How One Lutheran Church Made Giving Easier

If you just take a quick look through the social media feeds of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott, MD, it’s clear the church loves to help its neighbors.

When a flood hit the area in May of 2018, the First Evangelical Lutheran Church (FELC)  partnered with other local Lutherans to provide necessities for impacted families. Church volunteers tutor kids at a local elementary school on a regular basis.

And, much to the church’s credit, it has a broad vision of who its neighbors are—a vision that extends all the way to Puerto Rico and beyond. When FELC had an opportunity to help victims of last year’s devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, the people of FELC stepped up in a huge way. They gave more than $22,000 to the effort—much of it through digital means.

It’s something the church couldn’t have done just a few years earlier.

A Rocky Giving Experience

As a church with a passion to be involved with its neighbors, they needed an easy way for people to give and participate in these efforts. At the time, the church had a digital giving solution, but it was clunky and complicated to use for both the end user and the staff. To give, you had to fill out an extensive form, which then had to be approved. You couldn’t give immediately, even if you wanted to.

Plus, you had to give the same amount from the same checking account every single time.

Pastor Mike Louia knew something had to change.

The average American spends five hours a day using their phones. Most Americans expect to make most of their financial transactions in mere seconds, with mobile tech. They’re buying music, books, dog food, ice cream—and everything in between—on their smartphones. And they’re doing it in just a few taps.

But to top that, FELC sits in a “bedroom community” of both Baltimore and Washington, DC. It’s affluent and full of high-tech, high-skill workers. For FELC to continue engaging their community, a poor giving experience couldn’t continue to be the norm.

“We wanted to do two things when we started looking into a new giving solution,” Pastor Mike says. “First, we wanted to increase the opportunities for people to give. Second, we wanted to give them opportunities to do that as quickly and easily as possible.”

Giving Made Easier

Another church that had implemented it the year prior told FELC about Pushpay. As Pastor Mike and other church leaders looked deeper into Pushpay, they liked how simple the platform made giving for the end user.  

Although FELC was looking first for a giving platform, they loved the idea that they’d get a mobile app through Pushpay. Realizing that people spent a bulk of their day on their smartphones, the church wanted to engage people throughout the week—even when they weren’t on the church’s campus.

As church leaders discussed the platform, some were concerned because a portion of every donation goes to fees. One member wanted Pastor Mike to explain this to all potential donors.

“No. Here’s the deal,” says Pastor Mike, who was in banking before going into ministry. “I won’t do that because I don’t stand up there and tell everyone who gives $10 in cash that the bank actually charges us to take that money. The bank actually charges us to clear those checks. That’s part of our service charge. The banks don’t process our paperwork for free no matter how it’s coming through.”

Not long after signing up with Pushpay, the church saw an improved giving experience.

“I think the biggest thing we’ve experienced is the ability to enable people to give as they feel called to give, as opposed to having to jump through a whole lot of hoops to make that happen,” Pastor Mike says.  

Realizing that the mobile app, and particularly giving through the app, would require a learning curve for many in the congregation, Pastor Mike modeled making a gift during a worship service. He notes some were apprehensive when he pulled out his phone in the middle of the service.

“When I explained to them I was making an offering not checking my email, they calmed down a bit!” Pastor Mike says.

A Mobile Hub for the Church

The church saw a five percent increase in giving the first year, but it may be the new app that made the biggest difference. It has become a hub for the entire church family.

“It’s the way we get prayer requests in,” Pastor Mike adds. “It’s the way our congregation listens to sermons if they miss church. It’s the way they have access to the calendar. Some of our Bible studies will pull up the Bible that’s attached to the app. Some people read our newsletter on it because we make that available.”

When Pastor Mike gets the chance, he tells other pastors he knows about the effectiveness of Pushpay. He focuses on just how easy a Pushpay giving solution and mobile app is for the church to administer.

“When you get in that first year, there’s a giving-increase guarantee,” Pastor Mike says. “If you follow the five-step process to roll it out, it’s not hard to do. It’s not complicated for those of us who are not computer programmers. Someone who knows what they’re doing makes it work. There’s a little bit of maintenance we do on our end for reporting, but it’s not very challenging. It’s really a low-risk experiment.”

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