By Todd McMichen
I cut my teeth on ministry back in the 1980s and the offering was way different decades ago.
There were no handheld digital devices and the church had yet to experience several public financial scandals that would prove to have lasting effects on how the church would receive generosity.
When I began my first vocational ministry assignment virtually every church practiced the same worship service program. We began by singing a couple of songs, then we would welcome the guests.
It was super awkward because we would have all the guests remain sitting while everyone else stood in their honor.
Then we would move on to a couple more songs before the ushers would come forward, all in coats and ties, walking toward the front of the room in unison holding offering plates.
One would pray a prayer, then we would receive the offering. As the plates were passed pew by pew either the choir would sing the most powerful song you had ever heard or the church’s best soloist would dawn the stage to bring the house down.
We actually chose to place the offering at the most significant moment in the service and place our best attention on it.
Now receiving the offering is all over the place. Many do it at the end of the service while announcements are being made.
Then others do not receive it all, except with a box on the wall by the exit door for the most motivated of givers.
We live in a digital age now with a virtual offering, but our skillset to lead a powerful offering moment probably needs a little support.
Here are some tips to increase your confidence and the enjoyment of those longing to connect with God via generosity.
1. Unify the giving experience.
We have so many ways to give today. Online, text, app, and crowdfunding are just a few ways generosity is being released.
The temptation is to try to cover them all. Create one very simple path of digital giving that fits your church. Text and app aren’t always as easy as they sound for a first time giver.
Online giving that is mobile optimized is usually the easiest place to start. This one page can contain a variety of giving options, but your communication is clear as you direct everyone to the same path.
2. Simplify the giving experience.
Just because we have online giving as an option doesn’t mean that it is easy, fun, and rewarding for the giver. Some digital giving platforms are pretty cumbersome in their layout and process.
Remove all login screens that block giving and avoid bouncing your people outside of your website to a static giving page hosted by a financial institution.
3. The virtual audience might not be able to give during worship.
If their digital device is currently occupied by your streaming service giving will most likely not occur during the service.
You’ll need to communicate how to give repeatedly during the service then follow up at the end of the service with a posted reminder and link.
4. Create social media stories of generosity and impact.
These can include volunteer highlights, partner organizations in your community, or global mission action.
The offering isn’t about the budget; it’s about connecting with God personally and getting involved in his work.
Take people on a journey that doesn’t stop when the service ends, but leads them to bear fruit for the kingdom together.
5. Establish a few dedicated moments during the year when you will emphasize a weekday offering.
Giving Tuesday is a great example. Other dedicated causes also present easy plays like during seasons of natural disasters, mission trips, or youth camp scholarship needs.
These are great moments to establish a small giving amount like $9.99 utilizing a specific giving feature like texting.
This makes giving fun, convenient, and unifying. It also trains people on how to use a new donation feature.
6. Publicly thank your digital givers every month.
Tell a story of weekday generosity or recurring giving or the ability to give your first fruits immediately on payday via your app. Make week-long giving a part of your normal language.
Repeating your words creates culture making action easier. The best is when the pastor can tell his own stories of both recurring and spontaneous digital giving. People will follow their leader.
7. Be mindful of payday.
These can occur every Friday for some or twice a month on the 15th and 30th for others. Leverage your social media strategically on these days with a Bible verse on God’s provision or a prayer of thankfulness.
Disciple people digitally about generosity when money is most on their mind.
8. Lead people to live the generous life.
Driving people to give to the budget or building fund need will not create a magnetic giving experience that people desire.
Lead with what’s most important to a giver, not necessarily the church financial needs.
The best way to make giving unstoppable 24/7 is to make the experience magnetic. If giving feels like a bill people will resist.
However, if we provide a rewarding experience they will return again and again on their own without you even knowing.
Even if your church has digital giving as an option, around-the-clock generosity won’t happen by default.
We need to release generosity all month long by leading an offering when our people are most ready to give. Giving has been a desire in people of faith from the very first book in the Bible.
Long before the law existed, Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel made offerings. It was both a family and personal priority. Giving also contains temptations and pitfalls.
Our job as leaders is to help people accomplish what both God and their hearts desire all week long. Giving is a spiritual discipline that needs discipleship.
We can resist fundraising pressure by shepherding people to live the generous life. Unleash giving today.
TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is Director of Generosity & Digital Giving at Lifeway and author of Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money.