The what? I confess that until last week I had never thought about that or even heard that phrase used. What is a pro-digital pastor? According to a new study, Meet the Digital Donor, produced by the Barna Group, a digital pastor is one who is thinking strategically about how digital giving opens doors. They found that 68% of pastors strongly agree that it’s important to offer opportunities for digital giving, and 57% strongly agree that digital giving is good for their church.1.
Do you think strategically about how digital giving opens doors? If you are not, you might find yourself struggling to meet your budget needs in the future. Why? Because the commerce world is fast becoming a digital-only playing field. Meet the Digital Donor reports that 25% of Boomers and 34% of Elders prefer giving online. That’s in line with the online preference reported by Gen Z at 32%, Millennials at 25%, and Gen X at 30%. The article states, “Giving online through a website is as common as giving cash in person. Thinking about the last time they gave, an equal proportion of people (22%) say they did so through each method.”
The Meet the Digital Donor study reveals that American church members are open to multiple giving platforms, but are pastors pro-digital enough to capitalize on this? The Barna report addressed this by saying, “Digging deeper, there are distinctions when the data is broken down by the size of the church’s annual budget. The more money in a church’s annual budget, the more strongly pastors agree with positive statements about digital giving. Meanwhile, pastors of churches with smaller budgets are less enthusiastic about digital giving and more likely to be concerned about technological advances and their impact. Only 45 percent of pastors in churches with annual budgets under $150K—compared to 73 percent of pastors with church budgets over $500K—strongly agree digital giving is good for their church. Pastors of churches with smaller budgets also express greater concern about the dangers of relying on technology.” As our society and congregants lean further into digital commerce, pastors and Christian leaders must become pro-digital to stay financially solvent and to teach and train the Next Generation of donors.
The data in Meet the Digital Donor clearly shows the need for churches to provide a robust online giving platform. But it also showed another crucial area where pastors must step up and become pro-digital pastors, stewardship education. Where do Americans learn about finances? Here is a startling statement from the report, “the internet now has as much influence as one’s inner circle of close friends and family when it comes to financial instruction. The Barna study had these statistics.
- Two in five U.S. adults tell Barna that talking to close family or friends (41%) is one way they learn about finances.
- An equal proportion (40%) gets this valuable information through internet research.
- Social media, an even more specific digital option, has taught about one-fifth of adults (18%) something about money.
- Over one-quarter (27%) learn about money from a financial advisor. Do you think a financial advisor will stress the importance of the tithe to a young couple?
Do you know where they are NOT getting financial instruction? From pastors! The Barns study states, “By comparison, an external voice without this financial specialty—pastors / religious leaders—is rarely consulted on the topic (8%). Though practicing Christians (that is, self-identified Christians who say their faith is important to them and attend church at least monthly) are more likely to say pastors or religious leaders help shape their money mindsets, it is still a relatively low percentage (17%).”
Pastors are only shaping 17% of their congregation on money matters! This is an alarming statistic made even worse when you look at how the Barna study broke this down by generations. At a time when we are facing a huge transfer of wealth and our SBC donors are aging, only 11% of Gen Z is talking to a pastor or religious leader about finances, compared to 12% of Millennials, 9% of Gen X and a shocking 2% of Boomers. This means your largest donor group by dollar amount given, Boomers, are not seeing their pastor as helping them be good stewards. It’s time we all become Pro-Digital Pastors!
Here are some quick ways you can become a more Pro-Digital Pastor!
- Make sure your church has the most effective, up-to-date, and robust online platform. I write for https://www.onlinegiving.org, and we have multiple platforms providing ease of access, full security, and multiple options by which to give.
- Use this site to provide inspiration and education about giving and its impact.
- Elevate every offering time, linking how giving impacts eternity and communicating how people can give.
- Plan and execute a regular sermon series every twelve to eighteen months, supplemented with a small group or Sunday School strategy to teach biblical stewardship.
In 2012, I wrote a book titled The Top Ten Stewardship Mistakes Churches Make. Number one and chapter one was The Disconnected Pastor. Out of fear of losing attendance, if we talk too much about money, most pastors never preach about money and finances. The majority have disconnected from anything financial. We have thus forced our members to look elsewhere for financial advice and help.
Like it or not, the world has changed to be digitally driven. While our theology stays the same, our methodology must change to be financially stable. That demands pastors become connected to the stewardship process, and in this 21st century, you must be a Pro-Digital Pastor!