<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=245909183139864&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

A Fresh Start: Challenging Assumptions About the Church and the New Generation

4 min read
Apr 19, 2024 11:45:00 AM

If I’m in a room with a bunch of my Boomer friends, the topic of the next generation and their relationship with giving and the church will very possibly come up. And they are most likely going to say two things: that Millennials and Gen Z don’t really care much about the church and that they don’t give to the church. If I’m in a room with people from those younger generations, and I am often, I can tell you that what I will hear and observe goes against those two assumptions. 

Those preconceived notions are not true, and as we embark upon the spring season, this is the time to consider a new, fresh perspective.

When we think about the descriptors typically used for Millennials and Gen X (lazy, entitled, not interested in working hard, focused only on individualism and personal fulfillment), it reminds me a lot of what was true of many people who grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s like me. 

We had a lot of people like that. They may have been brilliant and some of the smartest people in the world, but they were also sitting on the side of the street, trying to figure out the meaning of life. While Boomers like to say that the next generations aren’t givers, neither were they back then.

To confirm my thinking that preconceived notions about the next generations and giving are wrong, there’s a large piece of research from Barna. They did a comprehensive study a couple of years ago on generosity in the American church, asking more than 2,000 adults about their charitable giving practices. 

The results confirmed everything I thought I already knew in terms of my anecdotal experience with these young leaders. While it was confirmation for me, I think it will be eye opening for many others.

In general, the survey found that people are still giving to churches, with 69% of all adults saying they had donated to a church or house of worship in the past year.

It’s the stats about the younger generations that really stand out and fly in the face against many assumptions.


The Barna data indicates that Millennials and Gen Z actively participate in church giving at rates higher than previous generations.

  • One survey question asked if a person had donated to charitable organizations, including churches or houses of worship, in the last year. Among Millennials (58%), Gen X (53%), and Boomers (57%), the participation rate is about the same.
  • Another survey question asked, “Who gives to a church?” In these answers, there is a significant disparity among Millennials (42%), Gen X (35%) and Boomers (30%). The participation rate for Millennials is 12 percentage points HIGHER than Boomers, which means that Millennials participate in giving to churches at a significantly higher rate than Boomers. Most church leaders think it’s the opposite.

In response to this, I’ve heard some Boomers say that while the data may show that they have lower participation rates, they are giving larger amounts. That may be true, but I don’t think that’s the most important thing to focus on. Instead, we have to recognize that the younger generations have a heart for giving to the church. The dollar amount will catch up in due time.

I see this play out all the time in conversations with pastors. The pastor tells me that they have a lot of young families moving into the church. I tell them that’s awesome, but then I get this response. “Yeah, it is awesome, but you know how they are.” When I ask for clarification, I hear, “In terms of giving, they’re not great givers.” 

My response is that while it may be a problem in their church specifically, I don’t think it’s a problem nationally, which is also supported by the research mentioned above. The reason why some churches have young families who are great givers and others don’t is that not all churches have cultivated a great giving culture. 

The ones that do have it are speaking into it regularly, and when they do, they include the new generations. That makes Millennials and Gen Z-ers want to participate, and they are great at participating, regardless of the dollar amount they give.


So what does all of this mean? It means that it’s not a generational problem. It’s a messaging problem. It’s a communication problem. New generations want to be involved in something important and to be involved in a movement. They don’t want a church that feels corporate or institutionalized. 

Messaging needs to be fine-tuned for the younger generations. Here are some ways to do that: 

  1. Emphasize the impact of giving. Millennials and Gen Z are known for their desire to make a difference and positively impact the world. Your church is probably doing that in the community and beyond. But people don’t know it. Share stories and examples of how the church uses its giving to make an impact, especially if there are specific projects or initiatives that might appeal to younger givers.
  2. Provide multiple ways to give. These generations are comfortable with technology and want  convenience. If they have multiple options for giving (online, text-to-give, mobile apps), it makes giving more accessible, convenient, and user-friendly. 
  3. Make giving part of worship. This is a powerful way to engage all generations in church giving, especially younger givers. Having a giving moment every week is essential to developing the spiritual aspect of giving. Make sure everyone, including younger givers, understands that we give not for the church budget, but because of our great need to give in response to what God has done for us.
  4. Emphasize trust. Make sure those in the younger generations have no doubt that when they give to the church, they can trust that you are stewarding their gifts well.

We can learn a lot from Millennials and Gen Z when we let go of our preconceived notions. They do love the church, they are giving to the church, and we should embrace them for the fresh ideas and perspectives they can bring. 

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think