I got the opportunity to meet with the pastor, and I thought the meeting was going terribly. Until the end.
A couple years ago, we messaged some pastors in the Indianapolis area to tell them what we were building. We actually got a response, and that's where the story of Pod's first church begins.
Josh, the pastor at Mercy Road Church, replied back to us and said he'd hear us out. Armed with a 3D printed Pod we made in our kitchens, we headed to the church when the day came for our meeting. I remember Josh listening to our story of how we came up with the idea during an all-school service back in our hometown of Fort Wayne, IN. Then it was his time to talk. We got peppered with questions and rightfully so. After all, we were trying to build something that had never been done yet. Plus, it had to do with church donations and members' money, so it was a subject that had to be approached cautiously. Because of all the questions that we barely had answers to at the time, I thought the meeting was trending toward a hard no. Then, we took out the barely-working Pod and showed it to him. Once he saw it in person, it seemed like everything clicked. The opportunity to give with a card during the service in one second. Hanging on Josh's every word, he ended the meeting by saying he would give it a shot at their evening service geared toward young adults. We left that meeting with a school's out feeling, but we knew we had a lot of work ahead. At this point, only two of the four sides even accepted donations, and they had no way to process donations.
The First Service
Well, we got our ducks in a row and built a working, PCI compliant device that could process donations for their evening service. We went to the first young adult service called Mercy Road Remix. There were only about 20 people there, but it was still the opportunity we needed to prove that if you give people the simplest opportunity to give, an opportunity with no resistance to generosity, that people would be generous. The Pods were passed around, and we watched to see if anyone was using it. It appeared they were, but we wouldn't know until we looked at the donations tally at the end of the service. We stayed after the service and booted up our laptops to see the results. There were about 20 people there, and the Pods brought in $200. We had no idea if this was good or not, but Josh told us that the Remix service doesn't normally bring in any donations when they pass around a basket. So, that was $200 more than they would have gotten without Pod. Imagine the generosity Pod could spark in a church filled with people.
The Big Leagues
Four weeks went by, and Pod continued to be successful during the young adult service at Mercy Road. Then, we got an email from Josh calling us up to the big leagues. Pod was going to go live at their normal Sunday services. We built more devices and the day came where they passed around six Pods. We were a nervous wreck. Our nerves quickly settled when we saw Pod was able to bring in over $1,000 the first service. People were using it, and it wasn't just young adults. Being successful in a younger crowd was good, but appealing to any age with a card on them was even better. After one of the services, I even remember someone's grandma coming up to us and saying how she used the Pod for the first time.
We knew we needed hard data to show that Pod was increasing their offering. We had to give it time though as every church has peaks and valleys to their giving throughout the year. So, we gave it a year, and we got with Lisa, one of the church's team members, to talk about their numbers. We looked at the offering data from before Pod was implemented and compared it to the offering numbers with Pod included. After taking into account any growth the church was having, Mercy Road had increased their offering by 57.9% simply by adding Pod. Yes, I rounded up to 58% in the title of this blog post, Sorry for the clickbait.
Fast forward to today, and Mercy Road is seeing around $12,000 per month in Pod donations. In a single Sunday, they've actually done up to $6,000 through Pod.
"We were the first church to use Pod, and at this point, we couldn't stop using it for our offering."
And that's the story of how a small piece of hardware created a big movement of generosity at Mercy Road, the first church to use Pod. Josh, if you ever read this, we'll always be grateful you took a chance on our idea.