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How will Millennials change the way we give?

The 154th Regular Session of Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto is held at The Doubletree by Hilton Toronto Airport, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.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 pretty interesting considerations have to be taken into account.  We are not just talking about newcomers; instead we are specifically interested in reaching out to that group who are twenty and thirty-somethings.  They 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 and Instagram while avoiding telephone land-lines altogether.

As a group, Millennials have the potential to provide the greatest shakeup in 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 annual 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, but 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 has invested considerable energy and resources in developing mobile apps for giving and an online platform that will issue a tax receipt moments after a gift has been made.  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 on-line.  For the time being, direct mail continues to be a lucrative and successful medium to connect with the duty generations.  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.  In the not too distant future, we can expect a church where: the collection plate will not be passed, all congregational giving is done through PAR, 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, but it is coming.

Peter Misiaszek

About Peter Misiaszek

Peter Misiaszek, CFRE is the Director of Stewardship Development for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. He is responsible for parish stewardship education, annual giving, legacies of faith, The Bishop’s Company of Toronto and oversight of The Anglican Diocese of Toronto Foundation. His department has produced numerous parish-based resources in support of stewardship education including: “The Narrative Budget – Writing Your Parish’s Sacred Story” and “A Program to Encourage Joyful Giving in Your Parish.” In 2010, the Diocese of Toronto launched a diocesan-wide major fundraising campaign toward a goal of $50,000,000 – the largest ever fundraising effort in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada. He and his wife Ginette live in Whitby, Ontario with their three young children. He is a member of Christ Memorial Anglican Church in Oshawa.
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9 Responses to How will Millennials change the way we give?

  1. Timely article! Just last week I asked my church if there were ways to give electronically.

  2. You can always use ur online bill pay. I set my church up as a payee and have a recurring check mailed.

  3. Hi Peter – It is possible that Millennials will shake up the church if we bother to stick around.

    But as you probably know, there are few of us. And the few of us who are here need more than a narrative budget and fancy gizmos. It’s well and good to have technology that meets us where we’re at. But by-and-large, we’re not in church. How much time, energy and money should we sink into emerging technologies for folks who aren’t there?

    And if it’s important that they are there, that they are part of our communities, that they are hearing and responding to the Gospel of Jesus, that they can call themselves part of the Jesus movement, what are we willing to substantively do, as an established church culture to invite and greet them, but also to create space where (a) very different culture – Millennial culture – can start to invest in Christ’s church, and to make it its own?

    I guess what your post prompts me to do is to take a few steps back from online this and app that, and talk about several substantive issues that need to be dealt with before we even get to the technology end.

    Don’t get me wrong, as someone who’s grown up digital, I feel as though an easy online giving space and a narrative budget are no-brainers. But there’s no amount of gloss that can trick me into giving. As I read the post, I felt like I was eavesdropping on advice from a non-millennial to other non-millennials on how to suck us millennials into giving. It felt…weird.

    And you’re right. We’re not a duty generation. Direct mail won’t work. But neither will a technological version of the same if we’re not mostly on board with the church’s mission.

    If we see what’s happening in the parish, compare it to the narrative budget, and see that the two don’t match, we’ll call bullshit. We’ll tell you to your face. And we’ll walk away. We won’t bother to invest our time or money in a place that doesn’t live with (as much) integrity (as it can muster).

    So by all means, write a narrative budget. Have stretch goals. Tell me a compelling story of what we’re doing now,and of how together, our community will take risks for the sake of the gospel. That’s a start. And that might even work on someone like me who doesn’t carry as much baggage about the church (as I used to) (or as some of my contemporaries do).

    If I see in the parish, and its leadership that there’s going to be follow-through, I’ll invest my time. I might even invest my money. But if I look under the hood and see that it’s all smoke and mirrors, be sure that I’m going to leave. I want concrete, substantive gospel work, not the appearances of doing something that we have no intention of doing.

    And yes, I will roll up my sleeves, join that committee, and work alongside you. As long as I’m not treated like a token. As long as I’m seen as an equal. As long as we’re seen as brothers and sisters in Christ. One who has a different perspective to offer. One who will listen. But one who will also ask to be listened to and taken seriously for the gifts and perspectives I offer.

    I want to have an impact, sure, but that’s not a self-centred thing. It’s just this:

    My generation is and will continue to be racked with debt.

    My generation cannot expect to make as much money as the Xers and Boomers before us.

    No matter what the Toronto Star’s monthly Millennial-bashing article-du-jour says, we are not lazy. We are judicious with our time, and will choose to invest that time in work that is compelling, and where our contributions are valued.

