The generous financial gifts of a local church congregation are the backbone of sustaining a local church. Money and giving are twin topics that are often taboo in a local church, and this can obviously inhibit giving and cripple the financial situation of a ministry. It isn’t very fun to think about, but doing ministry does cost money, and the generous giving of church members is needed if the church is to serve their community in tangible ways.
One of the greatest giving pain points in local churches is encouraging giving among young adults. Research shows young people trust churches and church leaders less than their parents or grandparents did at their age. This lack of trust can often lead to a lack of giving. Then, their lack of giving can hobble the ministry of the local church.
How does a local church encourage young families to give? Here are three practical steps:
1. Make recurring giving simple.
Very practically, churches must make recurring giving as simple as possible. Once upon a time, churches could count on members remembering to bring their tithes via check or cash every week, or perhaps once per month. With the digital revolution and the relatively recent phenomenon of electronic bill paying, few young people (including people well into their 30s and even 40s) carry cash or checks with any regularity. If your church only has physical giving options available, with no opportunity to automate giving electronically, you’re missing out on a lot of potential to make giving easy for this generation.
Young people are much more likely to regularly and generously give to the local church if they have a way to do so electronically. This obviously has nothing to do with the discipline of generosity that should be important to all believers. Not having an opportunity to give to a church through the internet is no excuse for not giving at all. But local church leaders should recognize that friction can be reduced for young people who want to give by providing plenty of opportunity to set up recurring giving via an app or other kind of payment service. This will ensure regular giving from young people.
But how do these people begin to give generously, rather than just consistently? See steps two and three.
2. Make your values, not your programs, the focus of giving.
Church culture changes over time. This is only natural and has happened generationally for hundreds of years. Worship styles change. How people prefer to gather changes. Preaching styles shift. The Word of God and the message of the Gospel stay the same, but all of the contextual pieces around “how to do church” are pretty fluid.
One way these changes have been manifested in our current context is in how young people view church. Evangelical churches in the late-20th and even early 21st centuries were built on programs. Many young families around the turn of the millennium flocked to churches with the coolest children’s programming, the nicest facilities, or the most fun youth ministry. Do many people still choose churches and generously give to churches for these reasons? Most definitely. But the tides are turning away from programs and more toward values and community.
Plenty of statistics abound about how young people make more decisions based on values than generations who have come before. Young people today are more likely to give to your church because of your values than they are because of your programs. Quality church programming became such an integral part of local church ministry that it was almost commoditized—quality church programming could be found anywhere. Now, with a generation of young Christians who have seen some of their most beloved Christian leaders fall out of ministry because of moral failure or even criminal behavior, they are more likely to give generously to a church with whom their values align and who they can trust than a church with the coolest children’s ministry programs or facilities.
That last point, focused on trust, is our third and final step:
3. Make your church finances and budget transparent.
There is absolutely no reason that church finances and budgets should not be transparent to church members. This doesn’t mean church staff need to project their salaries up on the big screen once a month, but it does mean that church members should have a breakdown on where finances go, so they can make an educated and confident decision as they give.
Church leaders who provide no transparency into how church money is used or how budgets are made have no leg to stand on when it comes to wondering why church members aren’t giving. Young people are more skeptical of church leaders and their authority than any generation in modern history. Church leaders today need to earn the trust and respect of young church members, and when it comes to money, trust and respect is earned with transparency.
Young families will give generously when they realize their values align with the church’s values and when they are assured that the people collecting and spending their money are trustworthy and of Christlike character. Then, churches can encourage frictionless, consistent giving by providing young families with electronic means to set up recurring giving.
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