The tradition of passing church collection plates has been disappearing from congregations across the world. What was a necessary tool for collecting tithes and offerings is now being replaced by electronic donations such as credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, and online payment apps.
Despite this, many church leaders are still clinging to the idea that collection plates are needed during their in-person services.
Here are the reasons why many churches have eliminated collection plates. Spoiler alert: it's all about time, money, and the overall perception of the church.
The handling of cash can be time-consuming and may require multiple people to distribute plates, and count and secure the money. This can increase the risk of errors, loss, or mishandling. In some cases, accepting cash offerings may also limit the ability to track and record donations for financial accountability and transparency purposes.
Accepting cash offerings during worship services can pose security risks for the church and its members. Cash is a physical and tangible form of currency that can be easily lost, stolen, or misplaced. An offering plate filled with cash can attract thieves or dishonest individuals who may attempt to steal or tamper with the funds. The more humans touching of funds, the more opportunity there is for theft.
Offering plates can carry a negative stereotype in some circles, as they are sometimes associated with the idea of passing the plate or pressuring individuals to give more than they are comfortable with. This stereotype has been perpetuated in popular culture and is often used as a criticism of churches and their fundraising practices. Many mega-churches like Watermark Community Church have recognized this and have put out statements on why they don't pass plates.
Whether you're passing a bucket, a basket, or a plate... there is zero evidence it will result in an increase in overall giving. If you're one of those churches that like to pass it around twice, you may even be decreasing your overall donations.
We're also entering a more cashless society where donors are giving with credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, and other payment apps. In fact, the only definitive way to increase overall church giving is to implement online giving and encourage your donors to use recurring donations.
Across all age groups, 63% of donors prefer to give online, according to the Nonprofit Tech For Good 2021 Global Trends in Giving report. The biggest benefit of online giving platforms is that most offer the ability for the donor to set up recurring giving. 57% of donors who give online have enrolled in a recurring giving program.
It's worth noting that this trend increased rapidly during COVID, as many churches had fewer people in the pews and relied heavily on online donations to survive. This suggests that shifting toward an online model of accepting donations helps to "future-proof" your church.
Collection plates are not sacrilegious... but they're not Biblical either.
The Bible does not explicitly mention the practice of passing offering plates during church services. However, it does provide guidance on various forms of giving, such as donating to the poor, giving to God what belongs to Him, and supporting ministers who preach the Gospel.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, the Apostle Paul instructs the church in Corinth to set aside a sum of money on the first day of every week, according to each one's ability, to support the needs of the church and the saints.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul also teaches that each person should give as they have decided in their heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. While passing offering plates may be a practical way of collecting funds for the church's needs, it is not explicitly prescribed in the Bible as the only or best way to give.
Your church still needs a way to collect tithes and offerings, and these are the best ways to do it:
For the people who prefer to give checks or cash, place collection/offering boxes in the back. Most Protestant churches have offered this for decades. Its older brother, the "alms box" has been in use for centuries. Just make sure they're secure, lockable, and visible to your church family.
For guests and one-time donors, debit/credit card donations are ideal. This makes donating to your ministry secure, simple, and fast.
For your dedicated regular donors, donations made by credit card will carry fees each time. This is why direct bank transfers are ideal. For most banks, the fees for this are negligible or nonexistent. Donors can even set up a bill payment directly through their bank to donate directly to the church address or bank account.
With ChurchTrac, your ministry can accept card donations, ACH, and more. See why over 10,000 churches made the switch to our Church Software.
As Darth Vader so eloquently put it:
Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Your offering plate has lived a long, full life. It’s served your church well. It’s lasted through all the ups and downs of your church. But it’s probably time to pull the plug.
In Christ, death has died. Your offering plate should, too.
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