Recurring Giving: What Your Church Needs to Know

Recurring Giving: What Your Church Needs to Know

Recurring giving lets your church members give every month automatically. After picking a day they want their gift to occur each month, they don’t have to touch anything again. It’s the easiest way to give. And it’s ideal for your church staff too.

But there are a lot of misunderstandings surrounding recurring giving—both from church staff and church members. Even churches that are fully on board with recurring giving often don’t know the best ways to encourage it.

We’re going to walk through everything churches need to know about recurring giving, including some of the biggest benefits and tips for increasing it.

For starters, let’s talk about what makes recurring giving different from regular giving.

Recurring giving vs. regular giving

When church members consistently give to your church every month, you might be tempted to think you don’t need to encourage recurring giving. What’s the difference? Regular giving is excellent, and it’s something believers should strive for because it reflects the posture of our hearts toward God and toward the resources he entrusts to us.

But even when someone gives regularly, there can be inconsistencies. They may give according to what they have left over each month instead of prioritizing giving. Or the amount may fluctuate due to the ups and downs of their financial situation. Or they may give on an unpredictable schedule, based on which services they happen to attend.

Recurring giving increases overall giving

Lots of people faithfully give every month. But one of the biggest differences between recurring giving and regular giving is that your regular givers have to decide to give (and how much to give) every single time. Recurring giving is consistent.

That’s why, on average, recurring givers give more. According to Nonprofit Source, recurring givers donate 42 percent more over the course of the year.

Regular giving is an important milestone on every believer’s journey toward faithful generosity. Recurring giving takes that step of faith even further by helping your members make a long-term commitment so they don’t live out their generosity on a month-by-month basis.

This brings us to a common concern church leaders may have themselves or hear from their congregation: is recurring giving “less spiritual” than other giving options?

Recurring giving is not “less spiritual”

Recurring giving is a one-time decision. Once someone turns it on, they don’t have to make a conscious decision to give each month. As a form of online giving, it also replaces the weekly ritual of passing the offering plate, which many Christians see as synonymous with tithing.

But with all that the Bible has to say about tithing, it’s clear that beyond whether we give, God is most concerned about the state of our hearts when we give (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), not the methods we use to do it. Still, some people are wary of recurring giving because tithing is a spiritual discipline, and recurring giving turns the ritual of giving from a regular practice into a one-time decision. 

The reality is that recurring giving is a decision people will be thinking about long after they’ve made it—perhaps every time they spend money. And making a spiritual discipline easier to practice allows more people to participate.

People have to plan around recurring giving

When someone decides to set aside a percentage of their income each month, it’s probably going to require some changes. They may have to cut back on frivolous spending or think more carefully about big purchases. Just because the giving process happens automatically doesn’t mean people aren’t paying attention to where their money is going.

In practice, recurring giving is similar to the way most people pay their bills. If they use a budget, giving becomes part of their regular expenses. If they don’t, they still have to anticipate how much money is coming out of their account each month and plan their purchases accordingly.

Recurring giving is a one-time decision that impacts people every month and affects their lives the same way as writing a check would—but without the hassle and without the barriers that non-recurring giving can create.

Recurring giving removes the temptation not to give

Even regular givers can struggle with the decision of whether to give (or how much to give). Every month they have to make the decision again. As their circumstances change, new desires and financial hurdles may compete with their desire to be good stewards. Some people can handle the temptation not to give. Others (especially newer givers) will have varying degrees of success.

But the spiritual benefit of regular giving comes from the decision to sacrifice our resources and trust God to provide for us. Generosity is a challenge we’re all called to live out. The logistics of how we do it is far less important than whether we do it.

When regular giving happens automatically, it removes the temptation not to give. In fact, it actually puts a barrier between that temptation and your congregation. 

Normally it’s easier not to give than it is to give, because it takes time and effort to write a check, make a trip to the ATM, or give online. With recurring giving, it’s just the opposite. It takes more work to stop giving than it does to continue, so the temptation has to be a lot stronger to prevent church members from living generously.

If there’s nothing to remember, there’s nothing to forget

It’s also worth noting: some people have the desire to give and they can overcome the temptation not to give, but they just can’t remember to do it. That shouldn’t be surprising. Most people write fewer checks and carry less cash than they used to. In fact, some people don’t ever write checks. So if passing the plate is the main way people give at your church, you’re asking them to remember something they never carry or to make a pit stop at the ATM, which they don’t normally do.

Even digital giving requires people to remember to give. Because they can give any time, anywhere, some church members may be in a constant state of waiting for the best opportunity to give. They’ll do it when they get home. When their paycheck clears. After they finish a project. Or after they relax for a bit. Distractions constantly come up, so if giving feels like something that can be done at any time, some church members will perpetually tell themselves they’ll do it later.

