By Joy Allmond
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Jason McGuffie was at a local Southern Baptist associational meeting last October, he heard a presentation on online giving trends. The information he brought back to his church with him sat on his desk—until recently.
“No one was super excited about the idea of online giving and many didn’t see the real need of it,” said McGuffie, who pastors Fair River Baptist Church in rural Brookhaven, Miss. “People like dropping the envelope in the plate.”
The presentation at the associational meeting included information on Generosity by Lifeway’s digital giving platform. Sometime later, a member at Fair River who handles technology solutions approached him about the prospect of incorporating online giving.
McGuffie, along with his church leadership, investigated Generosity by Lifeway. They liked what they saw and made a recommendation to the people of Fair River to implement this online giving platform. It passed without opposition among the congregation.
For McGuffie and his congregation, this came at just the right time: It was launched on Friday, March 20—two days before their first coronavirus-induced, socially-distanced livestreaming worship service.
“This pandemic is making us rethink all we’ve ever known and done as a church,” said McGuffie. “Not just from one aspect, but from every angle of ministry. I’ve called pastors for numerous issues in the past, but there’s no playbook for this. But we’ve already gotten an overwhelmingly encouraging response—from all ages and technical abilities.”
Since March 19, more than 1,000 churches have registered and are being onboarded for the Generosity by Lifeway “Special COVID-19 Giving Plan,” ready to use this Sunday.
The plan, which can be accessed at LifeWayGenerosity.com/coronavirus, provides any church with a custom online giving page that can begin receiving gifts within 48 hours.
With the offer, churches will pay no set up fees and no monthly subscription fees. The service does not require any technology or website experience.
After providing minimal information, Generosity by Lifeway creates and hosts the giving page, which the church only needs to promote to their people.
“The COVID-19 offer where our team is creating customized online giving pages for churches and posting them live is just the first phase of our support for churches,” said Todd McMichen, director of Generosity by Lifeway.
“Within 30 days we will reach out to all who have registered and gift them the comprehensive Generosity by Lifeway digital giving system with more than 100 training videos. We have no intentions of pulling back, but are leaning in.”
And Lifeway’s commitment to supporting customers, said McGuffie, is another reason he and his congregation are not only enthusiastic, but comforted to use the giving platform in these uncertain times.
“The name ‘LifeWay’ brings confidence and trust,” he said. “I think the Lord allowed these dots to be connected in the church before the coronavirus. He was allowing our minds to wrap around this moment before it even came.
“I also can’t speak enough about the way in which the Generosity team goes about serving customers. Kyle Blankenship, who led us through the demo early on, asks about how our church is doing. And it’s so comforting to be able to call and talk to the same person and have a real-life conversation.”
Several states away in Orange County, Calif., Karo Ku, lead pastor of Overflowing Community Church—a one-year-old church plant of the North American Mission Board and Generosity by Lifeway user—says keeping the mission and vision in front of a congregation is just as crucial as providing a way for them to give online.
“Generosity by Lifeway helps us engage with people not just to be able to receive donations, but it serves as an invitation for people to be part of our journey of reaching people with the gospel—to continue to pray with us and walk with us,” said Ku.
He explained that part of this mindset comes from the heart of a church planter.
“As a church planter, one of the first things I needed to do was share the vision of our church; it wasn’t just about financials,” said Ku. “When people catch the vision of the church they want to be part of that journey in every way. People understand there are bills to pay, but they also want to be a part of making disciples.”
And part of Overflowing Church’s vision, Ku explained, is to make disciples among the nations right here in the U.S. He leads a multi-lingual congregation, and although Overflowing Community Church is in an altogether different context from Fair River Baptist Church in Mississippi, they share the confidence in the Lifeway brand recognition and the comfort afforded by ease of use.
“I’ve tested with multiple giving platforms,” said Ku, who onboarded with Generosity by Lifeway in February 2020. “Lifeway gives us the option to embed the tool into our own website. I don’t want people to have to go to a different website and try to figure out how to be part of what God is doing through our church.”
McMichen said this coronavirus pandemic will affect churches for many months and the Generosity by Lifeway team wants to do all they can to make sure churches have what they need to thrive in ministry.
“I think a lot has changed about how we collect the offering, but the moment of the offering being holy to God and worshipful for the person giving has not changed,” he said.
“As I watched many church services online last weekend, I would encourage pastors to make sure they place the offering moment more in the middle of the service and spend a little more time on it. Living generously is really important to how we connect with God personally. Our people need that connection now as much as ever.”
McGuffie added that having this easy-to-use digital platform minimizes the distractions of the day and helps churches focus on their mission.
“What we’re all going through right now is so much larger than the traditions and routines and norms and preferences—even in the way we give,” he said. “But I think the church is going to come through this stronger than ever.”
Ku shares the same hope for the church—and her givers.
“We want to be a blessing to the community,” he said. “And Generosity by Lifeway helps us emphasize that people are not giving to us, but through us.
“This is the season many churches are looking for solutions. I hope churches understand giving isn’t ultimately about money, but about being a pipeline for the gospel.”
Joy Allmond is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.