There are a number of reasons I’ve been thinking about credit lately. For one, I just finished week three of Financial Peace University, which my employer is graciously sponsoring. Spending some time with Dave Ramsey will get you thinking about debt and credit.
Taking the class has also helped me understand better why it’s so popular with churches. I understood the obvious advantage of providing this service to the people who need it (I, for one, am of the generation that went through high school after personal finance class had been out of the curriculum, and I’m excited about getting a better hold on my financial future), but now I see other advantages.
Financial Peace University is also great for churches because Dave is upfront about being a Christian. He supports the message with wisdom from the Bible, and he’s a big proponent of generous giving. It’s good for churches when people feel financially fit enough to give, and especially when they get that lesson from someone who promotes tithing.
In fact, a recent story in Christianity Today used one church as an example of that beneficial relationship. In the article, a business administrator credits his church’s strong giving trends to offering Financial Peace University. “I can’t attribute it to anything specifically other than Financial Peace University … and obedience to the Lord’s principles about handling money,” the article quotes him as saying.
I haven’t finished the course, but Dave seems pretty clear so far on a few points. This isn’t verbatim, but: Debt is bad. Saving is good. Credit cards are bad.
But what if credit cards are used for good?
With that on my mind lately, I’ve been thinking about how it’s little wonder many churches struggle with the idea of allowing people to use credit cards to give. They want what’s best for their members, and if credit cards aren’t handled responsibly, they can cause a lot of trouble.
I’ve talked to many of our clients about this issue, too.
“All churches have a different stand on credit,” said Scott Moore, business and facilities director at Village Baptist Church in Beaverton, Ore.
Scott said after some debate, his church decided not to limit how people can give when they rolled out online giving. So far, there hasn’t been any pushback — certainly not from givers. In particular, people have responded well to being able to set up ongoing payments.
“What we’re doing is giving people a better way to do their offering. It’s better for them, and it’s better for the church because it allows us to limit those normal fluctuations in giving,” Scott said. “Instead of people maybe forgetting to drop off a check, or forgetting to put it in the mail, it’s automatic,” he said. “That’s been an absolute positive.”
Decision makers at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa, and The Church at Battle Creek in Oklahoma agreed that the credit question is one each church will have to make on its own. It’s up to church leadership – and it will depend on the unique DNA of your church.
Chris Gunnare, operations director at Lutheran Church of Hope, said they’ve allowed people to use credit cards to register for classes and missions, but they chose to set up their system so that people can’t use credit to give. He said that while many people initially were disappointed, especially those who are fond of airline miles and other credit card perks, once they understood the reasons behind the decision – including the fact that the church loses some of gifts given via credit cards because of fees – they are OK with the restriction.
The Church at Battle Creek, however, did not to put limitations on credit cards.
“A lot of churches have an aversion to accepting credit cards,” Gordon Christopher, Chief Operating Officer of TCABC, said. “But for us, in today’s world, this is the way people do business. Nobody’s encouraging anyone to go into debt, we’re just encouraging a consistent way of giving.”
What do you think?
Tell us in the comments: How has your church approached the question of credit cards and giving? What questions did you ask? What have you learned?
If you’re interested in learning more about giving, especially about online giving, visit FiveSundays.com.