Millennials are integral to the church’s finances – both present and future. The majority of Millennials are out of college and in their careers. They are currently 18-38 years old, meaning their financial influence will only grow over the coming decades as more and more enter their prime earning years. This is why it is important to look at reasons Millennials give.
Yes, Millennials do give, it is just in different ways and for different reasons than previous generations. Millennials currently make up 26 percent of the U.S. population, and 84 percent regularly give to charity. This is higher than Baby Boomers (72 percent of whom give regularly), although Baby Boomers on average give a larger dollar amount.1
It is commonly known that Millennials often carry high levels of student debt, buck tradition, are averse to institutions, demand inclusion and have little patience for opaque leadership. It is also known that Millennials are usually zealously generous, empathetic toward suffering and work hard to fight inequality. For these reasons, the church must look inward to determine how to make Millennials more engaged in church stewardship.
One of the greatest strengths of the Millennial generation is its focus on serving others. Millennials want to give tangibly to people they know or who are nearby. This does not mean giving a Bible to a person who is homeless, it means feeding, clothing, and sheltering the person who is homeless.
In a Christianity Today article, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra states, “Volunteer opportunities might be why more than half of millennials said they’re more likely to support ministries that benefit their community (53% vs. 47% of older givers).”2 Zylstra continues by explaining that Millennials are more interested in providing food, water, shelter, sanitation and education. They’re also more likely to support caring for the poor and orphans, addressing injustices, or advocating for a cause, whereas older givers tend to be more interested in charities that evangelize, translate and distribute Bibles, teach Christians, aid in disaster relief, or strengthen marriages or families.
Millennials are more likely to give to causes than institutions. This is partly because institutions involve an inherent lack of transparency. Money is spread around to multiple departments, making it difficult to know what cause is actually being supported.
Millennials have little patience for a system that seems bureaucratic and rigidly traditional. Kevin Miller explains in Church Finance Today, “Because Millennials tend to be skeptical, it’s impossible to communicate too clearly or too exactly where all the money is going.”3
The Adventist Church is an institution, but one way to make Millennials more aware of what causes they are supporting through their gifts is to make this information more public. If their local church has its own causes that help the community, publish how much of their tithe dollars go to that cause and talk about it from the pulpit. The Adventist Church must be as transparent as possible and must feel more like a cause than an institution.
Millennials should also be asked to take on more decision-making roles within the church. If Millennials choose where the money is going, they will be more likely to give. Tina Jepson, a writer for CauseVox, emphasizes this in her article about how to encourage Millennials to give to your organization: “Millennials aren’t just a subset of your donors, they’re your organization’s future. They are your upcoming leaders, board members, and donors. Therefore, it’s important to understand their interests, desires, and capacity to get involved.”4
Millennials do not tolerate inauthenticity. Miller continues by stating that you must “Run each statement, fact, goal, or idea you plan to communicate through a brutal-honesty filter, because the Millennial generation is conditioned to distrust the institution and to question the inauthentic.” This means that exaggerated needs will cause Millennials to distrust your overall message.
Be honest about the needs, shortcomings and goals. Do not treat tithe or church giving like a fundraiser, and do not gloss over financial issues the church may be having. If you pretend your church has no needs or exaggerate your church’s needs, you will not be believed.
If your church is not helping fulfill the basic needs of those in your local community, it will be difficult to convince a Millennial to give to your church.
Finally, Millennials want to see and be part of the impact of their giving. This means local causes will be more likely to encourage giving. Zylstra states that of Millennials, “Nearly 1 in 3 looks for volunteer opportunities when considering a donation.” Millennials do not want their giving to end when they put their dollar in the plate. They want to go to the food pantry, help with the clothing drive or be involved in assisting with the local refugee population. If your church is not helping fulfill the basic needs of those in your local community, it will be difficult to convince a Millennial to give to your church.
- “The Ultimate List of Online Giving Statistics.” March 17, 2018. Nonprofitssource.com.
- Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “Figuring Out The Millennial Christian Giver.” Christianity Today. June 12, 2017.
- Miller, Kevin. “Raising Money From Millennials.” Church Finance Today. November 2012.
- Jepson, Tina. “Millennial Giving Trends: 2 Insights Fundraisers Must Know About This Generation.” CauseVox.com. Aug. 15, 2017.