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E-giving allows members to tithe when they miss a Sunday
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With technology on the rise, some churches are turning to the Internet when it comes to tithing to the church.

Call it e-giving.

The Rev. Randall Popham, lead pastor at Lanier Hills Church in Gainesville, said using technology such as e-giving offers his congregation a more organized way of giving.

"Seven percent of our tithes each week come in through e-giving, and there are several reasons why we encourage it," Popham said.

One reason, he said, is it makes giving to the church possible when attendance is not.

"Even if members are not there, they can continue to support or donate to the church," he said, adding that it's also a good tool to have it you're on a budget.

"It's an easy way to give," he said. "Most people don't carry cash on them, and if they are on a budget or have a set income, it can be set up online as a reoccurring payment."

Christopher Martin, minister of administration at Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, said roughly 20 percent of the tithes received at the church come from e-giving. Blackshear Place has about 6,500 members with about 2,500 who attend on a regular basis.

The church takes both credit and debit cards, along with traditional giving methods such as check or cash. Martin said that as of yet, there is no way for supporters to use their credit or debit card at the physical building, only through e-giving.

"Although many other churches around the nation are probably utilizing the technology of giving like that, we have not explored that method (of giving) in detail yet," Martin said.

Popham said he can see offering a credit card or debit machine in the future at Lanier Hills, also. But he wants to be cautious before adding a kiosk where electronic payments can be made from credit cards.

"We don't want people to go into debt, but we do want to offer them opportunities to give and make it easy for them," he said. "As far as brand new technologies that are being offered, I'm not sure, but I can foresee us offering some sort of kiosk in the lobby where members can pay a tithe."

Crown Financial Ministries, an interdenominational ministry focused on teaching biblical financial principals, supports the idea of online giving, according to its Web site, but with certain guidelines.

Safety is one issue, making sure your credit or debit card information is encrypted over a secure Web site when the information is transmitted.

Donating through Lanier Hills' Web site is a four-step process, made easier if you already have a PayPal account.

First, contributors have the option to choose whether the donation will be a one-time gift or reoccurring.

Second, enter the gift amount.

Third, if contributors already have a PayPal account, they log in.

Fourth, click to complete the transaction.

If necessary, a PayPal account can be set up by answering a few simple questions. PayPal allows customers to safely enter credit card information one time and then use a secured account to shop online at different Web sites without re-entering account information at every site.

Popham said another option for supporters is to set up an automatic bill-pay directly from the bank each month.

"I do this myself," he said. "It's training people to have their tithe paid automatically. The first thing that comes out of my check each month is a check back to the church."

A downturn to PayPal according to Popham is a 3 percent charge that is tacked on to the payment that does not go to the church. With online bill-pay through a donator's bank, there is no fee involved.

At both churches, not only can folks tithe online, but both Web sites are set up so money being donated can be specified to a certain area, whether it be a building fund, missionary work, a tithe or special campaigns the church is supporting. Neither church has noticed an increase or difference in amounts donated since incorporating e-giving.

Kelly Edwards has been attending Blackshear Place for six years and has been a member four years - and he said he uses online giving all the time.

"I use it for convenience," Edwards said. "It's easier when paying my bills. It's also one less thing I have to take to church ... The church tries to take care of us (congregation).

"Anything we need, they try to work with us."

Financial expert Larry Burkett recently evaluated the ethics of Christians' use of credit cards, according to the Crown Financial Web site, and noted there is a line between use and abuse of them.

"There is nothing wrong with using credit cards. It's the abuse of credit cards that's the problem," he said, according to the site. "Most people do not have enough willpower to avoid the temptation to overuse them, especially online, where the temptation to buy on impulse is so much greater. We tend to think we need everything now."

Crown Financial Ministries does offer e-giving on its Web site.