Could the collection plate soon be a thing of the past?
Brie Hall felt awkward the first few times she passed the collection basket at her Catholic church without tossing in a donation envelope.
But it is more convenient to give her gift to God by direct debit from her checking account.
The tradition of passing the church plate might become a relic of the past, as a majority of Americans pay bills electronically and move away from using cash or writing checks.
Despite concerns about commercializing something so personal, electronic giving to churches is growing.
“You just kind of get over it … because you know you’ve donated,” said Hall, a communications manager for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
At the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, about half of the 1,600 congregants who give regular donations do so electronically, up from 20 percent four years ago.
“For some people, they’ll never change,” said its pastor, Monsignor John Enzler. “Other people find it’s a wonderful way to do their giving.”
Along with Catholic dioceses, religious organizations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have approved electronic giving as an option for their members.
Each church can decide whether to adopt the practice, available from electronic payment processing companies since the late 1990s.
Church staff are often the toughest sell, said Vijay Jeste, product manager for electronic giving for Our Sunday Visitor, a Huntington, Indiana-based maker of donation envelopes for Catholic churches, which started offering electronic payment processing in 2009.
Reluctance to pay a fee to process collections melts away as parishes “realize that this is the way to go,” Jeste said.
“This is not an option they can put off for too long,” he said.