Worshipful Generosity in a Digital Age
By Marc Kirchoff
This article was originally published in Giving Magazine Vol. 22, No. 4 in 2019. You can access the full issue here.
In a previous issue of Giving Magazine, my pastor shared the story of how our church initiated online giving in our congregation. We not only provided an online portal for one-time single gifts, but we also offered the option of making recurring gifts.
I immediately took advantage of the opportunity. I was able to make an initial gift and then establish a monthly deduction from my personal checking account that would be directed to the church every month.
However, the availability of online and automated giving creates a bit of a theological issue for me. The Bible contains many examples of giving as an act of worship. From the wise men who brought gifts to the manger in Bethlehem, to the sacrifices of the Old Testament, to the widow’s mite, to Malachi’s exhortation to “bring the full tithe into the storehouse,” (3:10) we have examples showing us the importance of bringing our tithes and offerings as part of our worship of our Lord.
Making my gifts online or via automatic deductions from my bank account is not conducive to worship. In fact, as the plate passes through my pew on Sunday mornings, I am often overcome by feelings of guilt. Not having cash or a check to place in the offering plate leaves a void in my worship.
I am aware that some churches do not have a time of offering in the worship service. A plate or basket sits on a stand at the back of the worship space for folks to drop in their tithes and offerings. Even in cases where there is no financial need to receive an offering, I believe there is a spiritual need to be fulfilled. As beneficiaries of God’s grace, we require the opportunity to express our gratitude for the abundance with which we have been blessed in very tangible ways.
A trip to Africa is on my personal bucket list. I don’t really care which country I visit, and I don’t care much about what I see and do. But one thing I must experience when I go is an offering in their worship context. I understand there is much singing and dancing and extreme joy as the congregation brings their resources (livestock, grain and even some money when it is available) to the altar. The stories I hear are exhilarating!
So, technology to make giving easier, increase congregational revenue, and expand our ministry is a blessing to my home church and to many others. But, can we also maintain an attitude of worship as we continue to support ministry in new ways?
Not one to offer problems without solutions, I found one that really works for me.
Soon after our congregation began offering online giving, I shared my concerns with another pastor. He shared his solution…
In his church, anyone who makes an online gift (recurring or not) is sent a thank you note acknowledging the gift, along with a receipt. This, of course, is only proper (and in some cases legally required!).
But the document includes an invitation to print it. Part of it is to be retained by the giver for personal/tax records. The other portion is designed for the giver to tear off and bring to worship. That part includes words like, “As an act of worship, I bring this note as an act of gratitude to and worship of God.” This allows the worshipper to place something in the plate in a true act of worship. It reminds the giver of her/his gift and that it was given in gratitude to God. It also removes any feelings of guilt for those who, like me, feel the need to participate in the offering during worship. On a more practical side, it also lets those who oversee the finances of the church know that a gift was made. They can then confirm that the gift was, indeed, received into the church account.
Some churches also provide cards instead of envelopes to stewards who make recurring electronic gifts. At the beginning of the year, fifty-two slips are sent to givers in a booklet or tear-off sheet, providing something for them to drop in the offering every week.
These are just some of the possibilities for maintaining a sense of worship while making the most of technology that allows us to enhance the stewardship of our congregations. I invite you to explore options that are best for you, being mindful of providing opportunities for worshipful generosity in this digital age.
Dr. Marc Kirchoff is an ordained American Baptist (ABCUSA) minister currently serving as Donor Advisor for International Ministries (ABCUSA) and as an adjunct instructor for the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. He has served as development staff for several organizations including The Foundation for Evangelism, American Bible Society, and Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Giving Magazine was a premier stewardship resource published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) from 1999 until 2020. The magazine served Christian faith communities throughout North America, providing thoughtful, practical, and inspirational content on faith and giving from thought leaders and practitioners alike. Giving was published annually from 1999 until 2018 (volumes 1-20), and then quarterly in 2019 and 2020 (volumes 21-28) in digital form only. In 2021 ESC closed its doors and committed its archives to the care of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. For further information on ESC or its archives, please contact us at email@example.com.
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