Direct Debit replaces offertory plate in the C21st

by Michael Ford last modified 25 Sep, 2019 10:21 AM

The traditional offertory plate may soon become obsolete as more congregations in our Diocese embrace the use of direct debit giving as part of the ‘Giving For Life’ stewardship programme that has seen an increase in the generosity of givers.

Direct Debit replaces offertory plate in the C21st

Original photo courtesy Parish Buying

Just over 2 years into its roll out in our diocese, over 25% of parishes are now registered with the programme with 1,722 giving through the Parish Giving Scheme.

Generosity is at the heart of our Christian journey and more specifically, how we respond to God’s generosity to us, both as individuals and as a church. And here in the Diocese of Salisbury we encourage a positive approach to church finances which underpins the Diocesan theme of Pray-Serve-Grow.

‘Giving For Life’ (GfL) was launched by the Church of England in 2009 and is now used in over two thirds of dioceses, with more continuing to join.

Our Diocese has been a member for 21 months and, in that time nearly a quarter of parishes (110) have taken the straightforward step to register with the scheme.

Sarah Bamber, Hon Treasurer for Swanage PCC said that they had gained tremendously from the PGS:

"Not only do we receive our tax refund more quickly, we have enlisted the vast majority of 'regulars' many of whom were happy to sign up to the annual inflation element.

"The volunteer time liberated by not having to count so much cash and fill in laborious tax forms has been appreciated and the time used on other projects both within the Treasury Team and outside it. Financial planning is also easier."

Designed to replace envelopes and standing order, the ‘Giving For Life’ (GfL) was launched by the Church of England in 2009, but is owned by its member dioceses, like the Diocese of Salisbury.

John Kilbee, Diocesan Mission & Stewardship Advisor for the Ramsbury Area said:

"The programme has benefits for both donors and parishes: there is the ease and simplicity of its operation and the fact that it offers an automatic inflation increase option able to raise a donor's giving in line with RPI each year.

"It also allows for the monthly collection of Gift Aid (currently 25%) from HMRC and of course it simplifies the Treasurer’s job.

"For those parishes that are a member of the scheme, the main question is: why did we not join earlier?"

Gary Mantle, Treasurer at St John’s Pewsey said that the introduction of the PGS at his church was very straightforward:

"The monthly gift aid and claims has improved cash flow and most people have opted to increase their giving each year in line with inflation.”

Priscilla Moxey, Treasurer of St Lawrence Hilmarton is also a fan:

"PGS has enabled not only the regular worshippers, but the non-church parishioners in Hilmarton to support the ongoing running costs of the amazing Grade 1 listed building in the village.”

Mark Merrill, who is the Treasurer at St Laurence, Downton has managed to convert around 80% of his regular givers to the Parish Giving Scheme:

"PGS has been a major benefit to me as Treasurer as it reduces a lot of the admin and recording needed and also ensures that we get our gift aid within the month of the donation."

Brian Piper, Emmanuel/St Mary’s Church Treasurer in Weymouth says that PGS allows him to budget more accurately:

"I know the Gift Aid is available much sooner than the existing methods of having to make a claim to HMRC on a quarterly basis."

The Archdeacon Visitations suggested Churches find an opportune time to review the check list and then incorporate any learnings into the plans for the next year. Some key questions are:

- When did you last hear a sermon that included a message on stewardship, generosity or giving money?
- When thinking about how your church communicates with givers is it purely related to costs or is it driven by a clear vision for the future, giving in the context of discipleship and enabling the church’s mission and ministry?
- When did your PCC last send a thank you letter to your planned givers?
- When did your PCC last ask the congregation to review their giving?
- Is your church using the Parish Giving Scheme (see below)?
- Has the PCC agreed a legacy policy and communicated this to the congregation?

As you look forward to the rest of the year, why not consider the following questions:
- Why has our parish not joined the PGS when so many parishes have taken that decision?
- Have we discussed the PGS at a recent PCC meeting?
- What are the real barriers against us joining such a popular scheme?

If you are from a parish not yet registered, isn’t it time you set about doing so? It is simple – just contact Carolyn Cropp in the Diocese Office on 01722 411955 and she will provide you with the necessary registration form and a supply of explanatory leaflets. If you want to know more of how the scheme works or its benefits, contact your Area Mission & Stewardship Advisor (Ramsbury: John Kilbee 01249 760776, Sherborne: Ian Bromilow 01258 880044).

And what about Contactless Giving (paying by card or mobile phone)? At a collection offering at General Synod in July that is how gifts were taken! Various options are now available at very reasonable prices through Parish Buying. If you think this is a little too advanced for your parish or village remember this may not be the case as newer and younger members attend and want to use methods of supporting the church more suited to their modern way of life. Again, speak to your Area Mission & Stewardship Advisor for details.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Diocesan and Parish finance:

1. Is the Church of England rich?
Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and took away much of the Church’s ancient wealth. Yet even into the Victorian era, the Church was a considerable rural landowner which generated substantial rental income. To their credit, the Victorians started the process of selling much of this land to help build churches in the towns and cities growing up as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Today most of the Church’s assets (other than church buildings, offices and clergy homes) are in the form of stocks and shares. These are managed by the Church Commissioners (very well, as reported by the financial press) and are valued in excess of £7bn. The income from these investments is largely used to pay clergy pensions. Otherwise the Church at all its levels (national, diocesan and parochial) has endowments, investments and reserves but not of sufficient quantity to pay for anyway like all of its activities and commitments.

2. Many wonder why the Church of England which only a few generations ago largely provided its ministry “free”, now despite having fewer clergy, looks for ever increasing levels of giving from its members?
The answer is primarily threefold:
i) The costs of running the Church (paying properly for our clergy, funding our church mission and the upkeep of our buildings) have in recent years significantly outstripped inflation
ii) The contribution made by the Church Commissioners has at the same time decreased significantly
iii) Regular attendees at church and those seeing themselves as members of a church have been falling for some years now

3. How and by whom are clergy paid?
Our bishops are paid by the national church. All other members of clergy are paid by their respective dioceses, of which there are 41 in the Church of England. All paid clergy receive a stipend (wage or salary), housing and a pension. The days of each parish paying their clergy directly and how they wanted have long gone (usually dependent on a wealthy benefactor). It is unsurprising, therefore, that a major amount (usually 75% and more) of each diocesan budget is made up of the costs of remunerating, training and the work done by its clergy. In the Diocese of Salisbury we have 437 parishes with most sharing their clergy within multi-parish benefices. Each diocese uses a mechanism or system to recoup its annual net costs from its parishes. They will all seek to do this on a fair and equitable basis.

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