By Rachel Libick
Mention Millennials and money, and images of Ramen-eating college students crying over student loan bills might come to mind. Despite our famed empty wallets, Millennials are, in fact, a generous generation, and we are ready and eager to discuss and live out a stewardship-mindful life. The challenge is having those conversations in a way that fosters active communication and comprehension.
Here are some suggestions from a Millennial on how to approach stewardship for this generation:
1. Please don’t come to the conversation expecting us to be resistant.
According to the Millennial Impact Report by research group Achieve, 84% of Millennials gave money to charitable causes (which includes houses of worship) in 2014. We want to do what we can to make a difference in the world. The impulse isn’t limited to the Christians in this generation—it’s all of us. It’s built into the fabric of our thinking. Discussions about tithing don’t need to come from a place of convincing us of our duty. The Millennials I know give what they have—time and talent—more generously than I’ve ever seen. Couching sermons or conversations about tithing in terms of, “I know it’s not fun” or “I know you don’t want to” can come across as belittling and make it hard for us to tune in to the rest of the message.
2. Be transparent and clear about how tithing works.
We are an enthusiastic, but skeptical group. We were brought up on stories of televangelists running scams and charities spending more on director bonuses than actual aid. Our passion for positive change is perhaps only matched by our understanding that simply giving money on command might not actually create that change. Talk openly about where the money goes. Help us see how we are actually furthering the Kingdom by giving. (There are some great resources at www.nazarene.org/stewardship that help explain how the World Evangelism Fund works and the use of mission gifts across the denomination.)
3. Give us a voice wherever you can.
Millennials love to collaborate. We think in terms of problem-solving, especially when we are passionate about something. For those of us who are born-again Christians, our love of Christ spills out through this simple question: “How do I most effectively be His hands and feet?” We tend to look for ways to use our talents and strengths in volunteer projects, even if we don’t have much money to drop in the plate. And that means when you talk about local budgets and goals, we’re likely to have suggestions and ideas. When you talk about supporting missionaries in other parts of the world, we’re likely to ask if there’s something specific we can do. Don’t ask us to just nod and smile. Let us become the Church of today by helping allocate resources and finding creative ways to use our tithes to reach out to others. Otherwise, we’re likely to tune out.
4. Listen without defensiveness.
This is perhaps the most important point I want to share. When we voice our ideas and suggestions, it is not meant as an indictment of the job that has been done, or the decisions that are already in place. Rather, it is a desire to always be doing better than we did before. We aren’t trying to disrespect the pastor, or the denomination, or the general superintendents, or the Church Universal. So when we start conversations with, “What if we did…” or “Why do we…,” understand that our desire is for ideas to be discussed and understood. If we see shoulders stiffen and hear answers like, “Things are already set…,” it’s likely to discourage us from donating our money to the Church. We believe we have a seat at the table when it comes to furthering the Kingdom. We’re just trying to use it.
5. Feel free to challenge us.
Fuller Theological Seminary recently conducted a study asking what young people want out of their church. 40% of respondents specifically mentioned that they want to feel “challenged” by their church. Despite all the Millennial tropes, believe me when I say we already know that life is hard and living a life of faith is harder. We’re not expecting everything to be laser shows and lattes. So whether it’s Faith Promise or asking for more volunteer hours for a new ministry, or simply talking about the faithful habit of tithing, please hold us accountable and push us to live out our faith. We will thank you for it.
– By: Stewardship E-Newsletter