Engaging Millennial Givers

Generosity // November 2, 2017

As the proud father of two young adults, I might have a slightly biased opinion, but I think Millennials, people born between 1981 and 1998, have gotten a bad rap. Now the largest living generation, Millennials have been pegged as entitled, lazy, insubordinate, selfish coffee snobs whose face-to-face social skills have been completely wrecked by texting and social media.

While there’s at least a drop of truth in that description—as is the case with most stereotypes—I’d like to suggest an alternate descriptor: Millennials are misunderstood. And that’s particularly the case when it comes to the idea that they’re selfish. The truth is, Millennials are exceptionally generous with both their time and financial resources. Dollar for dollar, they may not be giving “as much” as older generations; however, as a percentage of total income, their giving is on par with that of Baby Boomers.

“But Rusty,” you might be thinking, “My church is full of Millennials, and they’re not giving.” First of all, congratulations on having a church full of Millennials. Given that 32% of adults under age 30 have no religious affiliation, you must be doing many things well. And my guess is the Millennials at your church are giving—somewhere else. If they aren’t yet contributing financially to your church, that may say less about them, as Millennials, than it does about your church’s generosity culture.


Engaging Millennial givers is a challenging—but not impossible—task. They’re inherently generous, after all. Following are some tips for directing their generosity toward your mission and ministry:

Focus on a cause.

As reported by CauseVox, the 2017 Millennial Impact Report shows “…Millennials overwhelmingly care about social issues and supporting causes that benefit the greater good.” For this generation, the routine of a weekly offering or even the invitation to make a commitment to a capital campaign isn’t enough—unless you explicitly connect the dots between the dollars you’re asking for and the people who will benefit from them.
According to research, “Millennials want to know everything about who ends up with the money: their life story, where they live, and details about their situation and need. They want to see photos and oftentimes want to hear them tell their own stories via video.”

Open your books.

Once you’ve captured Millennials’ attention with a compelling vision, it’s critical to keep them informed about the impact of their generosity. An annual report is a great place to start, but a once-a-year update isn’t enough for them. Thank them often. Re-engage their strong social conscience with frequent updates and stories. Be transparent with your books. Millennials are all about relationships, and if you nurture their connection to your church, they’ll remain loyal with their gifts.

Invite Millennials to serve.

According to The Generosity Gap, a 2017 collaborative research project from Barna and Thrivent Financial, Christians who give the most are also most likely to say they have volunteered within the past week or month. That same report found Millennials prioritizing service far more than money as an action strongly associated with generosity (30% to 13%). Engage them in service, as they see that role as one of greater generosity than simply giving financially. Once serving, greater financial gifts are more likely to follow.

Invite Millennials to lead.

One perspective on Millennials suggests they’re entitled: They waltz into a new job expecting to have a seat at the big kids’ table—to have a voice. Given they’ve been reared to be independent and self-sufficient, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. So rather than be irritated by their take-charge attitudes, allow them to exercise their developing leadership muscles. They’re more likely to contribute to something they helped to build.

Up your expectations.

I’ve heard it said that mediocrity doesn’t move people, and that’s true of Millennials in particular. This is the generation that intends to change the world, so lukewarm, easily achievable goals aren’t going to cut it. Challenge them to stretch themselves for the benefit of humanity, and they’ll be all in.

Go digital.

Many Millennials can’t remember a time before the internet and mobile phones. They engage with the world through text messaging, social media, instant messaging, and blogging, and they expect to be able to do everything online—including their charitable giving. The church is lagging behind in technology, and that’s a serious obstacle for Millennials.


From a purely practical standpoint, engaging Millennial givers will become more and more important as older generations pass on. In general, the fewer givers you have, the fewer resources you’ll have to fund your mission and ministry.

But that’s not the most important reason to engage Millennials givers. Discipleship is. Just as we teach older generations the importance of trusting God with our finances, so should we challenge Millennials. They believe they can change the world… just think what they could accomplish by putting their resources in God’s hands.

Do you need help growing generosity in your church? That starts by knowing where you stand. Contact me today for your free giving analysis. 

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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