Why Waffle House is Smarter than the Church

In 2006, Waffle House made a big move.  No longer was it a cash only establishment as it had been since its inception in 1955.  It purchased the technology to accept Visa and MasterCard.  Bring on the plastic, people, and save your change for the jukebox!

Waffle House’s leadership saw a problem, and they tackled it directly.  They wanted more money, so they utilized technology to achieve that goal.

Church today isn’t facing a similar problem—it’s facing the exact same problem.

I didn’t eat at Waffle House because I didn’t have cash, and many people don’t give to their churches because they don’t have cash.

Here’s another way to put it: most churches take cash and checks only.  Most people never have cash or checks on them.

 A couple weeks ago I spent an afternoon at a Barnes and Noble bookstore.  I paid particular attention to people in the checkout lane.  I wanted to see how many of them paid with cash.  In two hours, I saw one person pull actual bills out of his wallet (must be on the Dave Ramsey plan!).  Everyone else: swipe and go!

There’s certainly nothing wrong with carrying cash or stroking checks.  The goal is not for you to remove opportunities for people to place those things in your offering bucket.  The goal is for you to add new methods for people to give in different ways.

The easier you make it for people to give to your church, the more people will give to your church. 

Conversely, the more difficult it is to give, the less people will give.  So why not take some steps to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible?

#1. Get a Kiosk.  When you read the word kiosk, do you break into nervous cold sweats?  It’s a strange word, but it’s not brain surgery.  Kiosks allow your church to accept debit card payments on the spot.  Creating that simple option will increase your tithing instantaneously.  But you must embrace the technology.

Would putting a kiosk in your church lobby seem equal in your congregation’s eyes to putting in an alien space ship?  Here’s a simple fix—don’t call it a kiosk.  Call it a “Giving Station” or the “Debit Card Tithing Area.”  Get churchy with it.  Call it the “Electronic Stewardship Space.”

There are great companies out there that can help you get started (check out securegive.com).  If you’re worried that credit card givers will dig themselves deeper into debt, you can set up to accept debit cards only (no credit cards).  How many people do you know give their way into debt?

#2. Offer Automated Recurring Giving.  Automated Recurring Giving sounds just as crazy as kiosk, doesn’t it?  Automation allows people to get online and set up their tithe to draft from their bank accounts on a recurring basis—weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  Your church needs to have this service available on its website!

I—like everyone else—used to write checks to pay my bills.  Because I’m not naturally structured and systematic, however, I would often forget certain bills or pay them late.  When I discovered that I could set up bill paying online—and actually set the draft date from my bank account for most bills—it was equal to the day I discovered the Butterfinger Blizzard from Dairy Queen!  Knowing that all my bills are being paid—and paid on time—that’s awesome!

I think paying my mortgage is important, and I think tithing is important.  So both of those payments are deducted from my bank account online.  They both happen on set dates each month.  And they both actually happen!

Some objections: “You’re making it too easy.”  “If there’s little effort, is it truly a sacrifice of the heart?”

When the earthquakes devastated Haiti in 2010, Red Cross expedited relief efforts by allowing people to text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 bucks.  The amount they raised?  $7 million dollars (read the full article here: http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/14/technology/haiti_text_donation/index.htm)

I texted.  Twice actually.  Was it too easy?  Did it not come from my heart?  Because I didn’t write a check and mail it to Red Cross, did that make my contribution less valuable to them, or less meaningful to me?  I don’t think so.  What it did was allow me to be a part of a $7 million dollar relief movement.

Kudos to Red Cross for the idea.  And kudos to you if you allow people to be a part of the movement of giving to their local church.  Every time they give, it does something in their hearts.  And whether it’s cash or a kiosk, a check or a recurring deduction, a passed bucket or an open iPhone, they will feel it.  And they will be playing a part.  And you will have more money to effectively reach, touch, rescue, encourage, and minister to people.

Waffle House did it.  You can, too!

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