This Sunday we begin a 4 week series at the Ithaca Vineyard entitled, “In God We Trust.” Each day this week leading up to the series, we’ll spend a little time looking at the topic of money.

This is the second in a series of posts we are doing this week on the topic of money.  Yesterday we dug into why as a church we talk about money as much as we do, and shared a bit of our history in getting there.  Today, I wanted to explain why we have so many different options or ways for people to give to the Vineyard.

The picture above is rather quaint.  Because the thing is, most of us us don’t write checks all that much anymore.  How people think about and deal with money changes over time.  For example, my dad always has money in his wallet.  My brother and I rarely carry any cash with us.  My debit card works fine 99% of the places I go, so why bother.  My dad hates purchasing items online because you have to give out your credit/debit card info.  I make as many of my purchases as possible online simply because it’s way easier.

Which leads back to the checkbook.  Think quick, where is your checkbook?  My best guess would be that Liz has it.  I rarely use it…in fact, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check.  Now while for people older than me, that sounds strange…but, for most people younger than me, checkbooks are a thing of the past.

Now, go back to what I wrote yesterday.  When we first started the church, if you wanted to give, you had to either put a check, or cash into a random box sitting in the back of the room…

Think about that for a minute.

– How safe do you feel sticking money into a random acrylic box that is sitting out in the open with no one in particular looking after it?  Is there a certain amount above which you would think, there is no way I’m putting that in there?

– We didn’t provide envelopes for those who wanted to give cash so they could keep track of their giving and receive a tax deduction…they had to figure that out for themselves.

– And if you were someone like me…and like most people younger than me, most likely you meant to give many times, but ended up forgetting your checkbook.

We were hurting ourselves in two major ways:

1: Doing ministry requires money.  Bill Hybels in his book Courageous Leadership recounts a conversation he had with theologian, R. C. Sproul.  “Sproul once asked me how much ministry I thought I could do for a hundred bucks.  I assumed he was hoping for some deep theological response, but before I could think of one he answered the question himself.  ‘You can do about a hundred dollars’ worth.’  He was simply making the point that ministry requires resources.”

As a church, if we believe we have a vision worth pursuing, then we are going to require resources.  What we were doing was making it difficult for people who believed in our vision and wanted to support it to do that.

2: The second way we were hurting ourselves goes back to what we talked about yesterday.  If we believe that is best for people if they are handling their money in a way that is God-honoring…why would we make it hard for them to do that?

Based on those to realizations, we decided that we we had a responsibility to the people in our church, as well as a responsibility to God to pursue the vision he has given our church to make it easier for people to give.

Over the past few years, we have tried to make it as easy as possible for people who want to give to give.  We currently have 5 ways that people can, and do give to the Vineyard. Now, as we’ve introduced them over time, we have generally done it without a lot of fanfare.  And people have ended up gravitating towards the method that works best for them.

So, here are the 5 current ways people can give, (with a comment or two thrown in):

1) Give on Sunday Morning.

We’ve changed a few things…we no longer have a random box in the back…we receive the offering, take it to a secure place.  And we provide envelopes where people can write their name, designate where they want their giving to go, etc.

This is still the most common way that people give at the Vineyard, accounting for about 60% of the general giving we receive….which mean obviously that about 40% of our giving comes from means other than Sunday morning!

2) Set up for Auto Debit through the Vineyard.

Auto-Debit is where you fill out a short form, (Download a copy here), and then your giving is automatically deducted from your bank account one or two times per month. Currently, this method is used be nearly everyone on staff at the Vineyard.  Since we have various responsibilities on Sunday we found it is too easy to forget to have the check ready.  Automating it, means we don’t have to think about it!

This method is especially helpful for people who are wanting to develop the habit of giving regularly, but tend to forget. Currently about 15% of all general giving we receive comes this way.

3) Set up Auto-Debit through your bank.

For many of us, we are already doing this on a regular basis with many of our payments.  Not having to got through & write our checks every month, buy the stamps, etc. ends up saving so much time.

4) Mail in your tithe/offering using the envelope you get on Sunday

If you’ve been to the Ithaca Vineyard, you’ve noticed that our offering envelopes are set up as pre-paid business reply mail meaning, if you forget to bring your check on Sunday, you can put it in the envelope and then drop it in the mail at any point in the week…no need to even get a stamp!

Currently about 18% of our giving comes from methods #3 & #4.  (Since they both come in the mail, we lump them together.)

5) Giving on-line through Google Checkout

The only problem with Google check out is that it is currently not set up to allow people to automate their giving, which keeps it from being more popular.  One point here as well, although Google Checkout accepts credit cards, we discourage people from using their credit cards to give.  While we recognize some people do so for the mileage rewards or such, we would encourage you to use only your debit card (giving money you already have:-) when using this method. (About 6% of giving comes through this method)

As we went through that list, there were probably only one, maybe two methods that would be helpful to you.  But that’s the point.  The more options, the easier is it for people to give.

Any other ways you think we are missing?

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3 comments
  1. Rich Andrews says:

    Bob, loved the article. Would you be able to point me to some resources for how your administrators actually go about setting up auto debit for the donors after they complete the paperwork?

    1. bob__wilson says:

      Hi Rich. Sure I'll put something together in the next couple of days & get it to you.

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