Church ATMs: Collection Plate Evolution

Susan Valadez, left, and her husband, Michael, use a kiosk outside Stevens Creek Community Church in Georgia. Pastor Marty Baker refers to the ATMs as
Susan Valadez, left, and her husband, Michael, use a kiosk outside Stevens Creek Community Church in Georgia. Pastor Marty Baker refers to the ATMs as "automatic tithe machines." (By Rainier Ehrhardt -- Associated Press)
By Greg Bluestein
Associated Press
Sunday, December 17, 2006

MARTINEZ, Ga. -- At the Stevens Creek Community Church, God takes credit cards.

Debit cards, too.

Two "giving kiosks" sit just outside the church's chapel, next-generation collection plates that allow churchgoers to swipe their credit or debit cards and instantly send donations to the church.

Pastor Marty Baker likes to call the black terminal ATMs "automatic tithe machines."

"We're just trying to connect with the culture," Baker said. "And that's how the culture does business. It's more than an ATM for Jesus. It's about erasing barriers."

Baker came up with the idea three years ago when his east Georgia church was preparing for a fundraising drive. He realized that, like many in his 1,100-member congregation, he rarely carried cash; he hired developers to find a way for his flock to pay with plastic.

They cobbled together a prototype that he set up at his church in early 2005.

Since then, the evangelical church has seen an 18 percent bump in donations -- and an average gift of more than $100 each time a card is swiped.

The results encouraged Baker and his wife, Patty, to form a for-profit company, called SecureGive, that sells the terminals for between $2,000 and $5,000 apiece and charges a $50 monthly subscription fee. By the end of the year, they expect to have terminals in 15 spots across the country.

The kiosks are fairly simple to use. After typing in a phone number and pin number, users swipe a credit or debit card. The terminals allow users to give to a specific fund, such as a building drive or a mission. The ATM spits out a receipt.

At Stevens Creek, where services begin with flashy light shows and an in-house Christian band jams out salvation songs, the embrace of technology has helped foster a sense that this congregation is on the cutting edge.

"We're real. We're in today," said church volunteer Dorna Adams. "We're here where society is at."


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