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7 Patterns Churches Need to Change to Increase Millennial Generosity Blog Feature

By: Brad Leeper on October 14, 2014

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7 Patterns Churches Need to Change to Increase Millennial Generosity

Culture | Events | Leadership | Millennials | Church Construction | Managing Facilities

Millennials approach church and giving differently from other generations. Yet with all of the signals of the giving pattern shifts, church leaders find it difficult to implement the changes needed to elevate their generosity culture. Why is it difficult to implement change to make giving easier for Millennials?

Here are seven possible reasons:

1. Church leaders tend to be older and less aware of trends.

Leaders tend to be older and are not generally aware of trends outside of their tribe. For example, in working with church boards, invariably at least one leader will make a case that giving should be done during the worship service and by placing a check or cash in the basket. This pattern may seem right and be important for many, and especially for older adults, but it’s not true for all people. After all, not all people even have checkbooks anymore.

2. Pastors are more likely to have been raised as givers and are not in touch with how younger believers give or think about finances.

When I ask pastors what percentage of their church gives more than 10 percent of their income to their church, pastors often think the number is much higher than the typical 8 to 14 percent that the data shows. Pastors tend to be out of touch with how to appeal to the generosity of young adults. They tend to be healthy in their private financial world and have a hard time understanding how others think or behave in their financial contexts. The solution for changing giving behavior is not appealing to obedience—the typical prescription to fix a church problem.

3. Unclear expectations in why and how to give in a church context.

Rather than offer clarity in giving, leaders tend to emphasize the same patterns that got them to this point—only louder. Teaching on tithing (rarely builds sustained giving), making a case to meet budget, or threatening a bad news scenario (we have to terminate staff) are common tactics, but they don’t actually inspire generosity.

4. Church tribes tend to be risk averse and do not reinforce giving changes.

When I suggest changes in church giving culture, the most frequent question is, Can you tell me other churches that are doing this? With all the courage church leaders can offer, there tends to be an organizational braking system that discourages change. Not until a leading church takes a risk and sees success does another church think it is okay to at least try something new or different.

5. Change in church giving behavior and patterns seems to be, well, unspiritual.

The church has traditions that go back hundreds of years. We assign spiritual value to those patterns, which are honorable and right, but may not be as spiritual as we think. Best practices of 1950, 1970, 1990, even 2000 are probably not the same best practices now. I have had a few churches, for example, that have stopped passing a basket, but still do an offering segment in the worship venue. More than 60 percent or more of giving comes from outside the worship service. The constantly empty baskets that crisscross the aisles tend to be a negative reinforcement.

6. Leaders do not know what the emerging best practices are.

There are simple practices a church can implement that will change giving patterns. Many of these practices challenge older patterns.

7. It’s not about the budget, but about the vision and kingdom impact.

Church leaders tend to think in financial terms around the expense side of the budget. An assumption exists that the budget is sacred and meeting budget is what drives givers. Younger givers are much less loyal to the organization and are looking for authentic life impact. If we speak in church-centric terms, givers tune leaders out. If we speak in giver-friendly terms then we have their attention and a joyful heart. It is just easier to default back to the traditional church budget language.

No matter how much we aware of Millennial patterns, the change only comes when we overcome our hesitancy to change patterns.

 Brad Leeper is president of Generis, a generosity consulting and church fundraising company. Be sure to download the Year-End Church Giving Guide by Generis.