Ease of Auto Withdrawal Tithing Hasn’t Swayed Most Covenanters

Post a Comment » Written on August 22nd, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (August 22, 2008) – Several Evangelical Covenant churches have started giving congregants the option of giving through automatic withdrawal or bill pay from their bank accounts, but response has been less than enthusiastic so far, they say.

“We started it in hopes that this would provide our members with a convenient method of supporting the church and additionally help with consistency,” says Larry Weidig, a lay leader at Zion Covenant Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. “While I have been a big advocate of pushing this—I do everything automatic I can—we have not had the signups I would have hoped for.”

Quest Church in Seattle, Washington, has encouraged members to use automatic bill pay for several years, but only a handful of people do so, says Joanie Komura, the congregation’s financial administrator. “The people I’ve talked to who do use it say it’s great.”

To establish automatic withdrawals, churches work with banks or other companies that set up the process. Typically, the banks charge a fee, but the increased giving to the congregation that results from the regular giving makes the arrangement worthwhile, says Rick Hampton, director of stewardship advancement for the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Hampton is working with several congregations as they consider this giving option. The conference has set up automatic withdrawal arrangements so people can give to its Kingdom Growth fund.

The denomination offers Covenanters the opportunity to use automatic withdrawal to give to its ministries. Bethany Benefit Service brings in $1 million a year from churches through automatic withdrawal. Bethany provides eligible Covenant ministers, church workers, and missionaries with medical, dental, prescription, vision, life, and long-term disability benefits.

Automatic withdrawal can be beneficial for the churches and its members, says Hampton. Giving is more consistent. When members go on vacation or are absent from church for several weeks, they may forget to catch up on their offerings despite their best intentions, he explains.

The reports given by the companies or banks save significant bookkeeping time, Hampton adds. They also can provide tax reports. Hampton has recommended Vanco Services to churches.

Some churches with automatic withdrawal arrangements will accept payments only from checking or savings accounts but not credit cards for fear of encouraging bad spending habits, Hampton says.

Most banks now provide electronic bill pay services that send a physical check to the church on designated dates. The church still must manually enter the giving into its records.

Many members, however, are reluctant to have money removed directly from their account for various reasons.

Some reject the idea because they believe that deliberately putting money into the offering plate is an important act of discipleship, Hampton says. Others feel uncomfortable if they have nothing to put in the offering plate.

Zion Covenant has tried to address both issues. “One thing we did was to put laminated cards in all of the pew aisles that say “I give electronically,” says Weidig. “We felt that this was important for some people so that when the offering was taken during the service they would still have something to put in the collection plate. While it should really be between yourself and God some people are conscious of what others around them see and we felt this would help.”

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