Churches find themselves in a difficult situation. Older congregants are typically the biggest donors, but we know that they won’t be forever. Churches need to be engaging and training younger people to become regular givers without turning off the people who are giving now.
Here are 10 tips for courting younger givers without losing older ones.
1. Support giving methods that appeal to younger donors
Younger people aren’t coming to your church with a checkbook or a purse full of cash. They’re the ones buying things online from Amazon’s native app. It’s foolhardy to think that you can turn younger churchgoers into givers when you’re expecting them to give in the same way that previous generations have.
Your younger givers are not only completely comfortable using their phones to make purchases and donations, they’re moving in step with the rest of the culture. Soon you won’t have the choice to include the newest giving methods; it will be a necessity.
The best place to start is with your own mobile app. It’s a tool that makes the most sense for potential givers, and your giving is bundled with tools that offer an unprecedented opportunity for engagement.
2. Don’t set the two groups against each other
There is already too much opportunity for polarization between groups in your church. And while you want to be wise enough to recognize the differences between your established givers and potential younger donors, you don’t want to vocalize those differences.
If you make changes intended to facilitate the giving of younger donors, present those changes on their own merits. As soon as you start communicating that changes need to be made for the benefit of younger givers, you’ll be sowing an us-vs-them spirit within the people who aren’t comfortable with change.
It’s the same thing if you’re holding off on making changes on account of the older donors. The decision to continue with a status quo practice needs to communicated on the basis of its own virtues. One of the most important things you can do is build bridges between the two groups—you’re going to need them to be encouraging each other.
3. Make opportunities for testimonies from your best givers
You need to create opportunities for your best givers to share their testimony about how being generous has changed their lives. After all, giving isn’t so much taught as it is caught. Encourage your older generation to share how a lifetime of giving has shaped them, what made them start giving, and how generosity has gotten them through their toughest times.
They can share during services, dinners, fundraisers, small groups, or anywhere else where your younger church goers can learn from their example.
4. Solicit testimonies from younger givers
Younger members need to see the example of people whose lives have been marked by generosity, and they also need to hear from peers who are on that same trajectory. Both testimonials are important.
Older believers point potential givers to a destination on a map of faithfulness. Their peers are going to provide the route and become their traveling companions. They’re going to need both.
5. Encourage older believers to mentor younger ones
Mentorship is an important biblical model for ministry. Paul tells Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) This is a practice that’s fallen out of vogue in most churches, and could use some rediscovery.
Ideally you have a program that teaches older believers to mentor younger ones—and for established families to mentor younger families. The program would cover the important elements that new and younger families could benefit from tried-and-true wisdom on. This might include parenting tips, devotional practices, and, of course, financial coaching.
6. Don’t make assumptions about older donors
It’s easy to assume that you’re going to get static when you make changes, and it’s probably true. But don’t assume that older donors can’t or won’t get on board with changes to how you do things. This mindset will sabotage the way you present new options. You’re going to be looking for friction and respond with less patience.
If you onboard people correctly, they’ll surprise you.
7. Teach mobile giving from the pulpit
When it comes to passing the plate, there really isn’t a learning curve involved. People understand how to drop money into a container. For those people who are used to more traditional forms of giving, they’ll need some help learning to acclimate to digital giving.
When you introduce your church app (or other forms of mobile giving like Pushpay), you’ll want to take some time in a couple of services to walk people, step by step, through the process of giving from the pulpit. This is THE most important on-boarding step you can take when introducing a new vehicle to generosity.
8. Provide ways for older donors to give
As you move to more digital forms of giving, you’re going to want to make sure that there are ways that people who aren’t interested in changing can still give. That doesn’t mean that you need to prioritize them—you just need to make them available.
Perhaps you recognize that having an offering in the middle of your church service is actually encouraging your congregation’s dependence on traditional forms of giving. Maybe it’s time to put a box in the back of the sanctuary where people can deposit cash or checks, or place ushers at the exits where they can take currency as people exit.
9. Stress that it’s not the manner of giving God loves—it’s the heart
We tend to sanctify things that we have grown accustomed to. When it comes to our tithes and offerings, we’re so used to an offering being taken in the middle of our services that we’re tempted to think that’s the prescribed model of giving. It’s not.
God loves a cheerful giver! (2 Cor. 9:7) But he’s not too concerned about how that giving occurs.
10. Talk about giving with children
Teaching generosity isn’t as much of an uphill climb when we begin by instructing our children to be givers. Finding ways for children to practice giving and experience the joys of generosity should be a priority of every children’s program.
We should be teaching kids how to see their belongings as resources that they have the responsibility to steward. As they grow in that understanding, they’re more like to grow in their generosity.
It’s all about the process
In the end, the big question is whether you have an intentional plan in place to turn people into mature and generous believers. It’s not just going to happen on its own. As you get older donors involved in by mentoring younger ones, everyone becomes more invested in the process. It’s that synergistic process of discipleship that keeps everyone committed and growing.
For information on teaching your church about stewardship and generosity, check out our free ebook Teaching Your Church to Give.