How Millennials Have Changed the Way We Give
How do we respond to the change that Millennials are bringing to the church? Assuming that they want to be members of our church, some interesting considerations must be taken into account. We are not just talking about newcomers; instead we are specifically interested in reaching out to that group who are thirty-somethings.
Millennials are children of the information age: shunning chequing accounts for e-transfers, accessing Wikipedia.com for instant clarification rather than reading through reams of documents in an encyclopedia and touching base with friends via text, Instagram or Snapchat while avoiding telephone landlines altogether.
As a group, Millennials have the potential to provide the greatest shakeup to the church in decades (perhaps longer). We already know that they have the capacity to give, but they want giving to have an impact. It is not sufficient to “just give” as previous generations have. More than ever, parishes need to develop narrative budgets, expose young people to the ministry of the church and to invite them to take on leadership roles that are appropriate to them.
In a 2014 article, Today’s Christian notes that “church leadership is still dominated by those of our parents’ and grandparents,’ and the hierarchy is usually pretty entrenched.” This seems rather typical for most congregations as older members have more time, skill and experience. The generational difference this time is that Millennials aren’t prepared to wait. If denominational identification is less salient among young people and the opportunity to get involved isn’t there, then they will just go elsewhere.
This new way of thinking and engaging young people will have a profound impact on the collection plate — providing one will be passed around. Already many parishes have adapted to using Pre-Authorized Giving (PAR) for their collections. Imagine a day when we are cashless and cheque-less.
The parish of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew in Saint John, New Brunswick seem to be ahead of the ball on this one. To my knowledge, they are the first Anglican church in Canada to have installed a debit/credit card machine in their narthex. The usage of “giving kiosks” seems to have gained traction with some evangelical churches in the United States and given the explosion in the use of technology across all sectors, it’s only a matter of time before they become common place in our parishes as well.
The Diocese of Toronto is currently exploring “text-giving” and will pilot an initiative later in 2018 to see if there is widespread interest in this giving vehicle. I know of one parish in our diocese that uses this method and generates about $2,000 per month in donations. Online giving has increased significantly in recent years, but we need to learn how to motivate giving using the internet; connecting with young people where they tend to gather online.
It might come as a surprise to some, but direct mail continues to be a lucrative and successful medium to connect with the Duty Generation. More and more, however, Millennials lump all unsolicited mail into the category of junk.
All of this is to say that demographic change is impacting the way that people give. Soon, we can expect a church where: the collection plate will not be passed, all congregational giving is done through some electronic means, churches will have giving kiosks in the narthex, financial planning is taught side-by-side with stewardship education and all program registration will be done on-line.
Millennials are ushering in a whole new way to give to ministry. We need not fear the change that is coming because it is already here. The challenge with older generations is to be flexible enough to embrace the change quickly and and make it part of our ministry experience .