Recurring giving lets people act once on their desire to give, when they have an opportunity to think it through, and they don’t have to keep remembering to act on that desire every month.

Ultimately, recurring giving eliminates barriers to regular giving and allows more of your congregation to live generously and faithfully steward what God has given them. The decision to give regularly can be a spiritual battle. Recurring giving just means that once someone wins that battle, your church isn’t asking them to fight it again every month.

Recurring giving is the solution to the summer slump

Every summer churches across the country see a massive dip in attendance as church members take vacations and enjoy the weather. It’s the infamous summer slump. And unfortunately for most churches, changes in attendance mean changes in giving—because they rely on in-person giving.

But that’s not the case when your church members use recurring giving. They give whether they show up or not, because it happens automatically. As more of your congregation switches to recurring giving, your overall giving starts to look a lot more consistent from month to month, and seasons like the summer slump become less of a hurdle for your budget.

How to increase recurring giving

Recurring giving is incredibly convenient. But just because you’re sold on it doesn’t mean your congregation is all going to start doing it right away. If you want people to start recurring giving, you need a plan to encourage it.

Here are some ways you can get more of your congregation on board.

Make it the norm

Recurring giving is the best way to make giving a habit. People can enter their information once, decide when to give and how much to give, and then it’s good to go. This still feels foreign to a lot of churches, but the reality is your congregation is already used to making recurring transactions. They already have subscriptions, bills, and donations to nonprofits that withdraw money from their bank account automatically.

This isn’t new to them. That’s why we allow churches to make recurring giving the default option for digital giving within the Pushpay app. This dramatically increases recurring giving because it encourages donors to take the next step at the moment they’re most open to it. They’ve just decided to get financially involved in what your church is doing and give back to God, and this nudges them to make it a decision that lasts. 

Talk about it often

It’s never comfortable to talk about giving in church. But it’s an important part of your church members’ spiritual journeys. If you want people to give in a certain way, an annual giving sermon isn’t the only time you should be talking about it. Every week most churches announce when it’s time to pass the offering plate. This normalizes physical giving, and it’s a missed opportunity to normalize recurring giving too. 

It takes seconds to demonstrate how recurring giving works. If you want people to do it, you need to tell them about it and show them how to do it as often as you can. (To get you started, here are four ways to talk about recurring giving.)

Focus on regular givers

The best candidates for recurring giving are the people who already give all the time. For your regular givers, transitioning to recurring giving isn’t a major leap of faith or even necessarily a bigger financial commitment (though recurring givers do give more on average). It’s mostly just a matter of convenience.

Our Donor Development Dashboard lets you identify everyone in your church who gives regularly but doesn’t have recurring giving set up. Since Pushpay connects to your church management software, you can change your communications to fit the giving stage each person is in, making it easy to guide them to the next best step—in this case, that means taking them from regular giving to recurring giving.

Encourage occasional givers to take the leap

A lot of church members give sporadically throughout the year. Sometimes it’s because they give what they have left at the end of the month (and there’s not always something left). Or maybe they only give when they hear about a specific cause or fund they want to contribute toward. Whatever their reasons, some of these people would switch to recurring giving with a little nudge—but the way you talk to them about it is different than how you’d talk to regular givers.

The convenience of recurring giving is obviously nice. But for occasional givers, this may feel like a significant leap. You can send them unique communications—just as you can with regular givers—but they may need to hear more about the spiritual importance of giving and the growth that comes through trusting God with our finances. Or maybe they need to hear more about your ongoing ministries so they can be inspired to make a difference on a more regular basis.

By talking to church members where they are, you can significantly increase the number of people who start recurring giving.

Use “Recurring Suggestion”

One of the best times to encourage recurring giving is the moment someone gives. That’s why we developed the Recurring Suggestion feature. You simply turn it on, and every time someone gives to your church, they’ll get a simple, natural nudge to consider making their gift a recurring donation.
recurring giving suggestion

Recurring Suggestion is one of the reasons why most churches that switch to Pushpay see a 76% growth in recurring givers in their first six months.

Get The Ultimate Guide to Growing Recurring Giving

Recurring giving increases overall giving, lessens the impact of seasonal dips in giving, and makes it easier for your church members to participate in the spiritual practice of generosity. But if you want to increase the number of people who give in this way, you need an intentional strategy.

That’s why we want you to have a free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Growing Recurring Giving.

Download your copy today.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan was a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for eight years. Now he teaches people about the Bible on OverviewBible.com. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and three sons.