ATMs: Automatic Tithing Machines

How can you pass the plate to people who don't carry cash? You can't. So the next big wave may be the "Giving Kiosk" in your church's lobby.

"A lot of people no longer carry cash or a checkbook," says Marty Baker, pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. So he installed two ATMs in 2005. The experiment has been a success.

During the first year, the kiosks processed over $100,000 in donations at Stevens Creek. In 2006, that number increased to just over $200,000, representing more than 25 percent of the church's total income. Even more impressive is the fact that giving as a whole increased 18 percent since the ATMs were installed. "It's a safe, convenient way for people to donate to their church," Baker notes, "and it meets people where they are today."

These positive returns encouraged Baker to launch SecureGive, a for-profit company that produces and maintains several different versions of the giving kiosks. "We knew that if this concept and technology was so beneficial for our church, others could benefit from it as well," says Baker.

SecureGive currently operates in 25 churches around the country. One of them is Family Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, where Terry Taylor is the executive pastor. "We wanted to help those who were not giving to start walking in obedience," says Taylor. "We feel that is being achieved."

Princeton Pike Church of God in Hamilton, Ohio, had featured online giving for years, but the service was used consistently by only ten families. The church engaged SecureGive in January and now has more than 150 families contributing regularly through the giving kiosk.

The company points out an array of practical advantages. One example is a decreased risk of embezzlement, since donated funds are transferred directly into a church's bank account, bypassing the counting committee. And the kiosk documents satisfy Internal Revenue Service regulations requiring taxpayers to present a written statement from a bank or charitable organization when claiming a deduction on their returns.

Phil Martin of the National Association of Church Business Administrators says that Automated Tithing Machines might only be the beginning. "Whether we'll have an offering plate with a card reader one day, who knows," he said. "But we're certainly not far from that."

September 25, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 18 comments


January 15, 2008  10:59am

Doesn't scripture say to be a "cheerful giver"? Many of the comments here seem to indicate that it isn't valid giving if the giver is happy doing it. Giving should be hard, painful, inconvenient, and serious. Very serious. I don't see that modeled in scripture. If electronic giving makes it easier for people to be cheerful givers, then by all means do it.

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Jessie Faith

October 12, 2007  3:31am

To comment about tithing machine in singapore: I think the matter about the heart.. If you gave out of a wrong attitude in your tithing Vs gave a year's tithing in one goal w/o a proper honoring attitude... then tas wrong. Of cos we are from different denominational background, we're taught different ways of giving. But the message is sacred, but methods are many. If our heart of giving is not there, don't give at all. And also... if your congregation is big, you have to be more technologically and electronically. Imagine, 20,000 members giving tithes in one day and we have to find more ushers just to help with the distribution of the admin? The point is the message must not be compromised, the question is when members are giving tithes through ATM, are they taught the right attitudes when giving?

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October 07, 2007  10:39am

I don't see anything wrong with the church keeping up in a fast-paced world. However, a "tithe" is not simply tossing 10% into a church's pocket. It's an act of worship. If swiping the ATM card truly causes someone to reflect on their dependence and trust in God as our Supplier, then go for it. For me, personally, writing a check allows a bit more time to pray as I write: "God, I'm giving this to You, please have your way."

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Ryan Lenerz

October 01, 2007  4:55pm

To Ron, who thinks we should not use checks or ATMs but instead put cash in the plate - "No thanks". If you make a good living, that would be silly carrying that much cash with you. Plus, large amounts of cash is just putting temptation in front of the treasurer. I trust our church's treasurer, but why add temptation when it is not necessary. Last, the media used to present the financial gift is not important, as you say it is. After all, our "cash" is merely worthless paper compared to the gold coins used in biblical times.

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Andrew Hicks

October 01, 2007  9:09am

This is a very interesting concept. My wife and I began using our bank's automated banking about two years ago to send in our tithe check. We chose to do that because invairiably we found we'd left our checkbook at home when we came to church. We found it was just as much a worship experience to sit down and decide how much we were going to have our bank send in, as it was to decide how much to write down on a check. One concern we've had though, is that our children are not seeing their parents regularly give to the church. Even though we are giving, it is not visible to the next generation. If our church had an ATM I think we would seriously consider using it Sunday in and Sunday out instead of having our gift automatically sent in. The issue of what message it sends to nonbelieving visitors is a concern. But pastors should be able to address that periodically from the puplit, so that God is honored and the ATM does not detract from the gospel message. The issue of keeping transactions confined to debit cards seems very wise.

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September 29, 2007  1:03am

Hi Mike, good to hear your voice again.

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mike rucker

September 28, 2007  11:06am

RIGHT ON, JOSH! (and not just because it pushed Melody's button, though that was an added bonus...) i think all these issues are kind of the same. to josh's point, i was music leader in a church that went from hymnbooks to overhead projection of lyrics - to incorporate new songs, but also to stop people from singing down at a hymnbook. based on the reaction of a number of members, you'd think i'd voted satan in as a board member. made me think twice about replacing pews with arm chairs, that's for sure. the only issue i see with the atms: if it's debit, that's giving money you've got. if it's credit, it ain't, and i don't think we should help people get further in debt. by the way - by my count, twenty-three people died and supposedly went to a burning hell while we debated this. just fyi. mike rucker

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September 28, 2007  6:35am

Hello, I'm just wondering about the act. Writing a check once a month or having it automatically deducted from your checking account. Where is the sacrificial giving. why can't you go to the bank and pull out that 10% on payday and not spend it? I have a hard time with this. Seems to me as Chrisitain we need to be focusing on increasing the gifts of the spirit one being self control. You take the money put it in your envelope and place it in the plate. The offering should be a form of worship! How is sending a check to the office or having an automatic withdrawl any different than paying any other bill you have? Who cares what is put in. If you are judging the person sitting down from you and how much they give shame on you. The woman who put the two coins in on sunday gave more than all the others. We should do the same! It seems to me the church was set up to recieve the funds on Sunday and this is part of the worship experience. Ultimately it all goes to God but for me how it gets there is part of worship. It should be solemn and holy and have special meaning. This is another way to reflect how much we love Christ and the grace that God gave us. We can never buy salvation but there is a desire to give back when you have been given too.

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September 27, 2007  8:54pm

I have no problem with electronic giving, i.e. direct debit through banks. This is quite common in Australia. The good thing about this method is people don't have to remember and the money comes in regularly. I wouldn't encourage people to use their credit cards to give. I would find the presence of ATM's within the church confines quite confronting and I wonder what message it sends to non-Christians or those exploring the faith. Giving to the church for it to carry out its mission is about the heart and where its treasure is, and it shouldn't take the presence of ATM's to remind people to give to the mission of Jesus. I just find the whole idea quite "yukky" really.

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September 26, 2007  6:55pm

I personally don't have a problem with ATM's or other plastic - I always put a check in the offering which is effectively the same thing. Giving and tithing are Biblical practices (prosperity merchant pastors notwithstanding), "Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart: not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." ICorinthians 9:7 JOSH! How does the hymn book enter into this conversation? But since you took the leap, may I ask what your problem is with the hymn book?

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