the shape of leadership

Unleashing Millennial Generosity

Five ways to encourage giving among today’s young adults

Jesse Wisnewski on August 20, 2018

Millennials are changing the charitable-giving landscape.

They are the largest working generation in the United States, and by the end of 2018, millennials will have the most spending power of any generation. But it’s not the sheer size of their numbers that is changing things. It’s their values, expectations and a different way of doing things compared to older generations that are paving a new path.

As with every generation, inspiring millennials to give has its challenges. But there are also significant opportunities to encourage them to become generous givers in Christ.

Here are five tips from church leaders around the country on how to unleash the generosity of millennials in your church:

Lead Them to Participate

Millennials are eager to support your church, but not in the same way as their parents or grandparents. They’re less attached to religious institutions than older generations, and they don’t just give out of a sense of obligation.

“The why is more important than the what for them,” says Daniel Im, director of church multiplication at LifeWay Christian Resources.

Pete Wilson, president of The A Group and founding and former senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, agrees.

“My observation was that most millennials were not motivated to give out of a sense of obedience like many generations before in the church,” Wilson says. “Instead, millennials are more motivated by making a tangible difference through their giving.”

To capture this passion among millennials, Wilson created a program called The Dollar Club while at Cross Point Church. This served as a starting place for many people to experience the joy of giving. The church collected $1 from every person in the congregation, and then spent that money on someone in the community who was in need. The church was careful to capture this experience on video to share with the congregation.

When these videos were shared with the church, Wilson would say something like, “If we impacted a life in that way by just everyone giving $1, imagine the difference we could make in our community if everyone were actually generous with their money.”

In your church, create ways for millennials to participate in small acts of kindness to give them a taste of the joy of giving.

Share Stories

Sharing stories of God’s work in your church is a natural way to inspire people to give.

“Millennials are inspired to give through compelling vision and storytelling,” says Nils Smith, the chief strategist of social media and innovation for Dunham+Company.

Create ways for millennials to participate in small acts of kindness to give them a taste of the joy of giving.

“Tell the stories of all that God is doing and has done through your church because of the generosity of the congregation.”

Don’t check out at this point if you don’t have an epic story to share. Millennials aren’t looking for entertaining stories in your church. They want to hear how the Christian faith influences your everyday life.

You can create meaningful connections with millennials by sharing stories to which they can easily relate. Mark Tenney, founder of Digital Church Marketing, suggests sharing stories about how real people’s lives are changing because of your church.

As you reflect upon the life of your church, can you talk about how someone recently placed their faith in Jesus? Is there a new baptism you can celebrate? Did God recently restore a marriage in your church? Has someone overcome crippling anxiety, depression or stress?

Let people know how God is working through your church in the community and around the world.

“Paint a picture and tell them the story that their giving is fueling,” Im says.

Build Relationships

There’s a loneliness epidemic today. And research suggests millennials may struggle the most with isolation. Even though millennials easily connect with people online, they want to build relationships through face-to-face interaction.

A pitch from the pulpit may not be enough to inspire generosity among the members of this generation.

“Teaching about generosity connected to mission is best done in a personal setting,” says Daniel Irmler, general director of ProChurch.

From one-on-one meetings to small-group settings, have open conversations about personal stewardship and money with the millennials in your church.

Be Transparent

When it comes to giving, millennials want to know how your church handles its finances. According to David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, “Millennials live in an era of radical transparency, powered by social and digital tools.”

If you’re not already providing information, plan to talk about your church’s financial well-being. From offering weekly or monthly updates to creating annual reports, let your church members see a clear picture of your financial situation.

Transparency in your finances will go a long way toward capturing the generosity of millennials in your church.

Provide Digital Giving Opportunities

Millennials are digital natives. Unlike their parents and grandparents, this generation grew up in an online age.

Whether connecting with family members and friends on social media, reading the news or banking, millennials are accustomed to using computers and smartphones for daily activities. So, it’s no surprise that many millennials prefer to make donations on their devices.

Make it natural for millennials to give by offering user-friendly online and mobile giving solutions.

Instead of seeing these changes in charitable giving among millennials as challenges, approach them for what they are: new opportunities to disciple the next generation.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Influence magazine.

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