When our church was founded in 1882, nearly all financial support came in the form of cash, placed in the offering plate on Sunday morning. Back then, checks were uncommon. Most people received a pay envelope at the end of the week, and set aside a portion of that cash as their gift to the church.
There were some other ways of giving. Here in this community, it was not unusual for a basket of Jersey tomatoes, or even a few fish wrapped in newspaper, to appear on the porch of the old manse on Laurel Avenue, or for donated clams or oysters to be on the menu for a church supper. It was a pretty direct way for those early Point Pleasant Presbyterians to live out the biblical instructions about tithing.
Times change, and giving methods change. Our present offering envelopes were designed with cash and checks in mind, but many of us carry a lot less cash around with us than we used to. We use credit or debit cards to buy our groceries. Many of us are also using electronic payment methods, such as our bank’s electronic bill-paying service.
Setting the church up as one of those bill-paying-service payees – either as a one-off transaction or as a recurring weekly or monthly automatic debit – is the most cost-effective way to make an electronic gift to the church. In that case, the church receives a bank check in the mail a few days later for 100% of the gift, with no transaction fee deducted.
It’s also possible to do the same thing using the giving button at the bottom of the church’s main web page, or by using a smartphone to scan the QR code printed in the church bulletin each week. The church pays transaction fees for those bank-account debits: 50 cents for a one-time gift, or 25 cents for each recurring gift. A larger amount is deducted from gifts made via credit card: there’s a 45-cent transaction fee, plus an additional deduction of 2.75% for Mastercard, Visa or Discover transactions or 3.5% for American Express.
Even so, paying those transaction fees is more than worth it for the church, if it means more gifts are received because of the convenience those methods offer.
If you’re a smartphone user, you’ll find the Give By Text option to be the easiest of all – once you’ve made your first gift-by-text and have transmitted your bank account number and routing number (or your credit card number). That’s the first and last time you’ll ever have to key in those numbers – after that, the system remembers your preferred giving method, and makes giving as simple as texting “$20” (or the amount of your choice) to our special phone number: 732-451-7575. It’s a number unique to this church, used only for the purpose of electronic giving. Transaction fees are similar to those for gifts made using the web-age button. You can even do it during the worship service, right from your pew!
Why not give it a try? You’ll be amazed to find out how easy and convenient it is. And if you want to use the offering plate as an act of worship, you can still do so by taking one of the Alternative Offering cards from the pew rack and placing it in the offering plate, for the ushers to bring forward with all the other gifts.
Sure, it may seem a little strange at first – but putting a check into the offering plate seemed just as strange to some of those early Point Pleasant Presbyterians. Times change, but it’s still true that every gift, given cheerfully and prayerfully, honors our Lord!