Engaging Generations Through Generosity

In partnership with Thrivent Financial, we hosted two Engaging Generations Through Generosity seminars that took a deep dive into research Thrivent commissioned Barna Group to conduct around the generosity of self-identified Christians.

The 2016 findings separated Christians into four generational labels:

  1. Millennials (ages 19-33)
  2. Gen Xers (ages 34-52)
  3. Boomers (ages 53-71)
  4. Elders (ages 72+)

“The goal of the training was to spur generosity to help support churches, and grow church members’ engagement with their faith,” said Leith Erickson, Thrivent Financial trainer.

The research was designed to reveal how each of the four age-groups expressed generosity within five categories studied: Monetary Giving, Service/Volunteering, Hospitality, Gifts, Emotional-Relational Support.

Monetary Giving – Defined as: Donating or giving my financial resources to people or causes I want to see impacted.

  • One in 10 U.S. Christians say “Serving God with my money” is the ultimate financial goal in my life.
  • Elders are more than two times as likely as millennials to connect giving to generosity (29% versus 13%).

Self-Reported Donations of U.S. Christians to a church or non-profit in 2016:

  • 56% of all U.S. Christians gave less than $50 to a church or charity
  • 84% of Millennials gave less than $50 to a church or charity
  • 10% of Millennials gave between $50-$500 to a church or charity
  • 6% of Millennials gave more than $500 to a church or charity (with 2% of Millennials giving over $2,500)
  • 40% of Gen Xers gave more than $500 (with 15% of Gen Xers giving over $2,500)
  • 34% of Boomers gave more than $500 ( with %15 of Boomers giving over $2,500)
  • 43% of Elders gave more than $500 (with 25% of Elders giving over $2,500)

Participant Responses on the Biblical teaching of generosity and giving:

Giving doesn’t come naturally, it has to be taught. It has to be learned and carried out to see the blessing of your tithe or money to the Lord first. Millennials coming from a non-Christian home haven’t got a clue, and it has to be learned,” Bill Gullifer, Park Community Church.

What lies behind this lack of giving? What fears are driving these behaviors? You want people to live in the freedom and joy of how God designed us to give and to trust in him. This makes me think of all that they are missing out on,” said Renee, Cru.

Giving is one of the best ways to feel surplus. When you give, you say ‘I have a surplus, God is going to provide for me.’ When we act as if God is going to provide, then we believe it. Where your money goes, your heart goes. Not the other way around,” said Pastor Steve Rasmussen, Bethel Christian Fellowship.

Service/Volunteering – Defined as: the act of helping another through unpaid labor.

  • Gen Xers’ (28%), Boomers’ (38%), Elders’ (52%) No. 1 expression.
  • There is a strong connection between generosity with time and generosity with money.

When people rank that they feel Secure (feel mostly confident) or Surplus (feel grateful and ready to share) about their financial well-being; they are more likely to give both their money and time (volunteer hours) to churches and charities.

  • Surviving people give 2% of their income, and 4 volunteer hours a year to a church or charity
  • Struggling people give 3% of their income, and 10 volunteer hours a year to a church or charity
  • Stable people give 4.5% of their income, and 12 volunteer hours a year to a church or charity
  • Secure people give 5.5% of their income, and 18 volunteer hours a year to a church or charity
  • Surplus people give 7% of their income, and 20 volunteer hours a year to a church or charity

Hospitality – Defined as: Openness, welcome, unqualified acceptance; lack of judgement; kindness toward another.

  • Least common expression for elders (1%)
  • Growing trend for millennials (21%)

Park Community Church exists because City Vision Church was a new congregation made up mostly of millennials, and had a new pastor but were without a building, and Park Free Church, made up mostly of boomers and elders was searching for a pastor. They merged the two churches to become one rejuvenated church that is now made up of millennials and boomers and elders.

“The Lord orchestrated the most beautiful thing. These Millennials have just been fascinating, they think so differently,” Bill Gullifer. “I’ve noticed Millennials are so open to having people in their homes. They are often hosting barbeques, they are outgoing, inviting, and so hospitable. That is different than before we merged churches.”

Emotional/Relational Support – Defined as: being there for someone; compassionate listening; verbal encouragement and support.

  • Largely spontaneous or unplanned in nature.
  • Millennials’ No. 1 expression (31%)

“Before we merged churches, none of us Boomers or Elders were in small groups. We have had a rethinking and a retraining of the elders in our church, and now 70% of us are in small groups,” Bill Gullifer from Park Community Church.

“The Millennials have introduced the importance of meeting in small groups. You get to know each other on a deeper level, which you don’t get just showing up on Sunday mornings.”

Gifts – Defined as: nonfinancial presents; giving of gifts.

  • Gift Giving plays a rather significant role in American culture. Examples would include giving someone a book, birthday present, wedding gift.
  • No generational group ranked higher than 7% on this expression, with only 2% of elders and 3% of boomers picking gifts as associated with generosity.

Key Takeaway:

As you think about the congregations and folks that you serve, I challenge you to wrestle with what are some ways in the life of your ministry that you can help people understand the art and science of good, biblical stewardship; which is the managing of their finances, along with their time and talent, so that they can build an emergency reserve, they can avoid debt, and pay off their credit card debt monthly; knowing that the result with be confidence, contentment and the ability to be more generous whether it be financially or more volunteerism.”
-Leith Erickson, Thrivent Financial Trainer


January 30, 2019
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