Christian Stewardship Network, Guest Writer: Rachel Rupert, May 3, 2021.
Growing up, there was one word that I liked using more than any other: why. I’m sure if you asked my parents, I asked them “why” more often than anything else. I’m a naturally very inquisitive person, I love learning new information, and I want to understand things. There was nothing more frustrating to me than being given a set of rules by my parents that I didn’t understand, then when I asked why, I was met with the famous parental one-liner, “Because I said so!” Many of my teenage years were spent brooding over rules I didn’t understand or appreciate.
Maybe hearing that, you’d consider my younger self rebellious, but that’s a misconception. I didn’t want to rebel, I wanted to understand.
THE GOOGLE GENERATION
For all my life, if I’ve wanted to know a fact or an answer to a question, I could go to google to find the answer. I’ve never experienced a world without having instant access to information. This is why, when I hear answers like “because I said so,” it’s hard to accept. I’m wired to find out the answer and used to getting the information I need quickly.
IF YOU WANT TO REACH THE NEXT GENERATION, YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO HAVE THE ANSWERS TO THEIR QUESTIONS.
When it comes to stewardship, finances, and giving, it’s important to have the “why” ready. Gone are the days where people just go to church because “that’s what you do” as a Christian. Believers, especially of the next generation, are looking for value when it comes to the Church, and tradition doesn’t cut it anymore. Being relevant today as the Church means being prepared to deal with the questions that may come, and however uncomfortable or challenging they may be.
Financial discipleship has two main focuses: the practical tools and skills related to money management, and the application of biblical principles related to money, which is where we see spiritual growth and transformation. The challenge for the next generation in a world saturated with materialism is less about practical application and more about spiritual transformation. Here’s the big question: how do we help the next generation of believers understand and receive our message? How do we confront the issues they may have with the church, giving, lack of trust, etc?
Tips for Communicating the Value behind Biblical Stewardship to the Next Generation
First, know this: The Bible speaks for itself. The truth of God’s word is endlessly appealing, life-transforming, and powerful. We can only do our part. 1 Corinthians 3:6 says, ‘I planted the church, and Apollos came and cared for it, but it was God who caused it to grow. ‘ Our role is to communicate the message to the best of our ability. Examine your message, teachings, and approach, and ask yourself these questions:
AM I GIVING THEM RULES OR TOOLS?
Biblical principles are necessary, but even more important is communicating the heart behind what God is saying. Rules, especially when not clearly understood, are frustrating and restrictive. It’s hard to stay motivated when the only directive is to follow a set of rules. How do your teachings point believers back to the heart of God and his desire for relationship?
AM I BEING RELATABLE OR CONDESCENDING?
Just like the infamous “Because I said so!” that parents like to use on kids, a lack of relatability when it comes to teaching something as sensitive as finances (and even more intimate, the heart behind it) can feel condescending. It is so important to win their trust, so meet them where they are. Don’t just share success stories; share failures, too. Make them feel like they aren’t alone in the struggles and doubts they face, or even that it’s okay to feel that way.
AM I WILLING TO COMMIT TO THEIR JOURNEY?
Discipleship isn’t a plug-and-play, one-stop-shop. Jesus spent years with his disciples, even after he gave them authority to do as he did (Matthew 10:1). He continued to answer their (sometimes ridiculous) questions, and shared the details of his teachings (Mark 4:34). If you want to truly bring about transformation in the lives of these young believers, you have to commit to the process. And I’ll let you in on a little secret here: young adults don’t want to go to a class! Do you know what they want? Community and mentorship. They can find tools anywhere, and they can find information online. What makes your ministry stand apart? What do you have that is more appealing than the information we can find elsewhere? Finding a place they belong, a safe place to share struggles, a person who has earned their trust… that is a gold mine for them; a rarity in their Instagram-worthy, superficial culture.
AM I ALLOWING THEM TO COME TO THEIR OWN CONCLUSIONS?
Your job, especially as it relates to the next generation, is not to tell them what to do. In fact, if you try to tell them what to do, prepare to lose a few. Allow them to form their own opinion by giving them choices and data. I will never forget learning about the power of compound interest through the Penny vs. 1 Million Dollars question. Put together simple calculations that show the impact of their spending, and allow them to come to their own conclusions about how to move forward with improving their finances.
Here’s an example. I love Starbucks. My go-to beverage is a grande caramel macchiato with coconut milk. It’s delicious, it’s caffeine, and it’s best sipped walking through Hobby Lobby, in my opinion, but also a great pick me up before a long day of work. If you try to tell me I shouldn’t go to Starbucks every day, or that I’m “spending too much” on it, I’ll probably get a little defensive. But, if you were to show me the chart below:
You don’t need to tell me I’m spending too much on coffee. It’s right there! (Disclaimer: this was just an example. I don’t go to Starbucks very often even though I do love it!)
Millennials and younger love facts and figures. These tools, along with sound biblical teaching that communicates the heart behind stewardship, are great steps for genuine, lasting change. Even better, your congregation of young believers will have built trust and relationship with you, which means they are more likely to stay, become rooted in the church, and become lasting, faithful givers.
Change takes time, and there are no instant answers.
The Church as a whole is struggling to reach the next generation. If there was a perfect, instant solution, I am sure that you would be just as eager to implement it as we would. All we can do is continue to take steps towards change, and do our best to meet them where they are.
Are there children and young adults in your life that could benefits from seeing spending impact numbers, to put ‘skin’ on what they need and want to understand? How can you connect biblical concepts of stewardship to life in 2021?