When the offering plate passes on Sunday, Scott Aspelin doesn’t reach for his wallet. He donates at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland’s website.
“As soon as we get paid, we just go online,” Aspelin said. “When I’m doing the online banking, I go right to the website too, and I do our giving online there. “
Regular tithers like Aspelin are precious, especially to mainline Protestant churches like First Baptist. Although fewer folks are coming to church overall, the drop is steepest in legacy churches. Plus, annual studies like the one from GivingUSA.org show church contributions are declining. On top of that, churches are battling another trend: Folks simply aren’t carrying money anymore.
“Research is showing over 80 percent of population, they do not carry more than $50 in their pocket,” said Mary Paxton, who directs philanthropy and stewardship for United Church of Christ. “So if you’re sitting in church and it’s time for the offering plate, you may only have $3 or $5, versus if you have your credit card.”
Churches hope folks will give more if giving is easier. At First Baptist, for example, worshippers can stop at the giving kiosk that’s tucked in a corner.
“They simply touch a key to get started, select the amount they want donated, then they swipe their debit or credit card,” said Rev. Jeff Gordon, administrative pastor at the church.
After giving, contributors get a receipt by email or a hard copy they can place in the collection plate.
First Baptist is trying out text giving, too. The code is displayed on a digital bulletin board at the rear entrance of the church.
“All they have to do is enter a dollar amount to the code and it automatically gets transferred to the fund that they’ve chosen within that code,” Gordon said.
Aspelin hasn’t tried text giving; he’s happy with using the website. No matter what, he won’t be putting bills in the collection bag. He doesn’t like carrying money.
“I have $50 right now. I prefer not to use cash,” he said. “Whether it’s a debit card or a credit card… it’s easier.”