Sometimes, It’s the Little Things


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Now that a new year has begun, it’s time for my spouse and I to have a conversation about our annual giving. I’ve been thinking about the ministries and organizations that we support with financial gifts, and to which we might give an increased gift. Our local church is at the top of my list.

Perhaps like you, my gift to my church is one of the few financial transactions that I make via check these days. Recently, our congregation launched the opportunity to make online donations via a one-time contribution or recurring gifts. There are even designation choices. Recurring online giving helps the church with its expenses related to its mission and ministry and is not affected by snowstorms, soccer games, or summer vacations. Recurring online giving helps the giver keep her or his commitment to support their faith community and respond to God’s generosity. Changing our church giving to online seemed to make good sense. But I hesitated. Why?

I hesitated because of my history and experience with the offering, and the culture of our congregation. Our church has a pretty good culture of generosity. There are many ways our gifts make a difference locally, regionally, and globally. Young and old alike leave the pews to share their two-cents-a-meal offerings: paper bills dancing with jingling coins as they are dropped into a large glass container. In professional fashion, the children of our church bring piles of shoebox gifts for children in need across the globe to the front of the sanctuary each Christmas season. A gift box for special donations for the pastor weaves its way through the pews—during the worship service—throughout pastor appreciation month, and no one seems to mind. And of course, each Sunday our weekly tithes and offerings are gathered with thanks and gratitude. Giving is celebrated visibly and often in our congregation—except for one little thing: and it’s the thing that’s keeping me from shifting my congregational donations from paper checks to online giving.

Currently, my congregation has no visible way on a Sunday morning to recognize the online giving that took place during the week. Maybe you think that’s no big deal, or my concern is some kind of vanity on my part. But a few months ago, a friend of mine shared a conversation she had with her teenage daughter. After church one Sunday, the daughter asked her mother why they didn’t give more to the church. The mother was taken aback by the question, since they attend worship services and other activities regularly, and provide leadership to the congregation in many ways. But what caught the daughter’s attention on that particular Sunday was that the offering plate was passed and her mother put nothing in it. She had given online but had no way to acknowledge it during the worship service itself.

In a previous Voices on Stewardship post, contributor Steve Oelschlager says that our witness to younger generations is one of three good reasons to have something to put in the offering plate each week, along with being a symbol of our gratitude to God and a sign of solidarity with others in the congregation.

So churches, if you offer online giving but nothing for your online givers to affirm that commitment on Sunday morning, you might want to change that one little thing. It’s really not that hard. Just create a re-usable card, maybe with a little lovely graphic, and language something like this: “This card represents a gift made electronically for the support of the ministry and mission of this congregation. Giving represents our response to the generosity of God. We are partners in the ongoing work of creation and the benefit of all living things so that all may flourish.”

Steve said that people told their church leadership that once the cards were available, it removed the one thing that kept them from switching to online giving. Give those in your congregation the opportunity to express their giving publicly—all their giving. I think I’ll talk to my pastor about this one little thing, this week.

The Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Devoted to Generosity Year-Round Stewardship Resource includes an online giving card template and hundreds of other big and little things to help your church thrive as it learns to live generously. Learn more here

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