry cash anymore, and that millennials who are opening their first checking account don’t even get a check-book, then you can see that if you want to encourage people to give freely, you may have to be willing to accept those funds in non-traditional ways.