Should churches allow online giving via credit card?

Online Giving for Churches: Is It Okay to Allow Giving via Credit Card?

One question we get regularly is around credit card use. The positions taken by financial counselors like Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett have drawn attention to many of the issues surrounding the right use of credit.

Since church members can link their credit cards up through tools like echurch and Pushpay, it makes complete sense that people would wonder whether it was appropriate for Christians to pay their tithes and offerings with a credit card.

Potential misuse doesn’t delegitimize a tool

The internet has revolutionized the way we do nearly everything. Despite the incredible innovations it has introduced, it hasn’t come without problems.

For example, for all the good the internet has brought us, we also need to deal with:

  • Piracy that robs creators of their earnings
  • Identity theft draining bank accounts
  • Pornography wrecking ministries and marriages

But these potential online abuses haven’t created a movement to get Christians to abandon the internet. No church that I’m aware of has refused to put up websites because of the potential abuses associated with being online. Just because there is a chance that a tool can be misused isn’t a reason to dismiss the positives associated with it.

There’s no question that credit cards can be abused, and because of the interest rates of some cards, the liabilities can outweigh the assets—but that’s not always the case. Many people have stories about how they used a credit card to rescue them from an emergency situation.

(And just try making travel arrangements without one!)

Many people appreciate the perks

But credit cards aren’t just helpful in emergencies. Quite a few companies offer all kinds of benefits to users of their cards. If they’re paid off regularly, there’s no reason why someone can’t benefit from free airline miles, cash back on purchases, or incentives from the retailer of their choice.

Many people use credit cards that pay them back in credits from places like Amazon. When they use the card frequently and pay it off every month, the credits cover their Christmas presents.

For disciplined people, credit card use is often a form of good stewardship.

If some kind of credit-card perk helps to incentivize faithful giving, that’s a plus. It’s like benefitting from tax deductions for charitable and church gifts.

Don’t create a generosity barrier

In the end, if you prevent the use of credit cards as a method of payment, you create an unnecessary barrier to generosity. Churches should be coaching people to be good stewards of their resources while also trusting them to use their best judgement on when and how they choose to be generous.

Churches that use Pushpay are going to have congregants who link their credit cards to their account for one-time gifts or even recurring giving. For members who are uncomfortable using credit as a tool for giving, a debit card can be attached to their Pushpay account instead and the gift can come straight from their checking account.

Embracing technology that makes giving faster and easier benefits both churches and givers. It’s important to shepherd people toward good stewardship of their resources and responsible living, but we shouldn’t be setting up obstacles that hinder people’s ability to practice sensible generosity.

Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. He’s a regular contributor to Relevant Magazine, and his blog JaysonDBradley.com has been voted one of the 25 Christian blogs you should be reading.

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