Written by:
Ian Urriola

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From the Young Adult Network: Involving Young People in Stewardship

Young People’s Ministries is guided by the Division on Ministries with Young People, a group of young people from around the world committed to the mission of the United Methodist Church, Ian Urriola is one of those young adults and shares lessons from his ministry context in this blog post.

The seasons are changing here in the United States. The temperature is starting to cool down. The days are getting shorter. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are being consumed by the gallon. And as we stare down the end of yet another fiscal year, many local churches and non-profit organizations are ramping up their efforts for their annual financial campaigns.

It’s stewardship season here in the U.S. While we’re all thinking about budgets and spreadsheets and pledge drives, perhaps now is a good time to take a step back and talk about how we can do a better job of incorporating our young people into these vital ministry conversations. Here are four ways to foster a culture of generosity amongst young people.

Stewardship is inextricably linked with discipleship.

1. Actually talk with us about financial stewardship.

Too often we overlook the ways that young people can financially benefit the church. The biblical understanding of stewardship is that God has entrusted every single one of us with numerous resources that we are called to dedicate towards furthering the reign of God. Stewardship is inextricably linked with discipleship, and when we fail to have these conversations with our young people we are actually inhibiting their growth as disciples of Jesus Christ.

2. Actually connect your ministry expenses to your church’s mission and vision.

The church I’m serving has framed their capital campaign in a way that every single [budget] line item points back to the church’s mission.

The church I’m currently serving at has just embarked on a major capital campaign. Capital expenditures can often be seen as a necessary evil that takes money away from “real ministry”. How does installing a new boiler or renovating a building help the community we are called to serve? And yet, if we want to foster a culture of generosity with our young people, we have to be able to answer those questions. I’m so proud of the fact that the church I’m serving has framed their capital campaign in a way that every single line item points back to the church’s mission, vision and values—yes, including the new boiler.

3. Actually enable us to give.

If the only way your church takes donations is through cash or check offerings, you’re not going to get young people to give. I never have cash on me and whenever I need to write a check, I have to hunt through my house to find my checkbook. The vast majority of young people in the U.S. have been making their purchases exclusively with plastic for years, and with the advent of apps like Venmo, even physical credit cards might be going the way of the dinosaur in the next couple of years. If we’re not making purchases with cash, why should we be expected to use cash to make financial contributions? Luckily, implementing alternative forms of giving has never been easier. It could be as simple as having someone outside of worship with a smartphone connected to a Square device that people can go to when they want to make a donation. In addition, our friends at GCFA have resources (http://connect.vancopayments.com/giveplus-um) to help you roll out an online giving platform for your church.

Seek out young people who do give to share their stories of why they give and what the ministry of the church means to them.

4. Actually honor our gifts when we do give.

Your church is probably not going to get major gifts from young people. Between an ever-rising cost of living, student loan payments, and a bleak job market, the chances of a person between the ages of 18 and 35 having a spare $50,000 to give to your church are pretty slim. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be honoring every gift we receive from every person equally. You can seek out young people who do give to share their stories of why they give and what the ministry of the church means to them. You can print out and laminate cards that say “I Give Electronically” and put them in your pews so that those who contribute that way can participate in the act of offering during worship. This isn’t about appeasing a selfish generation who craves attention and the spotlight, but rather about properly recognizing the commitments our young people are already making in our churches.

Fostering a culture of generosity among young people doesn’t have to be hard. Young people want to give to worthy causes. By including us in the conversations, framing ministry expenses in a missional way, enabling us to give in the ways that make the most sense for us, and honoring the gifts we make, the church can help us—and we can help the church!—live more fully into this part of our call to discipleship.