This fall the most valuable company in the world laid out a vision for the future of how we relate to money. No small thing. And while Apple Pay might be in its infancy, it serves as yet more proof that the days of cash and checks are waning quickly. That’s not just wishful thinking either; from 2010 to 2013 the number of checks written in the United State fell 25%. No small thing.

I had my first conversation with a church about accepting something other than cash or checks back in 2005, almost a decade ago. Back then McDonald’s and others were still cash only. Over time all of that has fallen away and you will rarely if ever, encounter a place not happy to swipe your card.

Except, of course, the church.

Like it or not, the future of money is electronic, not paper, and everyone will have to adapt. For a time it looked like Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) was a savior for the church. While it certainly has a place, in practical terms, it serves only those who have an existing disciplined pattern of giving and leaves several other issues unsolved. How do you collect a special offering for the latest natural disaster?   I might be moved to help but if I arrive on Sunday morning with nothing but plastic rectangles in my wallet can you even take my money?

Close up of a pen and blank check

I don’t think I’ve written a check since 2011. Seriously. And I’m not alone.

The truth is that many churches are leaving money on the table (or more correctly in the cloud) because they simple aren’t prepared to transact business in the way that is rapidly becoming the norm… electronically.

United Methodist Communications has done a great overview of many of the different options now available. The options are varied and the level of technical sophistication needed is relatively low across the board.

One of the key questions each church needs to address is how to integrate new giving options into the existing flow of worship.  For those that collect after the service an electronic giving kiosk near the normal collection point works great.  For those that pass the plate the smartphone is your likely savior.  Worldwide 80% of people under 35 have one.  So providing a QR code to a donation page is likely the simplest way to go.  The big issue here is to consider the user experience.  If you expect them to give during the service the process needs to be quick and easy.  Vanco’s offering stands out as being especially difficult to use and should be avoided.   Paypal is much easier to use and many people already have an account!

Yes, most have some type of per-transaction fee. However, if you are leaving money uncollected, and I promise you, you are, isn’t it worth giving up 3% to get the 97%? There is an old expression my grandmother used about “cutting off noses to spite faces” that would seem to apply.

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