I love snow . . . when I’m on vacation in the mountains! My first skiing trip was as a teenager with a group of families from my church. It was very well organized; we just paid for the trip, packed our stuff, met at the church and got on a bus headed for Colorado.
Since then, I’ve taken several other skiing vacations and learned that good planning greatly enhances the experience. The same holds true when you introduce electronic giving to your congregation: A little planning will pay off.
You can think about your planning in three phases: Lead, Learn and Launch. Each of them has individual importance, but collectively they have a compounding impact. Don’t deflate your initiative by just promoting it and hoping that people will get on board. While there should be some overlap in the Lead and Learn components of your plan, it’s important to execute them ahead of the Launch component.
The Lead component is vital because it is where you are shaping the culture of the church, and that may take time and repetition.
Hopefully, your desire as a leader is to reflect the nature of God as a congregation. God’s generosity toward us results from love and is clearly modeled in one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. John 3:16 reminds us that God so loved the world that He gave not just a token gift, but a most precious one, the life of His only Son.
As we accept this gift, gratitude overwhelms us, and we respond through our own expressions of generosity of time, talent and treasure. Church leaders must model the nature of God if they hope for the congregation to reflect that same nature in the community and around the world. Generosity is only one aspect of God’s nature, but it is an aspect that should not be ignored.
Building a culture of generosity and gratitude in your overall approach to ministry, and specifically stewardship, will provide a stronger base for electronic giving platforms. As church leaders, clergy and laity begin to learn and communicate new ideas, remember that what you model will be valued more than what you merely say. Don’t wait another day to get started!
The Learn component is going to be crucial to your plan as you communicate with other leaders and later the congregation.
Some will need to better understand the need and reasons why giving patterns may vary from generation to generation within the congregation. Others will need to better understand the tools that are available and more familiar ways for people to participate financially in the accomplishment of your purpose, your organizational mission. People’s need to understand something new will surface questions that you want to be prepared to answer.
Nobody I know in ministry has time to learn everything about the electronic payments industry, and I suspect it’s going to continue to grow and change at a rapid pace. However, you want to understand the basics, communicate effectively to remove barriers and fears, and have some tools that will maximize your efforts.
While I’m sure it’s unintentional, the banking industry, payment card industry and electronic payments service providers often use language that is intimidating or confusing. Commit yourself and encourage your team to be conversational around the topic of electronic giving. Start using a few of the most helpful terms in conversations and communication with your staff, finance team, stewardship team and congregation.
This learning period is the best stage for:
- Vetting service providers. You will learn a lot as you talk to them, and it will also help you establish your budget for electronic giving.
- Developing a quick budget. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once. There are many tools and strategies that can help you generate more money for ministry. Church leadership will need to determine how ready and adaptable a congregation is before immersing themselves in electronic giving. Share your e-giving strategy and initial budget with key leaders and invite their questions and comments. Conduct additional research and retool your plan, if necessary.
- Writing a communication plan. Before you present your ideas for approval, you need to have a written communication plan for engaging the congregation with the initial rollout. Writing out your plan will force you to think about it and will also give you a more objective way to review it.
The launch component is when you go public. Think of it as a new church-wide initiative or strategy with an aspirational goal of total involvement. Plan to promote your launch and enroll people for an entire month with an announcement date afterward to share the results.
By doing good research and planning, you’re giving your church a great opportunity for a successful launch into electronic giving. While it may not happen quickly, the congregation will catch on, and it will become more of the norm than the exception.
Like what you just read? Much more detail on planning and launching an electronic giving program is available in Richard Rogers book, The E-Giving Guide for Every Church: Using Digital Tools to Grow Ministry. You can order the book from Amazon.