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Paying for Church Ministry...Who Decides? Me or My Millennial Friend?

Article Type: Pastor to Pastor

By Rev. Phillip Leo, Church Communications Director

A millennial friend recently told me he gives to charities that fight diabetes. He gives to his church, too – but there’s a personal connection to the cause of diabetes. His father suffers from this disease, so giving to find a cure feels just that much more personal.  

I want to point out to my friend that he’ll experience an ultimate personal connection by giving to the church, too. But it turns out that this impulse may say more about my age than anything else.

For many people born between 1980 and 2000, the bottom line is that causes matter more than institutions.

A 2015 survey conducted by the Millennial Impact Project, which studies millennial giving patterns, found that this generation is most likely to give when they feel inspired by an organization. They want to know that their gifts are making a tangible difference in the world.

There’s good reason to keep your eye on the ball here. We’re talking about the biggest generation in United States history. With each passing year, an estimated 92 million millennials are growing in earning power which translates immediately into giving power. Right now, nearly 2 out of every 3 charitable dollars come from baby-boomers and Gen Xers. But this number is shrinking as millennials increasingly hit their stride.

For churches, the take away is obvious. The assumption that giving to the church budget is a given should be properly buried. Going forward, flourishing ministry will only be funded when a compelling vision for transformation is being realized by the local church. Failure to connect the dots between giving and its immediate impact will translate into meager and malnourished ministry.

Truth is, my millennial friend has a lot more to say about how and when church ministry will be paid for than I do. Instead of lecturing, I serve the church better if I listen to him…

How does he understand his stake in ministry at his church?

How does he know that his giving makes a difference?

How is this difference communicated?

The answers to these questions will only increase in value over time. They might even end up making the difference for future church ministries that not only survive, but thrive. 


Barnabas Foundation is proud to be your partner in promoting financial literacy and generous giving at your church. Find articles, books, studies and more for your church under Tools and Resources. You can also email me at pleo@BarnabasFoundation.com or call 888.448.3040. 

Rev. Phillip Leo is the Church Communications Director at Barnabas Foundation. Read Phil's online bio