Non Solum: Electronic Giving and the Collection

The popularity of electronic giving has been rising in parishes, and is being urged by some as a means of keeping parishes afloat financially.

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article describes how this phenomenon may look in megachurches:

At the end [of the service], a member of the “worship team” will call on parishioners to tithe and pass the collection plate. But not all people reach into their wallet. Many take out their phone instead.

The Tithe.ly and Pushpay apps are two examples of online tools for giving. The article reports that churches that use such apps (at a cost) say they see more donations from more people. It further reports that some church communities which use both a collection plate and electronic giving hand out cards that say “I paid on line” so the giver had something to put in the plate. Does this solution resolve the problem of a collection ritual that isn’t the the actual collection any longer?

A reader has written in to raise a question about electronic giving and how it affects the liturgy:

I’m on the stewardship council of my own parish. I raised the question about electronic bank transfers instead of parish envelopes—our parish provides both. But if we were to be really dangerous, and to let the liturgy guide our praxis, wouldn’t all the Conciliar arguments in favor of placing the collection before or during the Presentation of the Gifts (a visible symbol of the people’s support of the liturgy and its parish) militate against electronic bank transfers?

One of the arguments used in favor of apps is that younger people use them readily to pay for things. So a generational divide may be bridged. Yet one of the issues involved in this question is also surely: Does reducing the collection to a place-holder in the liturgy diminish the liturgy. Furthermore, when the “real” gifts come through a bank, does this trend cater to the convenience of the well-off but shame the poor, who don’t have bank accounts? Their gifts, after all, are valued more highly than large sums in the eyes of God (see Luke 21).

A basket is decidedly low-tech. But it’s also egalitarian.

What has been your experience of electronic giving? How does it affect the liturgy, specifically the collection?

 

 

Share:

25 comments

  1. I very strongly prefer to give my weekly offering in the collection basket than online. I resort to the latter only when circumstances require me to be absent from my usual worshipping community for more a couple of weeks. Why? It’s part of conscious regular giving. The conscious part is perhaps the most important part of it.

  2. Karl Liam Saur : Why? It’s part of conscious regular giving. The conscious part is perhaps the most important part of it.

    Oh, believe me, I’m deeply conscious of my giving when I get the bank notification that my monthly church contribution has left my account.

  3. “Does this solution resolve the problem of a collection ritual that isn’t the actual collection any longer?” I don’t find the “I gave online” card any different than the symbolic 1-cent/1 Euro symbolic “Spende” (Donation) that’s used in European countries which support their churches through church taxes. So I’d like to hear from my friends in Europe about this.

    And, I think the “what about the poor?” isn’t much of a concern. My Catholic parish is probably 10% homeless/temp housing. (1) We provide everyone an envelope at the door, and everyone–poor or rich, giving in person or giving online–puts the envelope in the basket. It’s very equalitarian. (2) I think the church in its great wisdom will figure out a way to take money from all parties in all variety of manners.

  4. Here is how our pastor approached this issue – we strongly encourage folks to use electronic giving (we have lots of millenials). In response to the Sunday collection, he decided to print business cards that you can use at the collection time to signify that you/family are giving and participating in the Sunday collection. OTOH – he uses a weak excuse to not put the collection baskets at the foot of the altar – rather, ushers bring them back to a sacisty safe because of the danger of theft? Really???
    Not sure that this *collection card* effort is really worth the effort? There has to be a better way to show our participation while not ignoring the 21st century.

  5. Our parish offers the “collection card” option. So far, I’ve remembered to bring it once this year. My history with envelopes is similar, so the automatic giving is better for both the parish and me. While I may not be deciding to give every week, my husband and I have a serious conversation every year as we prayerfully consider our level of giving, and allocate it among weekly offering, diocesan appeals, and other needs. I think it is at least as meaningful as being conscious of a check or cash each week.

  6. Great dialogue on eGiving!
    As an organization that provides an eGiving program for nearly 700 Catholic parishes, a few thoughts to share:
    1.) 68 percent of our eGivers are over the age of 55: so, while younger parishioners may understand the concept, eGiving is being widely accepted by all age groups if promoted correctly.
    2.) personalized offertory cards for eGiving households can serve as both a visible sign of support, and replace envelopes that are no longer necessary. We have seen the request for these cards on the decline as parishioners become more comfortable with eGiving. Yet, these cards can serve as a great teaching moment for families.
    3.) Ultimately the wider Church will see eGiving replace check supported offertory: many of our parishes see up to 80 percent of donating households give electronically.

  7. I suspect that if people who aren’t regular givers observe that the collection plate is being passed from family to family without anybody putting anything in, they interpret that as permission to not give anything themselves (even though some of the “passers” may be giving electronically and therefore invisibly).

    Since I am a public minister, when I am in the pews I always fish a few bills out of my pocket and toss them in the basket when it zips past, lest it be thought I am a slacker, even though it could easily be my 2nd or 3rd mass of the weekend and our envelope may have gone in the basket at a previous mass. Maybe people aren’t as observant and judgemental as I’m supposing but I doubt it 🙂

  8. Looking at the Missal, the offering is bringing forward bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist and PERHAPS other gifts to relieve the needs of the Church and of the poor. Just as the Mass is not the only time during the week that I reflect on scripture or pray, so it does not need to be the only means by which we financially support the church. In fact, we regularly forego the collection for weddings, funerals, ordinations, the Chrism Mass, etc.

