A crowd of 1,300 gathered last May in an auditorium in Dallas to hear megachurch pastors and ministry leaders talk about casting vision, building church community, and promoting spiritual growth.
But even with familiar names like Life.Church pastor Bobby Gruenewald and Catalyst president Tyler Reagin on stage, this wasn’t just another ministry conference.
Pushpay—a tech company that made $98.4 million last year processing mobile giving for churches—put on the event, its fifth summit.
“It not only gives us an opportunity to see our customers and talk to them,” said the company’s chief ambassador, Troy Pollock, “but it creates an environment for people to grow in their jobs, which goes beyond digital giving.”
The popularity of online tithing coincides with moves to incorporate more technology and strategy into church operations.
Congregations have offered digital giving options for well over a decade, often relying on marketplace tools like PayPal and online bill pay (which still involves banks sending checks each month). But the latest batch of resources has more specialized, high-tech options to cater to churches in particular.
Companies like Pushpay, Tithe.ly, easyTithe, and SecureGive let members tap their way to a tithe through smartphone apps, text messages, websites, or kiosks at services.
Many congregations are now eyeing new technology as mobile payments become mainstream and paper checks fade from regular use. Plus, these tools can track giving trends, send off annual receipts, and integrate with programs for managing volunteers and communication.
Though most churchgoers still give the old-fashioned way, by cash or check in the offering plate, 15 percent now pay through their church’s website, app, or text, according to a 2018 LifeWay Research survey.
Last year, Pushpay—a public company traded on the New Zealand Exchange—processed a record $4.2 billion in giving, up 40 percent from the year before. Its clientele includes a majority of the 100 largest US congregations, including some bringing in $140 million a year and staffing more than 500 people.
“These are not just your little mom-and-pop churches,” Pollock said. “These are enterprise organizations, and the folks running [them] are high-ranking executives.”
At that size, churches are forced to operate like a business in many ways, including speaking frankly about finances and operations. But that’s a lesson that churches are starting to learn regardless of size.
“If you’re afraid to talk about money, you’ll be afraid to talk about the technology to make giving easier,” said Dean Sweetman, cofounder and CEO of Tithe.ly, a private company whose platform is used by 12,000 congregations around the world. “Here’s the truth: Churches that talk about money grow, and churches that don’t, generally don’t.”
Digital tithing companies boast trends and testimonies—congregations where giving went up 30 percent, 50 percent, and more than doubled after adding their options. One reason they work so well: Churches avoid the summer slump since recurring transfers continue to process even when people aren’t in worship, Tithe.ly found. It adds up year-round, too, since the average churchgoing family isn’t as likely to be there every week.
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Source: Christianity Today