I’m not sure if it’s an actual law, or simply a generally agreed upon practice, but it seems that any discussion of statistics these days must first include a recitation of the most famous statistics-related quote of all time: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Good. So now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about statistics!
As that oft-quoted witticism makes clear, statistics should be taken with a grain of salt. They may not always present the entire story. They may not be the irrefutable establishers of truth that some would make them out to be, but that is not to say that they are without value. Especially when a host of verifiable statistics are combined and compounded, they can provide insights into a reality that conjecture and anecdotes may not always provide.
The reality I want to talk about today is this: America’s giving landscape is changing drastically and it is imperative that churches change with it. And we have the statistics to prove it!
Churchgoers in 2015 are giving less and giving differently than they have in the past, and churches that are slow to adapt to these changes run the risk of significantly limiting their ministry opportunities.
With that in mind, the statistics below should serve as a call to urgency (or maybe simply a wakeup call) for the nearly 50% of Protestant churches who still offer no form of electronic giving whatsoever.
Cash usage is down, checkbooks are going the way of cassette tapes, and it’s time for The Church to get serious about providing modern giving options for a mobile world. Here’s why:
That sounds low, but how low is it? Well, for some perspective, consider this: during the Great Depression, Christians were putting 3.3% of their (assuredly meager) incomes into the offering plate. Even more troubling is this figure: 33% – 50% of church members report that they give nothing at all to the church.
While we must certainly acknowledge the role that preaching, discipleship, discipline, and generational shifts have played in this decline, we also cannot ignore the ways in which the mechanics of giving have also changed. People use and process money in a markedly different way today than they did even five years ago. Just how different? Consider this…
Now maybe that one check is going to their church, but rent seems like a more likely target. And even if it is somehow finding it’s way into the offering plate, it seems an increasingly tenuous position for churches to be staking their financial futures on a payment tool their congregation is using no more than 12 times a year. Especially when we know what tools are being used instead. (Americans transact 350+ non-cash payments per capita each year.)
Check usage has been more than cut in half since 2000, and it continues to plummet. Meanwhile, debit cards, credit cards, e-payments, and mobile payments continue to gain steam. This is certainly true among the younger generations (61% of people under the age of 24 say that they never write checks), but Millennials aren’t the only ones making the switch…
In fact, as of 2014, givers over the age of 66 were just as likely to give a gift on a website as those 65 and under. It’s no surprise that young people were some of the earliest adopters of online and mobile giving, but their supposedly check-loving Grandparents have caught up quickly in the past several years.
I mention this stat because – after cost – the most common objection I hear to online giving is some version of, “we’re a congregation of old people and none of them know how to use computers.” While demographics certainly play a role in giving trends, these statistics reveal that the old stereotype of the technologically-befuddled Senior doesn’t hold water anymore. Smart devices, social media, electronic payments, and email have pervaded every corner of our society. Including the generation that can still remember when color TV was the hottest thing around. Provide the “Golden Oldies” in your congregation with an opportunity to give online, and you may be surprised by how many respond.
The Internet has gone mobile and it isn’t going back! But really, you didn’t need a statistic to tell you that. All you need to do is look around your lobby after a service. Your members are already using their mobile devices to take notes or follow along in their Bible app during the sermon. They’re “checking-in”, posting to Instagram, tweeting quotes, and doing a host of other things that would’ve sounded like gibberish a few short years ago.
If your church’s website is optimized for laptops and desktops but not mobile devices, we’re only a few short years away from that website being unusable for over half of your visitors. Don’t wait! Start looking for ways in which mobile technology – like Mogiv! – can optimize your website and increase your giving today.
Those are four to get us started.