    I do not care if people think I don’t participate because my money goes in through EFT. I belong to one parish in one diocese, but am worship director in another diocese. I wouldn’t want all the various weekends I am “at work” on Sunday and away from my “regular” parish to have things piling up.

    I participate in the offertory in a variety of ways, including passing the basket (without adding anything to it), when it comes my way. The Mass is source and summit, but it is not the totality of our Christian life. And taking a collection is not necessary for a Mass to be valid or licit. I am a parishioner who is growing more and more annoyed with the emphasis on money and support of the parish and diocese every week – and it is through such contributions that I make my living!

    But I would hate to see us tied up in knots in any direction over this. Yes – we need to make it easy for the people to contribute. Yes – we need to provide a means to physically participate in the mass. Even though we’ve done EFT for 10+ years, we still get our envelopes every month. We could throw an empty one in if we wished. But really – that seems to me more of a gesture for the sake of what others think than a genuine participation in the Mass.

  9. I wouldn’t be upset to see the sunset of cash collections at Mass. EFT is convenient–been doing it for years. Collections for the needy: that I would be sad to note its disappearance.

    I wonder what would happen if parishes offered a deal to parishioners. Pledge your tithes and pay them, and if everybody does it to the satisfaction of a budget in the black, no money talks.

  10. I don’t like the idea of giving out cards for the folks that use EFT when it comes to the offering. Matthew 6:1-4: “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Throwing in a card that says “I gave via EFT” seems like the modern equivalent of blowing a trumpet. The more secret your almsgiving, the more in line with the Gospel.

  11. I visited a small but relatively wealthy ELCA Lutheran church this weekend, and they had a QR code in the margin of their service bulletin that you could scan with your phone to give money, with accompanying text about not needing to worry about having forgotten your wallet.

    I think this reduces the potential issue people have raised about people seeing the plate go by empty and deducing that giving isn’t really important.

    Just another option – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a recurring EFT.

  12. If e-giving is the way of the future, shouldn’t we be working towards Sunday Masses WITHOUT any collection? (Or “horror” having a basket available as people leave the church for those who aren’t e-giving). Surely it is a grace that the “unrighteous mammon” can be removed from the Mass, basically if we look at the different gifts involved in the Eucharist, the “Catholic buck” would be very low on the scale when compared to the kenotic love of Christ. Perhaps the only reason that we are hanging onto a collection during the liturgy is because that pastors are afraid that donations may drop without a collection. But new technology means new liturgy, often with no reference to the rubrics, e.g. the microphone or electric light.

  13. Fr. Neil – ++++ Used to leave the baskets in the back of a small rural west Texas church when the community met for a Saturday wedding. Collections were not necessary in these celebrations; half the church were not catholics; etc. It worked well but, you are correct, pastors don’t like it…..the want the security blanket of a collection at all times.

  14. Just a quick response to Neil and Bill. I’d hesitate to jettison the collection. It’s VERY old, for one thing. But I think we do need to rediscover what it is all about.

    Coincidentally, the post adjoining this one notes some of the history.
    http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2016/05/01/is-charity-part-of-the-leitourgia/

    Personally, I think that collection-as-charity (outreach and mission) has been eclipsed by collection as general-church-funds. This desperately needs to be addressed, because people trust institutions less and less, and because so many church leaders have squandered funds placed at their disposal. The scandals!

    1. @Rita Ferrone:
      Agree, Rita….my example was just that collections can be done in different ways and not every liturgy needs one (for appropriate reasons).
      Like you, would like to get back to the Holy Thursday collection – core reasons, needs, ideals – vs. money for general operations. And we haven’t even begun a discussion about *second* collections; multiple announcements about these collections; etc. As you can imagine, I would handle second collections in a much different way – to walk up and down the church twice makes no sense, IMO.

  15. Whatever is done, there needs to be a way for visitors to contribute to the community that is welcoming them to worship.

    I visit a considerable number of parishes each year, and certainly wish to show my appreciation of the efforts they (usually) make to engage me in their liturgies, and contribute to their charitable outreach. The only easy way to do that is cash.

    The problem with a basket at the back of the church is that it is easily overlooked in a large church (perhaps not so much in a small rural community), as pastors who fear this method know very well. Baskets held by ushers are more noticeable.

    1. @Paul Inwood:
      Agreed, Paul – but even in a rural parish, always said and drew attention to where and that the baskets were there and why?

      Following up on the other post and what Rita said, there must be a creative solution that also combines supporting the needs of the poor, sick, etc.

  16. Well, in recent generations, there has been the Society of St Vincent de Paul, which has the virtue of not being an organ of the parish as such (that is, conferences are not a parish committee, and do not answer to the pastor, as it were).

      1. @Bill deHaas:
        It’s not supposed to be that way…SVdP is a lay organization by charter, and while there is a role for clerical spiritual advisor, they are not permitted to hold other office in the conference level and have no vote.

  17. Does anyone have experience with a giving kiosk in your church’s narthex? It can be as simple as a mounted iPad or some look like a small ATM machine. It’s a device where anyone, including visitors, can make a donation with the swipe of their credit or bank card. For example, see givingkiosk.com

  18. Also, does anyone have experience with someone “praying over the offering” during Mass? For example, “Almighty God and Father, you are the author of creation and source of all that we have and possess. Bless this offering as we return a portion of these gifts to you to support the work of your church and good works in our community. Help us to be faithful stewards. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.” Or something to that effect. I’ve heard of this practice being encouraged by stewardship/fundraising consultants, though I’ve never seen it done in practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *