A few years ago at Lifeway we did a study on churches averaging over 1,000 in worship attendance. We asked a variety of questions, a few were financial. One of their consistent responses stuck with me, it was the growing concern of their aging donor bases. Church leaders were seeing a pending gap that is of great concern. Givers are getting older and we are not replacing them. Then it takes several new givers to replace the gifts of one established giver.
Statistically speaking their concern is legitimate. Donors to charitable causes in the US have been on a steep decline for the past 15 years. So next generation giving is super important to understand. There are many aspects to it. I can think of several right off the bat. Churches need to have a digital giving platform that unleashes all six channels of digital giving with a focus on mobile giving that is fun and easy for the giver in the next generation. Then, we need to embrace all forms of generosity, releasing our hearts to grow toward being passionately generous. Passion, serving, and giving are definitely connected. Finally, we could even discuss the power of legacy giving and the volume of wealth that is about to transfer from one generation to the next.
However, I want to focus on one aspect of giving that can inspire the wheelhouse of every pastor. It is the topic of growing generous families. The Barna Group released a study a couple of years ago entitled “The Generosity Gap.” It studied the many gaps that exist between the pastor and people, along with the different generations, on the topic of generosity. I will be presenting a four-part blog series on Next Generation Giving to help you reflect on the principles this study uncovered. This blog is Part 3.
“The Generosity Gap” reports, “Christians whose parents were generous during their childhood are more likely to highly value generosity as adults.” So one sure way to impact next generation giving is to grow current generation givers. Families that give together pass on the gene. I can attest to this personally. My kids are grown now and live outside the home. Both are uniquely and distinctly generous. They tithe, volunteer, and live generously towards others.
I know I am not the only one that has been blessed with generous kids. I certainly do not have all the wisdom on this, but I would like to reflect a little on what my kids picked up on in our home. I hope it’s helpful.
First, we communicated openly about financial generosity. Our kids have always known that their family was a tithing family. We gave them chore money when they were young simply to have the opportunity to teach them about money. We taught them to give, save, and spend from day one. They even love to tell the story of the worst birthday gift they ever received which was a savings account.
Second, our kids knew that we were always prepared to live generously above our tithe. We actually have a family giving fund. We call it The Big Giving Fund. Every pay period my wife and I set aside a certain sum of money to give generously. We decide every year as a part of our spending plan what we want to allot. Sometimes it is a set amount, other years it is a percentage of our income. We might designate some of the funds to our church or a cause we are passionate about. We also keep some money liquid for spontaneous giving. Our kids have always been on the lookout for ways to make a gift from this fund.
Finally, we made generosity a lifestyle with overt communication to help our kids connect the dots. We would open our home regularly, practice kind words, and actively volunteer in our community. My kids knew me as a pastor for part of their childhood. They saw me preach, but they also saw me volunteer on our church set-up team and as the chaplain for the local high school athletic program. I always invited them with me making them feel a part of our family generosity value.
As it turns out this was a good thing. The report reflects that “two-thirds of Christians who consider generosity to be extremely important say they talked with their spouse (67%) or children (64%) about generosity within the past week, compared to fewer than half of all others. It appears that generosity is developed at home—good news for churches structured to support families.” So communicating about generosity as a family is very important. This can be a real obstacle in a marriage which presents a discipleship opportunity for the pastor. One spouse may be more into giving than another or financial pressure may make money a taboo subject.
Giving families are happy families. Their kids enjoy giving so much that they actually prioritize it as a lifestyle when they get older. Maybe spend some time reflecting on how much time and energy your church is putting into a strategy to help grow generous families. It is not all about the big givers or tithers. Young families really need some help. When they are given the proper support you might just be making a gift into the next generation of church members. The preachers of the future thank you in advance. Go unleash giving today!