In this photo taken on Aug. 2, 2018, Aaron Rodewald, an operations and finance manager at St. John's Church, demonstrates a device that allows churchgoers to donate money using contactless payments, in Hoxton, London. Thousands of Christian churches across the world are now using portable card readers or apps to take donations as people increasingly stop carrying cash on them. The Church of England says 16,000 religious sites now have access to portable card readers. In the U.S., hundreds of churches have installed kiosks where the faithful can swipe a card to donate. (AP Photo/Robert Stevens)

Tap and pray: Churches using card readers for donations

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of Christian churches across the world are now using portable card readers or apps to take donations as people increasingly stop carrying cash on them.

The Church of England says 16,000 religious sites now have access to portable card readers. In the U.S., hundreds of churches have installed kiosks where the faithful can swipe a card to donate. Others are popularizing smartphone apps where money can be sent over at any time.

"How we pay for things is changing fast, especially for younger churchgoers, who no longer carry cash, and we want all generations to be able to make the most of their place of worship," said John Preston, the Church of England's national stewardship officer.

The technologies vary from donations via website to apps and physical screens set up at the church. The contactless card reader, which can be passed around the pews like the traditional offerings plate, is a newer evolution that the Church of England in particular has been adopting.

It struck a deal with contactless payment companies iZettle and SumUp to create a system that all its religious sites can install. It takes Apple Pay and Google Pay but can also be used with a PIN code if needed.

The innovation seems to be yielding good results.

A startup that makes donation apps for churches in France says that the average contribution is two to six times higher than cash donations. Obole Digitale's smartphone app is used by 34 dioceses that represent over 5,000 churches in the country.

That may also be due to the fact that electronic donations tend to be worth more than the small change people carry in their pockets.

St. John's church in London has a contactless card reader with preset donation sums ranging from 5 to 50 pounds ($6.50 to $65.50).

Graham Hunter, the vicar for St. John's, says about a quarter of all voluntary donations are now via contactless payments.

He adopted the new technology after noticing open-air market traders in London using contactless readers for payments.

"In everyday life, people go into cafes and into supermarkets and they're used to paying with contactless all the time," he said.

His congregation includes 23-year-old Zoe Mathias, who rarely carries cash, unless she's lost her debit card.

"I'm very glad that our church has entered into the 21st century with contactless payment," she said.

The money raised is used on building upkeep, children's activities and to stage events for the local community.

Hunter said the church realized it had to make up for a drop in cash donations and that technology is helping to do that.

He hopes embracing innovations like contactless card payments will show churches can be modern, forward-thinking places. St. John's once installed a free public Wi-Fi zone in its garden, so passers-by could surf the web while on their lunch break.

"The Bible describes god as the chief technical officer, the CTO, a chief technician, an architect of all that is to come. So, God is creative and produces new technologies and so should we," said Hunter.

Comments

  1. “we want all generations to be able to make the most of their place of worship”

    What has “making the most” of anything got to do with paying more for it – other, perhaps, than doubling up on the sunk cost fallacy.

    Can I not get “the most” out of a sunset, a garden or a piece of music unless I pay something for it?

    Methinks a more morally valid statement might be something like “we want all generations to be able to pay the most to their place of worship”

  2. “Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

    But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money!” ~ George Carlin

  3. One of my favourite comedy routines regarding religion. He also pointed out that if you put a “WET PAINT” sign on a park bench people will touch it to check – but tell them there’s an invisible man in the sky who loves them and has prepared a hell for them they’ll accept without question (I paraphrase).

    Dara O’Briain is very funny on religion as well.

    On the subject of money – it seems odd to me that a god who is omnipotent would rather that his believers beggar themselves and their families, disadvantage their kids against their peers etc. when all he’s got to do is command it and a gold bar appears in the church safe. Ever get the feeling that God isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer?

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