Online giving

Nowadays, what used to be accomplished by writing a check or paying in cash takes only the swipe of a card or the click of a mouse button.

Even the centuries-old practice of tithing has been upgraded to the digital world, and area churches are getting on board with the idea of collecting tithes and gifts electronically.

"We're becoming a paperless society," said Mike Williams, administrator and associate pastor at Lone Oak First Baptist Church. "You're going to lose contributions if you don't move to that opportunity."

The Lone Oak church has offered some form of electronic tithing for the last five or six years, Williams said. Churchgoers can set up an automatic withdrawal from their bank accounts or make one-time donations using a debit or credit card on the church's website.

He said the method of giving has caught on among the youngest and - surprisingly, to him - the eldest members of the congregation.

"I was very shocked at the number of senior adults who jumped on the bandwagon very quickly to use it. And we have young couples who go to our church, they don't even know where their checkbooks are," he said.

Some churches also offer ATM-like kiosks in their lobbies or "text-to-give" systems. Although Paducah seems to be lagging in that technology, the practice of giving via website has taken off quickly at some area churches.

Douglas Duncan, financial administrator at Heartland Worship Center, said the church brought in around $60,000 from 75-80 donors last year through its website, and has already received about $17,000 this year. About 15 members of the congregation take advantage of recurring offerings.

The technology was first instituted in 2013 as a way for people who live out of state to donate to mission trips, he said.

Donors are able to indicate which mission trip or other project they'd like to donate to when they give through the website, but can't specify which individual they're helping, Duncan added.

Electronic giving costs the churches an additional fee. At Heartland, it's 30 cents per transaction, plus 2.2 percent of the donation, with a discount because the church is a nonprofit, Duncan said.

Other church leaders say their congregations have been slower to adopt the technology.

Broadway United Methodist pastor Joe Beal said the younger members of his congregation have slowly started adopting online giving, but giving with a check or cash is still common. He estimated that 15 people from the congregation - which has an average worship attendance of 300 - give electronically each month.

"We find that it's slowly increasing among the younger people," he said. "We don't say much about it. People know it's there, so we let them find their (own) way to it. But it's a good service."

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