July 22, 2014
“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 their ways of receiving those tithes and offerings.
Today, as more and more people handle their finances electronically, a growing number of Canadian 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 College Drive’s services is about 135 people. Between 15 and 20 percent of monthly gifts are now received electronically through the automated debit program that 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. The transaction fee 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.”
David Leung, a CCMBC stewardship team member in B.C., teaches and coaches in areas of financial stewardship and leadership development.
The technology for electronic giving has been proven and is widely accepted and used by people of all ages. “We can’t turn back the clock – right now it is not whether we want to do it, but how best to do it,” says Leung.
However, before churches introduce electronic giving, Leung suggests they consider factors such as integration with accounting systems, user-friendliness, set-up expenses 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.
CCMBC’s financial services department can make arrangements to accept electronic donations designated for a local church, says Bertha Dyck, CCMBC controller. “However, the receipt will then come from CCMBC, not your local church.”
“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 is a staff writer for the Canadian conference.