Online giving and even mobile kiosk giving is not new for a lot of megachurches. With so many members and campuses they have to be innovative and tech-savvy to keep up with daily donations and events. Pastors and musicians often use iPads for their services and Mac books for their behind-the-scenes technology.
Apple Pay is said to debut Monday as a new mobile payment service, but will this alternative method of tithing catch on where others have failed? Some major credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa as well as banks and restaurants like Citi, Bank of America and McDonalds are already set to accept the contact-less payments. Consumers may pay with their Touch ID by simply holding their iPhone near a reader, which is supposed to be secure and private.
If this technology catches on, it could make tithing even more convenient and less expensive.
“We prefer e-checks rather than credit card payments because of processing fees, so it saves us money,” said Cassie Schumacher, lead administrative assistant at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, said in an email that he could easily see megachurches wanting to adopt the Apple Pay option specifically because the collection of offering in service is critical to increase the amount of giving but it is difficult to “pass the plate” in services with so many people to pass to.
“Using Apple Pay would greatly reduce that time, thus allowing more time for the worship components of the service,” he said.
Many megachurches already push their members to set up automatic giving with a credit card, so they’re already used to their donations being regularly deducted from their bank accounts.
It’s a bit too soon to tell if Apple Pay will be something megachurches will definitely use, but while being cautious and doing their research, churches like First Baptist Church of Glenarden are open to incorporating modern technology into their services.
“We don’t really rule anything out,” said William Gentry Jr., chief financial officer of First Baptist Glenarden. “We’ve had kiosks for five to seven years at least and have done electronic giving for at least as long.”
For their church, the finance department and IT department work together and try to update their methods of donating to match the younger members they attract. They also have five or six kiosks on their campuses to bring online donating directly to them.
“We felt with the generation that we have now, a lot of them don’t even have check books, so you have to take advantage of the technology that we have,” Gentry said. “[adding payments via text] was really a no brainer.”
Even with the enthusiasm for utilizing new technologies, churches don’t make a quick move and make sure it is something members are actually using before they make the change.
“We don’t move quickly or rashly, we checked [text donations] out and investigated and looked at what other organizations are doing and once we made a decision, it’s worked really well,” Gentry said.
Don’t toss out the baskets just yet though, while electronic giving accounts for 44 percent of First Baptist Church of Glenarden’s offerings, the rest is old-fashioned basket passing and check mailing.
But does technology and philosophy go together? Some churches are hesitant to move away from the typical basket passing and online giving is about as far as they want to take it right now.
“Philosophically, we don’t know how we feel about [Apple touch pads], I feel like kiosks are a bit awkward personally,” said Adrienne Evans, the controller for Summit Church. “We redid our website and part of the reason for that is so that it would be mobile friendly, so I think we’ll just stick with that and point people to our website if they want to give electronically.”
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