By Ron Walrath
Digital technologies are woven into the human experience and they have transformed how we live, work, relax, and interact. They have even affected the ministry to which Christians are called. Not surprisingly, how American Christians access money to meet financial commitments has changed dramatically with this transformation. Many of us no longer carry checkbooks or appreciable amounts of cash, opting for the convenience and security of credit and debit cards instead.
Financial stewardship in this digital age pushes us to explore new ways of giving, specifically electronic giving, in congregations. In recognition of this digital reality, the context of ministry demands new approaches to how we approach stewardship today. In response to that challenge and as part of the Growing in God’s Mission stewardship initiative, the South Carolina synod has begun a pilot project on electronic giving involving 12 congregations. The project will be conducted over an 18 month period.
Some of the Goals of the Project include:
- to expand the ways of giving to ministry and God’s mission in project congregations.
- to explore electronic giving as a way to deepening discipleship through intentional and regular giving.
- to increase regular giving by members in project congregations and to increase giving to Mission Support.
- to encourage teaching congregations hosting a 1st year, 2nd year, or seminary intern (vicar) that participate in the e-giving project to involve their seminary students in all phases of the e-giving project as part of their co-curricular stewardship education experience.
In conversations with congregations, electronic giving transaction costs emerged as the most significant barrier to implementing electronic giving in Synod congregations. In keeping with that concern, the project intends to answer the question, “Is electronic giving worth the transaction costs involved?”
Stewardship is a deeply spiritual matter. In faith with that ancient paradigm, ethical considerations involved with this project fall within two guiding principles:
- Electronic Giving will not be presented as a panacea to the stewardship challenges faced by congregations in the South Carolina Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
- In regard to credit card giving, this project does not encourage people who routinely carry balances on their credit cards to participate in credit card giving options.
To learn more about electronic giving, obtain a copy of the book titled, Embracing Stewardship: How to put stewardship at the HEART of your congregation’s LIFE by Charles R. Lane and Grace Duddy Pomroy, chapter 9, pages 99-107. In addition, Because of God’s Great Mercy is a stewardship response program designed to be used in congregations of any size and…easily found at www.embracingstewardship.com. For congregations enrolled in the Simply Giving Program, we encourage you to contact your VANCO consultant for assistance in promoting electronic giving in your congregation. Congregations, not enrolled but wanting to inquire about services from VANCO, are encouraged to contact the giving coach for the South Carolina Synod, Kathy Antonich. She can be reached by phone at 952-352-8117 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.