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The Ethics of Giving: The Psychology of Automation— Defaults Matter!

By Greg Funderburk, Minister for Pastoral Care

You probably make dozens of money decisions everyday: Should I save more? Pay off debts? What about these expenses for the kids?  How should I invest? Have I paid the bills on time?

We tell ourselves, “I’m going to get control of all this. I’ll start saving, stop spending as much, keep a budget, invest smarter and give to the church.”

Consider the possibility that it’s not about willpower. More than anything else, the psychology of automation is critical to successfully directing your money where, in your best moments, you want it to go, and even to getting overall control of your finances.

In one study, researchers found that making 401(k) accounts opt-out instead of opt-in — in other words, making employees automatically participate, although they could stop at any time — raised contribution rates from less than 40% to nearly 100%.

If you really want to begin giving to your church, contribute more, make your giving to the church more consistent, or avoid the stress of catching up at the end of the year, you should consider automating your giving. If you find you’ve been too ambitious or find you can do more, your decision can always be amended or ended. 

This month in what we call our Stewardship Campaign, we’re seeking to elicit commitments from each other by which we not only ensure we can do all the mission and ministry work envisioned in our church’s plans as reflected in our recently adopted 2020 budget, but more importantly, pursue a new maturity in our congregation’s discipleship. These twin aims can both be accomplished by automating your commitment. Defaults matter!


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