Paying for Church Ministry…Who Decides? Me or My Millennial Friend?

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A millennial friend recently told me he gives to charities that fight diabetes. He gives to his church, too – but there’s a personal connection to the cause of diabetes. His father suffers from this disease, so giving to find a cure feels just that much more personal.

I want to point out to my friend that he’ll experience an ultimate personal connection by giving to the church, too. But it turns out that this impulse may say more about my age than anything else.

For many people born between 1980 and 2000, the bottom line is that causes matter more than institutions.

A 2015 survey conducted by the Millennial Impact Project, which studies millennial giving patterns, found that this generation is most likely to give when they feel inspired by an organization. They want to know that their gifts are making a tangible difference in the world.

There’s good reason to keep your eye on the ball here. We’re talking about the biggest generation in United States history. With each passing year, an estimated 92 million millennials are growing in earning power which translates immediately into giving power. Right now, nearly 2 out of every 3 charitable dollars come from baby-boomers and Gen Xers. But this number is shrinking as millennials increasingly hit their stride.

For churches, the take away is obvious. The assumption that giving to the church budget is a given should be properly buried. Going forward, flourishing ministry will only be funded when a compelling vision for transformation is being realized by the local church. Failure to connect the dots between giving and its immediate impact will translate into meager and malnourished ministry.

Truth is, my millennial friend has a lot more to say about how and when church ministry will be paid for than I do. Instead of lecturing, I serve the church better if I listen to him…

How does he understand his stake in ministry at his church?

How does he know that his giving makes a difference?

How is this difference communicated?

The answers to these questions will only increase in value over time. They might even end up making the difference for future church ministries that not only survive, but thrive. 

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This is a critical discussion in almost all denominations and many charities. In our culture of "selfies" it is difficult to find common pursuits. As the article mentions if it "touches me" I can support it.

In the area of religion, with its ever widening (in my view) liberalization this is a real challenge. I can only speak for my knowledge of the CRCNA.  It had an issue with “women in office” and lost some 20% of its members in the mid ‘90’s. As mentioned in synod (2018) this issue, mentioning just one, from a human resources, point of view was not well managed. There are now other issues on the horizon that give (me) pause….. Uncertainty.

The slide to more liberal interpretation of scripture is well under way. Those of us with more conservative (or narrow minded biblical views in the eyes of some) feel some pressure.

In government the secular (often liberal) always wins. What was illegal 20 years ago is now celebrated. The celebration is not a problem for me except I have very little room to object to participate. 

When this manifests itself in church denominations the easiest thing to do is say nothing but stop contributing or direct donations only to those parts that affect you personally.

In some discipline an Italian professor came up with a truism. It is called the “Pareto Rule”. It posits, among others, that 20% of people do 80% of the work; same with donations to any cause. Even in taxes this is true I believe.

This means that churches should try and understand this phenomenon in their own congregations.  If their ratio is in fact 20/80 they are in a danger zone should a major controversy arise. In economics uncertainty is a very tricky thing. It can cause unforeseen situations and very quickly.

Like the article I am responding to the diagnoses is much easier than the cure! Our prayer is for wisdom.