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PayPal is Going After the “Unbanked”


“For folks who don’t have bank accounts, for folks who don’t have credit and debit cards, we want to give them something so they’re not turning to prepaid cards, check cashiers and payday lenders.”

– Bill Ready, EVP and Chief Operating Officer at PayPal (via Techcrunch)

While churches often state that their intention is to go after the “unchurched,” there is seldom any strategic significance to their intention.

For example, have they decided to cut out offering time altogether because the “unchurched” is skeptical of church giving?  Have they decided to replace the worship service completely with team-based social action because the “unchurched” is not interested in a worship show?

Usually, the answer is no.  Instead, they often say that the difference is in how “intentional” they are about certain things.  But, such intentionality, if not without strategic implications, is ultimately empty in terms of impact to church growth.

PayPal’s next business direction to go after the “unbanked” is a great case from which churches going after the “unchurched” should note two things in particular:

  • PayPal will still collect a fee, but not for the same things as a traditional bank
  • PayPal will partner with traditional banks for new digital financial services, but it will not replace banks because they don’t want to become a bank

Why is this so significant for ministry?

First, many “new” churches have not made enough strategy decisions based on their target population.  Traditional churches expect weekly worship attendance, small group participation, a commitment to serve in a leadership role, and financial giving at 10% of income.  All of these are barriers to entry for the “unchurched.”  So, in what way is a church of the “unchurched” offering something strategically different than the traditional?

Second, many such churches, which are small, tries to do everything a large church would do and they try and do it on their own.  In the end, their leadership structure resembles that of a large traditional church (just as a smaller version) and this puts a great strain on leadership resources which are quite limited as the “unchurched” do not stay in one place forever for anything (unless that “place” changes along with their life) and their participation should realistically be considered something temporary, albeit long temporary.  Could churches for the “unchurched” somehow explore partnerships for traditional church things while specializing in “unchurched” things?

Here’s PASTORIA’s bottom-line question for ministry:

What strategic significance is there to your ministry’s mission and vision?