By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Englewood First Baptist Church collected its offerings as always — through the offering plates on Sunday morning.
When churches were forced to suspend in-person services for several weeks at the onset of the pandemic, many churches in Tennessee were not prepared.
On reflection, First Baptist pastor Russ Maples acknowledges the church likely should have had an online giving option already in place.
“It was foreign to us — out of the box — from what we traditionally had done,” he said.
As the church considered what to do, Maples learned from his director of missions (Mike Farmer of McMinn-Meigs Baptist Association) that the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board was assisting churches that did not have online giving capabilities.
“We knew that many of our churches might have some difficulty in receiving their normal tithes and offerings because they weren’t meeting in person each week,” recalled William Maxwell, administrative director for the TBMB.
Also, setting up their own online giving system might not make logistical or financial sense for some churches, he noted.
“We (TBMB) already had an online giving platform in place and it was a fairly simple process to create the unique designation on our platform for TBMB to receive those funds and then disburse them back to the church. It was one more way for TBMB to serve our churches during a time of crisis,” Maxwell said.
Rick Workman, controller for TBMB, added that the service was “an effort to help churches maintain a giving income stream from their membership during the shelter at home crisis.”
Workman explained how the process works. “Basically the church ‘piggy backs’ on the TBMB online giving account. When requested I quickly set up their dedicated giving web page,” he said.
“Church members give to their church designation using any of several payment options. Then, TBMB sends those funds directly to the church’s bank account. It is all digital and does not involve mail,” he added.
What’s more, there is no cost to the church except for the actual transaction fees that TBMB pays our online service provider, Workman continued.
“The process is safe and secure. We are committed to assist churches in this way as long as it is needed to get through this crisis.”
Workman noted that 26 churches utilized the giving option in 2020 and that $202,551 flowed from church members to their churches through the TBMB, an average of $28,000 per month.
Meanwhile, Englewood First Baptist is glad they were one of the churches that sought assistance from TBMB, Maples said. He noted online giving provided members a way to continue to give to the church in a manner other than mailing checks.
“Some of our younger members had been asking for an online giving option,” the pastor noted. While most members continue to write checks, others like the convenience of online giving, he added. The church will do both in the future, the pastor said.
Englewood First Baptist also began streaming services for the first time during the pandemic and it allowed the church to reconnect with some members who had moved outside the church’s “geographical footprint,” Maples said. Some of those members began to give online and, in addition, the church received several one-time contributions, much of it through online giving, from those who viewed the live-stream service.
The pastor noted that in time the church will transition to an online account of its own, but for now continues to utilize the service provided by TBMB.
“This (the online giving) would not have happened had they not provided the expertise and knowledge to get us set up initially,” Maples said.
For more information about how to utilize the TBMB online giving option, contact Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org. B&R