The Adventure of Giving
Four keys to harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of Gen Z
In 2002, three college buddies from North Central University in Minneapolis biked across the country to raise money for Speed the Light, a youth missions ministry of the Assemblies of God. Out of that trip, Venture was established to help churches use creative means — from trail runs, to bike trips, to Everest base camp treks — to raise money for missions.
We’ve challenged people to see the lost and broken in the world, read Scripture, and do what Jesus calls us to do. In response, those people have raised more than $20 million for the lost, the poor and the oppressed of the world.
Some church leaders worry about the future of giving. A recent report from Barna Group found that the likelihood of expressing generosity primarily through monetary support declines with each generation. Yet the youngest generation, Generation Z, is more likely than any other to give generously through volunteering and service.
The good news is young people want to get involved, and we can harness their energy and enthusiasm for the Kingdom.
Through our experience and research at Venture, we have identified four keys to engaging the next generation in missions giving:
Make It a Challenge
Invite young people to do something beyond just giving. Culturally, there is a shift in the way people give. Rather than just donating money to a cause, students and young adults want to do something more significant.
In recent years, activity-based fundraising movements like the Ice Bucket Challenge have demonstrated the potential of creativity and social media to inspire giving.
Isaiah 58:10 captures the ethos of the younger generation’s passion: “Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” This generation wants to do more than write a check. They want to engage in the mission.
Participants see themselves as catalysts for inspiring others to get involved. Young people are far more likely to share their faith within this context, because they are proud of the work they are doing.
Young people want to get involved, and we can harness their energy and enthusiasm for the Kingdom.
Over the past several years, we have seen incredible growth in challenge-based fundraising through events like 30forFreedom, which has raised more than $600,000 for Speed the Light anti-trafficking projects by inviting students to run various distances from 5K to 30 miles.
Make It Tangible
Help individuals understand the power of their giving by connecting specific amounts of money to specific outcomes, like providing a meal for a child, purchasing a Bible for someone who does not have one, planting a church where there is no knowledge of Jesus, or rescuing a girl from trafficking. This inspires both the participant and donor, and creates a way to talk about the immediate and eternal impact of missions.
For example, Venture uses the impact unit $1 = 10 delivered meals. So instead of setting a goal to raise $500, the goal is to feed 5,000 people.
Make It Just
The greatest injustice is for someone to have no opportunity to hear the gospel. The emerging generation is very aware of the justice conversation. This is an opportunity to teach about biblical justice, which invites us to care for the widow, the orphan, the refugee and the poor, while emphasizing the destitute nature of all who are spiritually lost apart from Christ. We can use the justice conversation to point this generation back to Scripture and back to a burden for the lost and broken.
We partnered with one youth group who held a local 5K to raise funds to fight human trafficking. The students used the common agreement that little girls shouldn’t be trafficked to serve as a bridge for starting conversations with their unsaved friends. The fundraiser became the platform to witness to the world about the sacrificial compassion of the Church.
Make It Social and Digital
The emerging generation wants to take part in something bigger than themselves. They are looking for an experience to share with others — both in person and across their social media platforms. If young people can access tools to create user-generated content, like photos, videos, stats and impact, they are exponentially more likely to get involved, stay involved and involve others.
Venture has developed an innovative fundraising platform and app, Venture Miles, that connects GPS tracking with crowd fundraising for real-time measurable impact reporting — showing how the miles and funds translate to life change. Best of all, it allows individuals and groups to create their own challenges based on what they are passionate about, and share these with their friends — all to raise funds for missions.
The future of missions is resting on the next generation. Engaging this generation has never been more important, but it’s also never been more exciting!
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 edition of Influence magazine.