Questions re Accepting Credit Cards (part 1 of 5)

Churches which do not have online giving often have several questions which hinder them from proceeding. Here are some of the concerns I’ve run into over the past few years:

  • Online Giving (itself)
    • Making financial transactions online has been normalized by society in the past 10 or 15 years. Amazon and other online businesses have made us comfortable with spending money online and using our credit cards on our computers and smartphones.
    • In 2016, our society spent more on restaurants than groceries; in 2015, we spent more electronically than we did using cash and checks. We have moved inexorably into the age of electronic transactions.
    • I predict that by the year 2025 (maybe 2030) we won’t even be using credit cards anymore – transactions will be made using Apple or Android pay or some other electronic financial exchange system which is being created even now.
  • Fees paid by the church
    • All credit cards have fees ranging from about 2.3% to 5% of the transaction. VISA and Mastercard have lower fees while American Express has the highest. Most VISA and Mastercard providers have fees in the 2% to 3% range.
    • Remember that banks have fees on every check and cash transaction they process, albeit about 25 to 30 cents for each one and that is lower than credit card fees.
    • Fees on credit cards is very much a “cost of doing business” in today’s world. Just as every church has a copy machine and air conditioning, fees on credit cards are just part of being “in business” for a church.
    • Frankly, the fees aren’t that much. If a church gets as little as $10,000 in online gifts during the year, the fee for that is about $250 which seems pretty small when weighed against the $10K that came in.

Lead On!

Steve

 

First Time Donors

Coming to a church for the first time is frequently celebrated. People are encouraged to introduce themselves, provide contact information, and are even given coupons for coffee or food. These are good steps whose goal is to encourage the people to return again and again.

Churches can take another step which is to send a thank you note to all first time donors. The first time someone gives to a church is a big deal. It is one thing to come but it is an even bigger step to pull out your wallet and financially support the church. That action should be acknowledged.

Every first time donor should get a thank you note from a church leader – the pastor, the treasurer, or the church administrator. This simple act will take about 3 minutes per card and cost a dollar or two including postage. But the benefits of that expense will be enormous – people will comment about that for a long time and they will be genuinely surprised and grateful.

Take the time to write a thank you note. It is a big deal.

 Lead On!

Steve

 

 

Nest Camera

A few months ago I bought a Nest Camera for $200. Nest Cams are linked with a smartphone. I bought it for one specific reason but I’ve come to see a multitude of additional benefits. The camera is located in my office window and is pointed to the parking lot.

 

I bought the camera for this benefit (and why I encourage you to get a Nest Cam):

  1. Bad weather: I live in Virginia and I wanted to see from the comfort of my house how much snow had fallen at the church and whether I needed to close for the day or postpone opening the building. I even got my facilities manager to create a snow gauge so I could see how many inches had fallen. (Here’s the irony, this first year of the camera we’ve had two snow events, each of less than an inch!).

Here are the unexpected but very cool additional benefits:

  1. It uses the church’s Wi-Fi and electricity. When either the power or Wi-Fi goes out, I get an email stating the camera is offline. Wherever I am, I will know that something is wrong at the church and I need to address that problem.
  2. The camera is pointed at trailers in which we have a lot of expensive equipment for our multisite location. If someone steals the trailers, the camera will capture the vehicle that took our equipment and that will help the police. For a fee, Nest will store video from your camera. Currently (2017) I pay $10 per month for 10 days’ worth of recordings.
  3. My facilities director has access to view my camera, too. He’s getting one for the other side of building so we’ll have everything covered. Multiple people can have access to the same camera.
  4. The camera has a microphone and a speaker. It captures conversations inside my office (though the audio is very bad). Be careful with how you use captured conversations because there may be legal issues with that. The speaker on the camera can be fun – from my smartphone I can talk and whoever is in my office will hear my voice. I haven’t done that yet, but I could really scare someone!
  5. When the lights in my office are off at night, the camera easily captures everything going on outside in my lighted parking lot so I can see if there are any cars that shouldn’t be there in the evening.
  6. When the custodian comes into my office and turns on the light, the camera catches his reflection in the window pane. I also hear his conversations! This allows me to “spy” on my staff – as if I have time.
  7. Speaking of spying – some of my staff realized that my camera captures when they come to work and they believe (despite my instance to the contrary) that I monitor when they come and go. I could do that, but, I don’t have time and I really don’t care.
  8. Last month there was a violent storm. Using Nest Cam’s recording feature, I captured a seven minute video of the storm which I was able to show to my insurance company during the claim process. The video helped the insurance company understand why I was making the claims – and we’re getting a new roof!

