Young Adults, Faith, and Finances: Provide a Conversation Table

One of the first COMPASS blog posts by Timothy Siburg described the monthly Saturday breakfasts that he and his wife Allison have to talk about their finances. In the most recent COMPASS blog post, Adam Copeland, new director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, describes a similar approach in his household.

Kitchen Table

How do you provide a conversation table?

In 2012, Adam wrote an article for Christian Century in which he muses that it’s difficult for many churches to build relationships with the Millennial generation (born 1981 – 1997), let alone have meaningful conversations about Christian generosity with them. The first step in this process may be to provide a conversation table. But what topics might get the discussion started?

In his Christian Century article, Adam mentions four characteristics of Millennials’ culture and how it relates to stewardship and generosity:

  • They are concerned about the environment: 20/30-somethings haven’t known a world without global warming as a going concern. They care deeply about the earth, buy “green,” factor the environment into their life choices, etc.
  • They like to give to specific causes: Millennials want understandable details about needs and assurances that their gifts will make a difference. Adam notes that his young adult friends who run races for charities raise a lot of money.
  • They live in a digital world, but communicate and make decisions based on relationships: When Adam led a local young adult ministry and made a related Facebook event invite, friends with hundreds of Facebook friends would often “like” the event and share it on their wall. Rarely did they actually come to the event. What were these social media users doing? Being good stewards of their social media presence, getting the word out about an event they supported even if they couldn’t attend in person.
  • They are invested in many things, but probably not the church: 20/30-somethings give to their communities and are invested in their tribe, whatever it may be, even if it’s not the church. If the church can tell a meaningful story about its ministry and show how it benefits the community, you have more of a possibility of engaging Millennials’ support.
How do you engage young adults like these in your stewardship plans and ministry?

Money conversations can be different for Millennials (like those pictured here), because their economic situation is quite different than their elders in church.

Churches also should remember that money conversations can be difficult for Millennials, because their economic situation is quite different than their elders’. For example, according to a US Government report, their wage-earning power will be affected by the recent economic downturn for years to come, and they are less likely to be homeowners. Many are trying to pay off years of accumulated student debt. Forbes says that more than a quarter of them have fallen behind on paying their bills, and as a group they have the lowest credit scores of any generation. The Canadian PR Firm Citizen Relations reports that Canadian Millennials experience increasing pressure to spend via social media, with 56 percent of them feeling driven to live beyond their means.

If you are helping to lead or implement stewardship opportunities for young adults at your church, you have an opportunity to provide space for conversations, learning, and listening about tough and emotional topics, such as faith and finances.

  • Consider setting your conversation table outside the church building and at times other than Sunday mornings. How about a coffee shop? Or an ice cream parlor? Or a casual restaurant with a room for conversation?
  • Leverage the social power of the young adults you know: have them help you with the invitations. They’re the social media experts: use that to your advantage and give them responsibility.
  • Use your table as an opportunity for intergenerational discussions with selected members of your congregation. As a generation that loves interaction, they are looking for stories of financial wisdom from real persons.
  • Remember that the best conversation is not a one-way transmission of information, but a dialog in which all participants benefit. Think about what you might learn from the young adults at your table.

Who knows where the conversation may lead?

P.S. Need some resources to help you engage in conversation? The COMPASS web page has links to videos, online resources, and book reviews.

marcia shetlerAbout the Author: Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, which along with COMPASS provides a variety of resources to support generous giving and faithful stewardship. Visit the Ecumenical Stewardship Center website at to learn more.


Image Credit: Kitchen Table.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Young Adults, Faith, and Finances: Provide a Conversation Table

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

  2. Pingback: How do you talk about faith and finances? | COMPASS: Navigating Faith & Finances

  3. Pingback: Talking about Faith and Finances during Life Transitions | COMPASS: Navigating Faith & Finances

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