What will happen to your ministry when the older supporters can no longer give? Is there a troubling generation giving gap that threatens the future of your church or faith-based organization?

Any honest assessment of the giving patterns to your church or faith-based organization make one thing very clear – we have a generational dilemma when it comes to faithful, generous support. Why is that and what can be done about it? That’s our focus on this edition of The Giving Series.

What about giving through the generations? Meaning … our church has an older demographic that will sadly not live forever. Typically giving in churches decreases as the age demographic gets younger. Right!? Myth or truth?

Well, while we all wish it was a myth, that statement is 100% accurate, for a litany of reasons. Let me touch on just a few…

– The passing along of an important family tradition like giving seems to be diminished. My parents modeled faithful giving for me. My wife’s family did the same for her…so we have always known the importance of faithfully supporting effective ministries. I think we’ve done a solid job of passing that along to our kids…but one reason for the breakdown in generational giving can be traced to the breakdown of families and the passing down of traditions.

– Quite often, Pastors and Boards are living in some sort of self-induced fear that if they spend time teaching about the biblical instruction and encouragement for giving, the church will be perceived as “only caring about money.” This is a by-product of willingly forfeiting the idea of giving as a form of worship. I’ve never heard a church accused of “only caring about singing and preaching,” but somehow we’ve moved those forms of worship into a protected category…and the subject of giving doesn’t seem to know the secret knock to that clubhouse. So, in some respects, the generational breakdown is a self-inflicted wound.

– Culture also plays a major role in this shift, in so many ways. Older donors are still likely to write a check. Younger donors often don’t have checkbooks. They demand convenience. Older donors can define the concept of tithing (even if they vary on the amount). Younger donors are largely unfamiliar with any terminology not provided to them by Dave Ramsey. And that’s NOT a slam on Mr. Ramsey. It’s an indictment of the faith-based world for not providing instruction in a manner younger people will consume it.

– Finally, wealth differential. Older people generally have more to give than younger people…so the younger donor may choose to give of their time and talent instead of treasure. This is certainly not a negative thing, but if your ministry doesn’t cultivate the relationship and make sure those volunteers understand their positive impact, they may not start to give of their treasure once they finally have some.

So…there’s the flyover view of the problem…now, let’s move on to some solutions.

#1 – Every level of instruction in your church – from adults to kids – needs to include teaching about the grace of giving. Assuming families are addressing that issue around the dinner table assumes there is a dinner table and real conversation taking place. Sorry, but those times are few and far between. 2 Cor. 8:7 is there for a reason. Teach on it.

#2 – Older donors are established in their patterns and have been providing the foundational support for ministries for a long time. They love to read appeal letters from the rescue mission, hear the full story from missionaries home on furlough, and prefer to give in person when possible. Younger people are the exact opposite. They need to hear or see brief, powerful stories. They aren’t reading appeal letters but they’ll watch a 4 minute video. And they don’t carry cash or checks, so giving in person isn’t going to happen. It is incumbant on your ministry to provide the “why we give” moments in ways that both generations will appreciate, engage with, and respond to. One size does NOT fit all.

#3 – In a prior video I talked about the “giving moment” as a vital part of your worship service. Many young people connect to the church ONLY during the primary service. If the giving moment is nothing more than a reminder of “how to give,” it might as well be a :30 commercial for Depends because that’s how closely younger donors are paying attention.

If your church refuses to make the effort to touch their hearts with a powerful testimony of a changed life, successful ministry initiative, or sincere thanks for the difference their gifts make…then this generational disparity will continue all the way until your ministry becomes a shell of what the Lord intended it to be.

In closing, please allow me to inject a few thoughts in some abrupt “coach speak” language.

– Stop being afraid of addressing giving. Be honest. Your ministry depends on God’s people responding to His prompting. So, be the messenger of that prompting.

– Get better at saying thank you to those who do give. Watch THIS video for more on the importance of gratitude.

– Ask your staff and Board to pay attention to and to share the incredible God stories happening every day through your ministry and then get creative in the ways you share those stories. They make a HUGE difference to those you ask for support because they want to know if their giving matters beyond paying the light bill and insurance premiums. YOU know it does…so make sure they do as well.

We would love to help you implement these ideas by talking with your leadership about where your ministry currently stands, where it wants to go, what the current support structure looks like, and how it can move to an even healthier position. If you’d like to have that conversation, I sure hope to hear from you via email at thegivingseries@gmail.com

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