How COVID helped one church replace the collection plate with Online Giving

We met with Eric Brouwer, Treasurer of Immanuel’s Reformed Church and member for the last 16 years to talk about how COVID impacted this church, and how they pivoted and adopted technology to stay engaged with the congregation.  Immanuel’s Reformed Church became Stewardship customer March 20, 2020, in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What were some creative solutions that your church had to implement in response to COVID?

To help reduce attendance size we held two services in the morning and one in the evening. We have also streamed our services online so that people who can’t go, or just don’t feel right going because of COVID, can watch it on Youtube. Also with donations—you can’t pass the offering plate around anymore, so we put collection boxes at the back of the church and have started to use online giving, and we’d make sure everyone was aware of those options.

What were some ways that you stayed connected with members of your congregation?

The Deacons and Elders would call the families in our districts at least once a week just to make sure everyone is taken care of and everyone is OK. We would go out and visit or bring groceries to the people who can’t get out—like the elderly and people with cancer or other problems. Also, the pastor does online service so that people who can’t go, or just don’t feel right going because of COVID, can watch it on Youtube as well.

What are some ways your congregation responded to the changes this year? Were you surprised (positively or otherwise) by the response?

At first no one really knew what to do. I don’t think anyone did with information changing so rapidly. We started communicating more via email and reminding people about giving. Actually, the money has been more than were getting before, which has been pretty amazing actually.

What did you start doing in 2020 to engage with your congregation that you plan to continue through 2021 and beyond?

It depends on how much this last. One thing our Pastor has started doing is an Offering Prayer to encourage people to continue to give since giving is not as noticeable since we are not passing the plates anymore.

What kinds of communication worked better in 2020 than in prior years? What worked not as well?

We have been emailing and calling a lot more. Especially since even when we do meet, we are not encouraging people to fellowship outside in groups.

What were some ways that you stayed connected with your community?

Haven’t been able to do this as well as in the past since we’re not supposed to be meeting people. We have advertised our online services.

How has online giving helped your church as you navigate through this year?

It’s been nice to be able to look and see what’s there every month. You kind of know every month on average what’s going to be there because you have the same people who are faithfully giving on autopay.  It’s right in the bank, you don’t have to worry about it.  Everything is there like it’s supposed to be. And for the most part, I think 99% of the people choose to cover the administrative fees too. That’s pretty awesome.

How did 2020 compare to other years from an online giving perspective?

This is the first year we have had it. But it’s unlikely that those who are giving through it would have sent in a check. It’s nice that they have it set up to auto donate.

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