Our parish is deploying “e-giving”, and asking people to strongly consider setting up a weekly or monthly electronic donation rather than getting envelopes. (If you sign up for the e-giving, they stop mailing you envelopes.)
The benefits for the parish are pretty obvious: the expense of sending out envelopes to nearly a thousand families are pretty high, this regularizes their income and makes it smoother and more predictable, etc. In my case, there’s actually an additional incentive to give electronically — if I have the money deducted directly from my paycheck through my company’s charitable giving campaign, they’ll match my donations, doubling the amount.
I have a certain amount from each paycheck set up to be sent to the parish through the corporate matching program, but up till now I’ve been hesitant to do all our tithing that way. There are two reasons for this:
1) When donations are made via withholding, it becomes nearly invisible to us, our income is simply lower. It seems to me that there is probably some personal and moral value in accepting the discipline of having to set aside some of the money that actually hits our bank account for the parish and other donation recipients, rather than simply having it all happen out of our sight. The fact that we could simply use the cash some other way in a tight pay period seems like it makes the action more real.
2) As parents, we’re not simply doing things for our own benefit, we also have to be conscious of how our actions model what we believe is moral living to our children. They’re already required to put a portion of their allowances into the collection basket each week, but it seems like it is probably also good for them to see us actually writing a check to put in the basket. I remember being staggered at seeing my father write checks for what seemed to me princely sums such as $30 when I was a child, and having looked over my dad’s shoulder as a child when he was writing checks before mass or during the sermon gave me a sense of what was expected of me when I was living on my own. I wouldn’t want the kids to think that giving money to the church is one of those things which children are required to do but adults don’t bother with — and having them sit down with me once a year to set up charity witholding and file my taxes does not seem like a substitute for actually seeing one’s parents spend real money every week on supporting the parish.
I see a certain value to 1), but I think it’s easily outweighed by the fact that my employer would double my donations. The parish getting twice as much money seems a fairly major incentive. However, I’m not sure how much weight to give to 2). I’m strongly conscious of the fact that while we as adults have difficulty feeling the same about more abstract processes such as electronic tithing via paycheck witholding, it’s necessarily entirely invisible to children. And I put a very high value on forming our children correcting in Christian living.
Thoughts? Has anyone else struggled with this question, and what sort of resolution did you come to, for what reasons?