Stop Asking Millennials to Donate

March 1, 2016 | | Stewardship | stewardship, millennial

Counter-intuitive to what many of us think Millennials have more potential for effective stewardship than any other generation before them. We need however, to change our vocabulary and our messaging.

A Pew Research study found that Millennials have a strong, intense religious affiliation. More than one-third of religiously affiliated Millennials (about 37%) say they are a strong member of their faith. That’s higher than both Boomers and Xers. Another significant difference between young adults in the church today and those in previous generations is that Millennials will invest in causes that they believe in more than a willingness to support the church’s general operating budget.

So how do you tap into that potential and get Millennials to be part of your church community, participate in its ministries through giving and become conduits for getting the word out about who you are and what you’re doing?

  1. Relationship Building. Millennials grew up under educational philosophies which emphasized group work, teamwork, and crowd-sourced problem solving. They are convinced if enough of them get together they can make a huge difference and make the world a better place to live. Imagine the impact it would have if that were happening in the church in significant numbers! Millennials are highly relational but they demand and deserve that those relationships be authentic.
  2. It’s estimated that Millennials communicate with over 300 people a day through technology like social media. Plans made in the virtual world become real in the physical world. Stewardship is no exception to this dynamic. As we tell our stories, share our values, give testimonies to our experiences, technology enables our ministry to become tangible shared experiences. By sharing our ambitions, dreams, visions and actions, we can utilize the connectedness of our millennial brothers and sisters to help us stay aligned with our goals and inform, invite, and inspire others to join us in our work.

Amy Webb, who forecasts digital trends for nonprofit and for-profit companies, says, “Our culture is changing pretty dramatically. That sense of ‘I need to give out of obligation’ is not going to be around 20 years from now.”

Stop asking young adults to donate, or even to give. Invite them to make an investment. To a millennial, who’s grown up in a very different world, one that’s more participatory because of the digital tools that we have, they want to feel like they’re making an investment. Not just investing their capital, but investing their lives in something bigger than themselves. If we can help them see the value in the ministries the church is involved with; the lives that are impacted; and the good that you’re doing Millennials will invest not only their money but they will show up, bring their friends, and share the experience with the world. “Let’s take a selfie!”

5 responses to “Stop Asking Millennials to Donate”

  1. Eric says:

    “Invite them to make an investment.” I love that. Amen!

  2. Glenn Scheyhing says:

    Has a study been done with Millennials in our Conference? I’m interested in how a national study “breaks down” at the local level (for application/relevance purposes).

    • Richard Hendrickson says:

      What I shared in the blog are characteristics we’re seeing across a generation. I don’t believe the Millennials in our conference would be any different. Check out

  3. This is why we built to help young people find and fund their Missional Adventures! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jim Gleason says:

    Rich, a very timely topic and sharing. With the challenges in the Days of Learning last Fall, the topic of “Breaking the 80/20 Rule” offered some insights into the different needs and characteristics of the main four generations. In our own stewardship efforts here at Asbury UMC (Cinnnaminson NJ) we are currently engaging in that generational challenge and looking for ways to make our communications, especially about our ‘congregational investments’, effective across all our age diverse membership. Your Stewardship topic page here and this blog topic in particular is a blessing to our efforts and I thank you for offering this support.

    And now to go off and work on that ‘story telling’ with a current focus on the ‘investment’ we are making in our youth ministry as an answer to the question you raise in #3.