ATMs added to churches raise concern by some.
The church is a place of worship. Many churches, no matter the denomination, emphasize on a particular way of life. Churches promote the spirituality of their members, encouraging them to lead prayerful lives free of sin. They encourage their congregants to repent when they do commit sins. And they also emphasize on certain values in their members- faith, love, unity, empathy, and generosity.
Generosity in the church is usually marked by a person’s deeds towards others and his giving toward the church. This last value has sparked controversy in various churches in the states as people question the church’s latest method of collecting donation, offerings, and tithes.
It started in 2007 when the Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Georgia, introduced several ATM-like kiosks where members could withdraw money on their way to church. Dr. Marty Baker, the head of the church and the brainchild of the ATM-in-church idea, said that the point of the kiosks was to make it easier for congregants to get money and offer it to the church. Most people these days leave paper money and coins at home in favor of credit cards, therefore the church should give people a medium to use their plastic money in worship, Baker argued.
Among Christians, the idea of having ATMs in the church has raised ambivalent feelings. Some congregations are vehemently opposed to the notion, saying it shifts focus from the church’s atmosphere of worship. These opponents argue that putting ATMs in church encourages people to think of the sacred places of worship as business places. Similarly, it encourages people ‘to flaunt’ their donations on the church. Todd Rhoades, the editor of an online evangelical platform called MondayMorningInsights.com, argued that it also promotes bankruptcy as people give to ‘show off’ only to end up crediting all their money to the church.
Some Christians stand on middle ground on the issue. Some Roman Catholic Churches in the US, for example, are not ready to embrace ATMs in church but say that they will participate in future. Other Christians, like Rhoades, are more cautious about the ATMs in church idea. “They should only use debit cards,” Rhoades stated. Rhoades is not the only cautious one. Rev. Kanika Magee, the Associate Dean of Chapel at the Howard University, whose church also has an ATM, said that so long as people donate within their means using cards, then the ATMs were acceptable in church.
Proponents of the idea argue that as the world goes digital, the church should too. Others, like Danielle Lewis, a student who goes to the Howard University church, says it is ‘cool and ‘convenient’ to have an ATM-like machine nearby. “Sometimes I forget my tithe or offering, so I just withdraw from the machine,” Lewis stated. Similarly, Baker noted that his church noted an increase in donations when it introduced the ATMs to the church lobby. Baker’s church is one of a majority of churches that are rapidly embracing digital offerings and donations. According to a poll conducted in Dallas, over 50% of the 200 churches questioned accept credit and debit cards.