 Lead On!

Steve

 

Cameras

Churches should use cameras to protect their most valuable assets – people. Other businesses may use cameras to protect against theft and other crimes – churches can do that, too. But the most important reason churches should have cameras is to ensure the safety and security of everyone inside the church buildings.

There are several principles which churches should follow when installing cameras:

  1. Children’s areas are the priority. If you have a limited budget, then install cameras in children’s areas first. You don’t have to install cameras in each room but you should at least have them in the halls around the children’s rooms. The goal is that no one can get into or leave that area without being on camera.
  2. Exterior doors are critical. Every exterior door must have a camera covering who is leaving through those doors. That means that the camera should be above the door pointing into the building. Most security cameras capture images of people entering. But for churches, the critical issue is who is leaving the church and are they carrying someone (a child) or struggling with someone (child or adult). Cameras facing inward will also capture anyone taking something out of the building they shouldn’t (a TV or something else).
  3. Hallways and stairs are the final priority. Cameras should also capture “long throws” of halls and stairs. These images allow police to follow a person as they walk through the building and see what their path was.

Ensure you buy quality color cameras, not black & white. Camera systems include a CPU (computer) which records about 30 days of images before being copied over. The CPU must be in a cabinet which is locked. Some systems load their images to the cloud; access to that must be controlled so that no one can tamper with the recordings or camera settings.

These systems are increasingly sophisticated. Most systems are motion activated so they only record when there is activity (and not 24/7). Others can do facial recognition and track people from camera to camera creating a path the person walked. Cameras can also be linked to your smartphone so you can monitor and control the system from wherever you are. It is amazing what is available – but they can also come at an amazing price. Determine your priorities and your budget as you enter this project.

Lead On!

Steve

 

 

A Story About Faithfulness

This is a story from a friend of my wife. It is a true story and used with permission:

 

So I hadn’t tithed for four months. I could list reason after reason why, but not one of those reasons would justify not giving God what is rightfully His to start with. 

I went to church with a dear friend this past Sunday and one of the messages I heard was on tithing. As I listened, the Holy Spirit began to work in my heart. Needless to say conviction was overwhelming. 

When I got home I not only wrote the tithe check, I took it to the treasurer that evening at Bible study. 

I got to work the next day only to be overwhelmed once again. This time not with conviction, but with gratitude. I was told of a bonus that I would be receiving later in December. And guess what??? 

It’s 3 times the amount of the tithe check I wrote. (🙊<— me)

Now I want you to hear this part loud and clear, it’s not, not, NOT about the money!!! It’s ALLLLLLLLL about the faithfulness of a loving Father who sits waiting to bless His children when we are obedient. 

I know many will see this post as putting to much personal info out there. But I can not be silent about the faithfulness of a Mighty God. He is worthy to be honored by our testimony. 

I love you Jesus!!!

H2O (part 8 of 8)

2016 05-May (12)

H2O

The Gospel of John has more symbolism than the other Gospels combined. John forcefully uses bread, light, and water – all elements necessary for human life – to teach us that Christ alone is at the core of our being. Without food, water, and light, then we are without Christ.

 

In several consecutive chapters of John, the use of water is powerful. The following paragraphs can be used a devotional meditations during Advent or, as illustrated, during Lent. They can be used to bookend a week of meditations with the first and last used as sermon material and the middle ones as material to be read during the week.

