Making mobile giving work for multi-site churchesbudgeting, Church Growth, Communication, FEATURE STORIES, FINANCE, Giving, Latest News, LEADERSHIP, Operations Monday, February 1st, 2016
By Beka Johnson
Multi-site churches face unique challenges — and require unique giving solutions. Case in point: Momentum Christian Church, a nine-year-old church plant with locations in McDonough and Stockridge, GA. “Our two campuses are about 10 miles apart, but in some ways they’re worlds apart,” says Executive Pastor David Powers.
Momentum launched its second (Stockbridge) location in December 2012 when it ran out of room to expand in McDonough. Both sites are situated off the same major freeway, and Powers says the cultures and demographics of each location are unique. However, the challenges they face are shared.
For one thing, the multi-site church model can be difficult from a funding perspective. First, there was a financial emphasis on getting a building set up and ready to do church in another community. The second challenge is more ongoing: “We have two buildings and therefore a much larger staff than we’d normally have in a church with 800 in attendance — 500 at one site and 300 at the other,” Powers says.
Additionally, with a multi-site church model, he and his team must ensure both campuses feel unified (though attendance figures differ) and keep the messaging consistent — not just the teaching message and vision, but also the way the church presents giving and generosity.
At Momentum’s two locations, offering plates have been replaced with tables set up around the room. During communion, everyone gets up and moves around the worship space to give — that is, if they’re giving by cash or check. As Powers has observed, that’s a lot less common these days.
Still, Momentum is a debt-averse church; the idea of giving by debit and credit card wasn’t exactly embraced. “There was a kind of stigma attached to swiping a card,” Powers recalls.
This aversion, coupled with a bit of admitted hesitation on Powers’ part, kept the church from offering electronic giving sooner. It took him some time — and a pivotal conversation with his daughter, who was in 6th grade at the time — to warm to the idea.
“She was talking about how one of her teachers wasn’t allowed to teach check-writing and check-balancing as a part of the life skills curriculum anymore,” Powers remembers. “It was one of those ‘God-smacks-you-in-the-forehead’ kinds of moments.”
He ultimately concluded that a bigger issue was at play: The church wasn’t giving everyone an opportunity to participate in the offering.
“There’s a huge segment of the population that doesn’t have a checkbook and never will. Though they might carry a little bit of cash, what they usually do is swipe their debit or credit card,” he acknowledges. “So, for us, it became about removing barriers.”
About three years ago, Momentum began to offer mobile and online giving via Pushpay, a 10-second mobile giving solution.
Rolling out the program
Momentum’s adoption of electronic giving began by gathering a group of several dozen staff members and elders of all ages. Powers asked that everyone with a smartphone hold it up.
“I was really shocked!” he says. “I bet eighty percent of the people in the room had one — even 75- and 85-year-old folks.”
Actually, Powers says, these more senior members of the congregation are now among the most avid users of mobile giving. “It’s surprising, because they were some of the ones who pushed back hardest at first.”
This type of methodical roll-out — beginning with staff and elders, then to leadership teams, and finally to the church-at-large — comes highly recommended by Powers. “It creates a cascading effect so you’re building momentum [for the tool] and getting some people on your side.”
And, how! Today, about 30 percent of Momentum’s giving is done via Pushpay … and not just on Sunday. For example, Momentum doesn’t offer worship services on the last weekend of the year. Even so, according to Powers — who gets a notification every time a gift is given — gifts come in regularly during that time.
Week-to-week, the case is the same. “At our church, giving has become a thing that happens with the rhythm of a person’s life,” he says. “I think that’s really cool. It’s not simply a Sunday morning thing.
“Also, throughout the summer, a lot of people’s giving is set up as recurring,” Powers adds. “So, we don’t see a significant drop just because it’s vacation season.”
Though a blessing, these results aren’t uncommon. Research shows 45 percent of gifts given through Pushpay happen on days other than Sunday.
The immediacy factor
Aside from the obvious ministry benefits of mobile giving, Powers says he also appreciates that the funds are automatically deposited into the church’s account, and that the tool offers a virtually seamless interface with Momentum’s church management system (ChMS). This means less staff time is spent processing and recording gifts, and that giving statements — facilitated by the ChMS — are available to church members by logging in to their own profiles. “That’s helpful not only at the beginning of the year, when people are preparing for taxes, but at any point in the year,” he points out. “Midyear and throughout the year, we notice a lot of people logging in to find out where they are with their giving and adjusting as they see fit.”
The ability to conduct special benevolences — recently, for example, to benefit a family in need — is also a plus. “When we did that, we were just flooded with giving.”
For these and a lot of other reasons, Powers is no longer hesitant when he thinks about mobile giving. In fact, he’s a big proponent.
“Some folks feel that if you’re not putting a pen to a check and writing it out, that somehow you’ve lost intentionality,” he says. “But at some point, people made a choice to no longer take their goats to the priest. They don’t drop gold coins in a bucket anymore. Our currency changes and we’ve got to adjust with it.
“In reality, a smartphone is something everyone has now,” he adds. “We finally understood electronic giving was something we needed to do. It’s just the way so many people are used to transacting business these days.”
Beka Johnson is the Inbound Marketing Coordinator at eChurch, the principal supplier of Pushpay to churches. With a background in Christian education, fundraising, marketing, tech startups and theological studies, Johnson is thrilled to now spend her days helping churches increase generosity.