Retail transactions increasingly are going cashless and even cardless, made possible by mobile payment apps such as Google Pay and Apple Wallet. Other "contactless payments" systems use different technology, but the idea is the same: make a payment on the spot with no cash or check, and without needing to swipe or insert a credit or debit card.
And, not surprisingly, mobile and contactless payments are making inroads in the area of church giving.
Even the somewhat staid Church of England is testing such systems, as noted in a current report in Britain's Financial Times. "We're aware that younger generations — and there are many people now who don't carry cash — want to give in different ways," says John Preston, national stewardship officer for the Church of England. "Enabling them to give in a way that suits them is something we'd like to try."
A 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek story noted the rise of smartphone-based church giving here in the U.S.
[Twentysomethings] don’t carry cash — and what, exactly, is a personal check? Still, about a quarter of them use mobile payment apps such as PayPal and Venmo regularly, according to a recent Accenture survey. And enormously popular services such as Seamless, Uber, and Amazon.com have normalized one-tap payments — 91 percent of millennials use their phone to buy something at least once a month, market-research firm Statista says.
Tithe.ly is one of a handful of apps leveraging that spending behavior for the good of the church. Pushpay...works similarly; worshipers decide whether to donate to a general budget or a specific program the institution designates. Another, EasyTithe, features a text-to-give option. It also provides technology for a Square-like credit card reader to await the faithful in church lobbies.
Regardless of which app a congregation chooses, the point is convenience. “We call it frictionless giving,” says Dean Sweetman, Tithe.ly’s co-founder and a former minister at [megachurch] C3 Atlanta....
But getting parishes with pastors and members older than 40 to sign on has been more Job-like. Tradition is hard to overcome.
Even giving via a church website has been a hard-sell for many churches (a 2015 survey found that only 42 percent of U.S. churches had enabled browser-based online giving). Now, mobile apps and contactless systems are bringing yet another dimension to church giving, for churches willing to adopt the technology.
If you're using mobile-payments or contactless system at your church, tell us about it in the comments section — especially if you're using it alongside the traditional collection plate during worship services.
Also, we'd be interested in hearing from those of you have concerns (theological or practical) about churches adopting non-cash/non-check options for giving (keeping in mind that even giving by check results in an electronic transaction!).