These days, churches are hitting the gas on the technology superhighway by automating their method of accepting donations online. Soon, the days will be gone when you can just pull a few dollars out of your pocket during a church service, and toss it into the offering basket. As a kid, this was my favorite part of going to church—especially since it wasn’t my money I was giving away. There’s just something about giving cold hard cash that makes you feel like you’re really giving.
Innovations such as “Giving Kiosks” are popping up in churches around the country, particularly in the southern states. How can you miss a tall pedestal topped with a computer screen, keyboard and magnetic-strip reader as you walk to your pew? (which, by the way, accepts any type of plastic you can pull out of your wallet). The house of God, is becoming more like the house of Credit.
A company called SecureGive.com is a major provider of so-called giving kiosks, serving at least 1,500 congregations around the country.
In fact, churches around the world are starting to hop on the digital giving bandwagon. This recent article describes how the Church of Norway will soon be passing around an electronic collection basket for donations.
An online service called ParishPay is another company serving churches, which supplies parishioners with paper slips that they can place in offering baskets to represent the actual cash they have donated online. They also receive an e-mail acknowledgement for their donation, presumably signed by God himself.
This marks a major cultural shift for churches, which for centuries have made a ritual out of weekly cash collections. This shift was bound to strike the church at some point, as the use of credit and debit cards is growing at the same rate that the use of real money is declining.
What will they think of next? Will VISA come out with a new line of credit cards with a picture of Jesus on the front? Instead of earning frequent flyer miles, maybe this card can earn you points that will get you into heaven. Maybe the wired church of the future will use instant messaging to replace conversations inside the confessional. I look forward to the day when I can choose a screen name for that.
Some churchgoers praise the convenience of it all, as these electronic services automatically charge your credit card once a month, or subtract set amounts from your checking account, allowing parishioners to keep track of their donations from one month to the next. Others don’t really want to know if they’ve met their donation goals and just feel blessed that they even made it to church.
If you ask me, nothing is more convenient than pulling a five spot out of your wallet, saying amen and leaving it at that.