    We’ve been handed a world full of hurt. Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is at the top of our minds. Climate injustice has us in a panic. The state of economies local and global freaks us out. The job market sucks, and while many of us have a solid education, there are fewer and fewer jobs. Oh, and the cost of living keeps on going up.

    So when you’re trying to get me and my generation to use your app to give, keep these things in mind. And keep in mind how much money you’re investing in the technique and technology, as compared to, say, evangelism, or the common good of our communities.

    This is a bit of a ramble, but I want to return to an earlier point. I can and do give towards the work of my parish church. And while I know it’s out of step with many of my generation, I do give 10% of my salary towards its ministry.

    But the piece that we all need to consider when talking about Millennials is how many of this generation carry baggage from previous experiences of church. For those of us stumbling back into church – whether it’s back into an Anglican parish after time away, or into an Anglican parish for the first time – we might have hangups about money, about power, and authority, and trust. We might have had bad experiences in our past. And it’s going to take some time to heal.

    As far as I can tell, there’s not yet an app for that.

  4. Hi Peter – It is possible that Millennials will shake up the church if we bother to stick around.

    But as you probably know, there are few of us. And the few of us who are here need more than a narrative budget and fancy gizmos. It’s well and good to have technology that meets us where we’re at. But by-and-large, we’re not in church. How much time, energy and money should we sink into emerging technologies for folks who aren’t there?

    And if it’s important that they are there, that they are part of our communities, that they are hearing and responding to the Gospel of Jesus, that they can call themselves part of the Jesus movement, what are we willing to substantively do, as an established church culture to invite and greet them, but also to create space where (a) very different culture – Millennial culture – can start to invest in Christ’s church, and to make it its own?

    I guess what your post prompts me to do is to take a few steps back from online this and app that, and talk about several substantive issues that need to be dealt with before we even get to the technology end.

    Don’t get me wrong, as someone who’s grown up digital, I feel as though an easy online giving space and a narrative budget are no-brainers. But there’s no amount of gloss that can trick me into giving. As I read the post, I felt like I was eavesdropping on advice from a non-millennial to other non-millennials on how to suck us millennials into giving. It felt…weird.

    And you’re right. We’re not a duty generation. Direct mail won’t work. But neither will a technological version of the same if we’re not mostly on board with the church’s mission.

    If we see what’s happening in the parish, compare it to the narrative budget, and see that the two don’t match, we’ll call bullshit. We’ll tell you to your face. And we’ll walk away. We won’t bother to invest our time or money in a place that doesn’t live with (as much) integrity (as it can muster).

    So by all means, write a narrative budget. Have stretch goals. Tell me a compelling story of what we’re doing now,and of how together, our community will take risks for the sake of the gospel. That’s a start. And that might even work on someone like me who doesn’t carry as much baggage about the church (as I used to) (or as some of my contemporaries do).

    If I see in the parish, and its leadership that there’s going to be follow-through, I’ll invest my time. I might even invest my money. But if I look under the hood and see that it’s all smoke and mirrors, be sure that I’m going to leave. I want concrete, substantive gospel work, not the appearances of doing something that we have no intention of doing.

    And yes, I will roll up my sleeves, join that committee, and work alongside you. As long as I’m not treated like a token. As long as I’m seen as an equal. As long as we’re seen as brothers and sisters in Christ. One who has a different perspective to offer. One who will listen. But one who will also ask to be listened to and taken seriously for the gifts and perspectives I offer.

    I want to have an impact, sure, but that’s not a self-centred thing. It’s just this:

    My generation is and will continue to be racked with debt.

    My generation cannot expect to make as much money as the Xers and Boomers before us.

    No matter what the Toronto Star’s monthly Millennial-bashing article-du-jour says, we are not lazy. We are judicious with our time, and will choose to invest that time in work that is compelling, and where our contributions are valued.

    We’ve been handed a world full of hurt. Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is at the top of our minds. Climate injustice has us in a panic. The state of economies local and global freaks us out. The job market sucks, and while many of us have a solid education, there are fewer and fewer jobs. Oh, and the cost of living keeps on going up.

    So when you’re trying to get me and my generation to use your app to give, keep these things in mind. And keep in mind how much money you’re investing in the technique and technology, as compared to, say, evangelism, or the common good of our communities.

    This is a bit of a ramble, but I want to return to an earlier point. I can and do give towards the work of my parish church. And while I know it’s out of step with many of my generation, I do give 10% of my salary towards its ministry.

