Churches are facing a new reality, and no one yet knows when it will end or how it will ultimately affect Christians. Two factors have collided: a rapid freefall in the stock market and the inability to gather for in-person worship. We have some familiarity with the first factor. Many pastors remember the effect of the 2008 market crash. Incomes were reduced and jobs were lost. Giving declined, church budgets were cut, and staff positions could no longer be funded.
But, in addition to the first factor, there’s another one at play. As the market dropped in 2008, we could still gather for weekly worship. But as the market drops in 2020, gathering isn’t viable or wise due to health concerns for all.
This is deeply significant.
Though the decision is not regrettable, we’ve eliminated the primary way through which many church members give: in-person. And in many churches, the in-person givers are the more seasoned and financially significant contributors, carrying the budgetary weight. While we’d like to think these givers would simply make up for lost giving, history tells us something different. Those gifts are often forgotten and never received by the church.
Understandably, these uncharted waters have left many church leaders wondering what effect a collision of these factors will have on giving. And they’re also wondering if online giving can help avoid a financial crisis.
Online giving is not a silver bullet, but it can have a positive effect during these difficult times. So, how do you encourage online giving when in-person giving is impossible? Here are six suggestions.
1. If you haven’t set up online giving, take advantage of existing offers.
I recently communicated with a pastor who’s in this situation. Until now, his church saw no need for an online-giving platform, but they wanted to respond quickly to provide one for their members.
If your church doesn’t have an online-giving platform, there’s good news: giving platforms around the nation, like SecureGive and LifeWay Generosity (available now for free), are providing offers to help churches during these times. Explore these and take advantage of reduced pricing now.
2. Regularly and clearly communicate need and opportunity.
Most church members are completely unaware of the financial implications of eliminating in-person gatherings. They’re also unaware that online giving helps a staff member stay home instead of driving to the church building to check the mail or run to the bank.
More than likely, your givers want to understand these things, so tell them. Tell them during the online service, through email, and through social media. Be repetitive with this message until you can gather again. As you communicate the need, provide the opportunity. Show them how God has provided a way they can still put him first in their finances.
3. Make members aware of recurring giving.
Recurring giving is not for everyone, but it will be a significant help to many. Help members understand that recurring giving can guard against forgetfulness, and that it helps with planning the church budget.
Following Jesus requires intentionality across our lives—which certainly includes being intentional in our giving.
4. Teach them how to use your online-giving platform.
Because they fear new technology, some in your church will be hesitant. But if a person can use Facebook and Amazon, they can give online. They just need to be graciously taught.
If a person can use Facebook and Amazon, they can give online. They just need to be graciously taught.
A simple digital document with instructions and images, or a basic video tutorial, can help. Tutorials must not be complex to create or follow. I recently showed a pastor how he could record a simple tutorial using Zoom. Within a few minutes of recording, he could create a video tutorial for his church. Make tutorials clear and simple.
5. Use this as an opportunity to engage non-givers.
Most pastors are likely concerned about transitioning existing, in-person givers to an online-giving platform. But don’t miss the discipleship opportunity to encourage non-givers to start putting God first in their finances and use their resources to advance his kingdom.
Non-givers are missing out on both present and also eternal benefits God provides those who live and give generously. Take advantage of this time to encourage them to align themselves with God’s design for their money.
It’s important to remember that Jesus promised he would build his church (Matt. 16:18), and that our heavenly Father knows our needs and is faithful to provide (Matt. 6:25–34). Jesus taught that if we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
We pray that in the midst of seeking the right strategy and message, we’ll continue to pray boldly and seek first God’s kingdom. He will be faithful to provide exactly what our churches need.