 

John 19:28-30 

Good Friday

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

  • Jesus is hanging on the cross. He has been tortured and mocked. He has not slept in days. His male friends have deserted him. He is weak from lack of food and water.
  • The first seven chapters of John have instances of God using water to illustrate his power, love, and desire to be with us. Jesus offered living water to all who would believe. And now, at the end of his life, Jesus himself needs water.
  • “I am thirsty.” Jesus wants the living water of God because he is feeling abandoned by God. Jesus is feeling the fear that he cautioned his disciples about. Jesus is disconnected from God like never before. Jesus wants – no, Jesus needs God’s water. But he only gets wine-vinegar which burns but does not satisfy.
  • When have you felt abandoned by God? What did you do? How did you go about getting God’s living water back in your life? (or have you?) What would cause you to feel distant from God in the future? What have you done when one or more of your friends has been in a situation where the friend blamed God?

 

Water is essential to our lives. Living water is essential to our souls.

 

Lead On!

Steve

H2O (part 7 of 8)

2016 04-April 12 (1)

H2O

The Gospel of John has more symbolism than the other Gospels combined. John forcefully uses bread, light, and water – all elements necessary for human life – to teach us that Christ alone is at the core of our being. Without food, water, and light, then we are without Christ.

 

In several consecutive chapters of John, the use of water is powerful. The following paragraphs can be used a devotional meditations during Advent or, as illustrated, during Lent. They can be used to bookend a week of meditations with the first and last used as sermon material and the middle ones as material to be read during the week.

 

John 7: 37-41 

Palm Sunday

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

  • Jesus proclaims to the masses that God is the source of all things. God can give each one of us a Spirit which links us ever closer to Jesus, but we are required to believe.
  • The masses believed. The masses stated Jesus was the Messiah or a prophet from God. The masses knew that Jesus was not “just” a human but that he was connected directly to God. And they wanted the living water, the connection that Jesus had with God.
  • Who is the source of your inner strength? What is the basis for your faith? Where is your “living water” coming from? How is your soul being restored daily?
  • Water is an element that is basic to all life. But God wants to give us more than just water, he wants us to have water that gives life. What’s more, God has this living water and generously gives it to all who believe in Jesus the Messiah.

 

Water is essential to our lives. Living water is essential to our souls.

 

Lead On!

Steve

 

H2O (part 6 of 8)

2016 03-March 8 (12)

H2O

The Gospel of John has more symbolism than the other Gospels combined. John forcefully uses bread, light, and water – all elements necessary for human life – to teach us that Christ alone is at the core of our being. Without food, water, and light, then we are without Christ.

 

In several consecutive chapters of John, the use of water is powerful. The following paragraphs can be used a devotional meditations during Advent or, as illustrated, during Lent. They can be used to bookend a week of meditations with the first and last used as sermon material and the middle ones as material to be read during the week.

 

John 6:16-21 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

  • A storm on the water is fearsome because boats can get destroyed by the water and lives can be lost. Fear is one of the most basic human emotions. Some of the disciples were fishermen and had probably been on the Sea of Galilee during storms. The rough sea had already alarmed them but then they see Jesus, walking on water.
  • A couple of times Jesus shows the disciples his power over the elements: he calms the sea one time and walks on it in this case. God is in control over everything, even the laws of nature which state that objects which are heavier than water (such as a person) will sink. The disciples saw Jesus standing on water and it just didn’t make sense to them. They were full of fear.
  • All of us have fear in our lives: grades, getting married, children, jobs, finances, illness, death, and too many others to count. Jesus used the water this time to show that God controls everything about our lives and our deaths.
  • God is greater than our fears. While it is natural and human to have fears, we should never let them overwhelm us to the point where we’re sinking under them. How do you handle your fears?

 

Water is essential to our lives. Living water is essential to our souls.

 

Lead On!

Steve