    But the piece that we all need to consider when talking about Millennials is how many of this generation carry baggage from previous experiences of church. For those of us stumbling back into church – whether it’s back into an Anglican parish after time away, or into an Anglican parish for the first time – we might have hangups about money, about power, and authority, and trust. We might have had bad experiences in our past. And it’s going to take some time to heal.

    As far as I can tell, there’s not yet an app for that.

  5. Andrew, Thank you for taking the time to respond so passionately and in great depth. There isn’t much about what you’ve said that I disagree with. In fact, an earlier article posted by me in December talks about some of the substantive points in which you raise about volunteerism, leadership in the church, programs and authenticity.

    Believe me, I hear it from my 14 year old who just built himself a computer this past summer. The church has a huge problem in trying to connect with his generation. He won’t go to youth group because all they do is the same stuff he’s doing with his friends already. He wants substantive dialogue and the church isn’t providing it. He has big questions that aren’t being addressed at church: why believe? why go to church? how can a benevolent God allow evil? do I need faith to be a good person?

    He has sat through many sermons and he calls them fluff because they presume adherence to a particular understanding of what church is and does.

    I’m learning more about my faith through his struggles just to believe. But the church is slow to respond.

    • Hi Peter – Thank-you for your gracious reply. I think you’re really onto something here. What if we retooled our churches for Substantive Dialogue about Big Questions that Matter?

      What if church was a hospital for the sick, a place where folks could wrestle with the meaning of life, and what God – if there is such a being – might be inviting us into?

      For me, the question isn’t one of volunteering. It’s a question of mutual interdependence and transformation. It’s about encountering God in liturgy, sacrament, and folks who are just as annoying and hotheaded as I can be.

      So thank-you for pointing me back to your earlier post. I hadn’t seen it when it came out, but it does give me some context for this most recent blog.

      Today I continue to wonder if we don’t need to reframe the whole giving conversation.

      The conversation about giving / tithing has (seemingly) been co-opted by the language of non-profits. And I get why we might use that language. I get that there are instances in which it might be useful to get competitive with other causes. But is that THE way or the ONLY way to understand what it means to play a part in a Christian community?

      What if we reframed the idea of giving in particular, and stewardship more broadly in terms of mutual support, and the support of carrying on Jesus’ mission of reconciliation in the world? How would our approach to giving shift if we came to understand stewardship in terms of our ability to serve God, each other and God’s world? What if it was less about duty and more about our opportunity to tangibly respond to Jesus’ call?

      These questions are especially on my mind as we enter Lent, a time of focused embrace of the Jesus way.

      How would our approach to giving shift if we didn’t position ourselves in competition with World Vision, and the Food Bank, and the Red Cross, but saw ourselves, talked about ourselves, and embodied the reality of the church as the body of Christ.

      We have a different narrative. A compelling one. But I think we need to dust it off. I worry that we have been captive to CRA’s limited categories of who we are, and how we must operate. But we have such a great opportunity to live into the Jesus story, and to cast a vision that is Good News for one and all, creating communities of reconciliation that just can’t stop freely giving away that which we have freely received.

  6. Andrew, yes. Peter, that’s a really gracious response. And the kind of listening and learning this millennial would give to.

  7. It’s time for us to think outside the box — today! Christianity is under threat albeit surreptitiously. No longer is the reach of one’s congregation by the number of parishes within in. As we speak there is a paradigm shift created by the information technology explosion that has permeated every aspect of our society in ways never imagined before. I foresee that many parishes will be closing, not only because of decreased population to support it, but also because our community population is much more fluid than ever before. For example, I can be on vacation in Toronto, and still have access to radio church service via the Bell App which connects me to CJBK. Therefore, I can still belong to a parish even though I do not attend that particular parish. How does one contribute to it? Some of the suggestions made already are accessible today, however, in a future cash-less society, which is already underway, one can make charitable contributions by online communities such as Chimp.net, crowdfunding websites, for example of a few present in our midst today. Therefore, belonging has not changed — it still matters. What matters more is to contribute to a church community that truly mirrors what Jesus would do and be. From this sense of belonging follows charity in every sense of the word, including tithing. So there you have it. This will be happening not only to millennials (of which I have two in this age-range) the children of millennial, and so on and so forth. Therefore, it’s best we take stock of our parishes and decide which ones are worth saving and which ones are not. Tough decisions will need to be made. To have more than 1 church of each denomination will be sufficient to serve a population of about 500,000 (I pulled this number out of the air). Online communities have created the interconnectedness between people all over the world. People who have lost touch from high school now have the means to reconnect via Facebook, Twitter, (and any other app that facilitates this, to former co-workers, relatives, in-laws etc. Get the point?

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