I attended a missions conference at a very large church in the Orlando area six years ago and was struck by a machine sitting in the lobby. At first, I thought it looked like an ATM. But it wasn’t. After a closer look, I discovered that this curious machine was a giving kiosk.
What are Giving Kiosks?
Giving kiosks are touch screen devices that allow people to make credit and debit card donations to their church. To use a giving kiosk, simply swipe your card and follow the instructions on the screen to complete your transaction.
The earliest ones – like the first one I saw – were big like ATMs. Today kiosks come in many shapes and sizes from flat panel computer screens sitting on a custom-made pedestals to iPads mounted onto stands.
Our church recently installed two giving kiosks – one in the atrium outside our worship center, the other at the opposite end of the building, in the lobby closest to the church offices. They’re flat panel displays mounted on a custom-made pedestal.
Giving kiosk use is on the rise – especially in larger churches like ours, but they’re not without controversy. Some people like them, and others don’t. Here are a few reasons why.
Why Some Don’t Like Church Giving Kiosks
1. Some churches don’t want to accept credit or debit cards because of the added cost and paperwork.
Accepting credit and debit cards is a big leap for some churches because of the added cost and paperwork. However, the reality is that credit and debit cards are here, and they’re here to stay. And many people prefer the convenience of using their cards instead of carrying cash or writing checks. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my children will rarely, if ever, write a check.
2. Accepting credit cards may encourage debt.
Yes, it is possible that credit card use may encourage someone to go into debt. However, in 14 years of ministry (including several years as a financial coach), I’ve yet to meet someone who got into debt trouble because of their charitable giving.
If churches are concerned about this, they should talk about it with their people from the pulpit and in written communication. And of course, many churches, like ours, regularly offer financial counseling to help people get out of debt and be a better steward of their finances.
3. Giving kiosks may commercialize the church.
Some churches just don’t want any kind of money to be transacted in the church building except for when the tithes and offerings are received. They feel that a giving kiosk would make it feel more like a bank and less like a house of worship and prayer.
Why Some Like Church Giving Kiosks
Fewer people carry cash and more prefer to use debit and/or credit cards for their financial transactions, including their giving. Everywhere I go, I use my debit card: at the doctor, stores, restaurants, gas station, etc. Why not the church?
2. More options.
People like having multiple, and easier, ways to give.
3. Kiosks increase overall giving.
Surveys of churches that have installed giving kiosks show that overall giving often increases within a few months of the kiosks being installed. They note that the kiosks provide a visual reminder to everyone – whether they use the kiosks or not – of the opportunity to give.
4. Kiosks increase the number of first-time givers.
Many churches report an uptick in first time new donors using the kiosks than they would have received before the kiosks. Kiosks provide an easy, non-threatening way for new people to make their first gift to the church.
5. Giving kiosks provide a secure way to give.
Kiosks are more secure to use for debit and credit card transactions because the donor doesn’t have to fill out a form with their card number on it, or give their card number to church staff over the phone.
Giving Kiosks: Passing Fad or Here to Stay?
I think giving kiosks are here to stay and that their use will continue to grow in the digital age and the increasingly cashless society we’re living in.
As the technology has advanced, giving kiosks are more simple and affordable than ever, allowing churches of just about any size to find an option that is right for them.
Are giving kiosks right for your church? Would you use a giving kiosk at your church? Why or why not?