With Americans spending less time at their local bank branch and more time on their laptops, tablets and smartphones, churches may need to begin or increase their emphasis on online giving.
Over half of U.S. adults, 51 percent, now use online banking, according to a new study by Pew Research. Among Internet users, the number climbs to 61 percent.
A Lifeway Research study found, however, only 14 percent of all American Protestant churches offered online giving.
A small majority, 55 percent, of churches with average worship attendance of 500 or more offered online giving, while 26 percent of congregations with attendance of 200 to 499 did so.
In contrast, just 9 percent of churches with 100 to 199 attendees had online giving options. The numbers continue to drop for smaller churches—7 percent of churches with 50 to 99 attendees and 4 percent with less than 50 attendees made use of online giving.
“Fewer and fewer Americans cash their paychecks or carry a checkbook,” said Scott McConnell, director of Lifeway Research. “Some churches are finding that the payment preferences of enough of their congregation have changed to warrant putting an offering plate online in addition to passing them in their worship services.”
As smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous and the U.S. grows in web connectivity, the trend toward conducting financial services online will only continue. In two years, the number who said they used their mobile phone for banking virtually doubled—from 18 to 35 percent.
Educated, financially comfortable, suburban young adults are the most likely to use online banking on their computer and smartphone. According to Lifeway Research, however, only 12 percent of churches in the suburbs made online giving available to their congregants.
Tim Whitehorn, president and CEO of ServiceU and sponsor of the Lifeway study, said online giving can help church members be more consistent in their giving through automatic withdrawals from their bank accounts.
“Despite whatever our best intentions are of trying to remember to write a check—whether it’s every Sunday, once a month or twice a month, how many gifts a year does the average giver forget to give?” he said. “Consistent giving. That’s what we believe online giving provides.
“I can only imagine 100 years ago—when people thought you should bring cash and put that in the offering plate—there were people who didn’t think you should write a check, you should just put cash in the offering plate,” Whitehorn said. “Things change. Technologies change, but I think the spirit of giving is what’s important.”