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 www.stewardshipresources.org 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.

Planning for the Fall- Stewardship and Young Adults

Where has all the time gone this summer? Can you believe that it is already August? For many faith communities, the end of summer is prime time for planning and finishing fall programming and ministry plans.

How do you engage young adults like these in your stewardship plans and ministry?

How do you engage young adults like these in your stewardship plans and ministry?

How does stewardship fit in?

During August, COMPASS will provide conversations and ideas for faith communities about stewardship for young adults: a core component of our focus to provide space and conversation for young adults about faith and finances.

Questions that we’ll think about this month may include:

  • How do you communicate, teach, and preach about stewardship with young adults in mind?
  • In what ways can you engage young adults in stewardship practices?
  • Do you teach children about stewardship concepts, and if so, how do you build on that experience as they grow older?
  • In what creative ways do you work across generations to facilitate conversations about stewardship, faith, and finances?
  • How do you see God at work in your stewardship ideas and plans?

As we discuss, share, and imagine this month, you will hear from some new guest writers including Adam Copeland, the newly appointed director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, as well as from young adult pastors and other pastors and lay leaders who are experimenting with creative ways to engage young adults in stewardship.

If you are willing to share some ideas in the form of guest post, we would love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are interested via a comment below.

In the meantime, here’s one more question for you to consider: How do your experiences with faith and finances shape your understanding about stewardship, and how do they influence the stewardship story of your faith community?

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.

Earth Day, Creation Care & Stewardship

During the month of April, the COMPASS blog is providing space for questions and reflections related to Earth Day and creation care. To start this month’s series, I thought I would share some of my own thoughts and reflections.

EarthPsalm 24 begins, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (NRSV) This claim has great implications for our understanding and interaction with the earth and all of creation. I begin here because COMPASS provides space for reflections around faith, finances and stewardship for young adults.

Sometimes when we think about stewardship, we only think about money. In his book Shalom Church: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community, Craig Nessan writes that, “Contrary to prevailing stereotypes, stewardship is not only about money. Instead stewardship has to do with responding to God’s generosity by caring for all God has entrusted to us” (127).

Buddy with Allison and Me

Buddy with Allison and Me

As I think about the ways I care for all that God has entrusted to me, a few initial thoughts come to mind:

  • My wife Allison and I have a pet cat named Buddy. We care for Buddy as a part of our family.
  • We own one car.
  • We try to recycle as much as we can.
  • We turn off the water while we brush our teeth.

I could go on, but these are a few examples of how we are trying to care for all God has entrusted to us.

Some aspects of creation care are probably easier for young adults to do than others. For example, using less transportation (like having one car like Allison and I have) or public transportation may be a financial necessity. Reducing our use of technology and resulting consumption of electricity may be a harder commitment to make. Millennials and young adults have grown up with computers, laptops, television, cellphones, etc. which we are largely dependent on for work, livelihood and entertainment. Do we think about how this effects our carbon footprint because of the electricity used to power them?

On a larger scale, because of the issues of natural resource usage and climate change, Millennials wonder what kind of earth is they are inheriting. What are the implications, for example, of the great water emergencies in California on food supply sustainability, the provision of life, etc. and our life and consumer choices related to them?

Reflecting about Creation

Reflecting about Creation and the way we steward it.

During the month of April we will try and unpack some of these questions as we reflect about creation and the earth in observation of Earth Day.

Things to Consider

How often do you use electricity? How much water do you use in your daily life? Do you intentionally recycle? Do you think or reflect about the way you use the earth’s resources?

Future April blog posts will feature perspectives from others related to creation care and stewardship of the earth. If you would like to share a story or reflection as part of this series, please let me know, and welcome to the conversation!

Image Credits: Earth and Question and Reflection.

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.

Navigating the Jungle of Wedding Gifts: Why Donations are Just as Good

jungle croppedFaith influences many of our decisions in life: how and where we live, what jobs or careers we pursue, and what we buy. At least that is our hope. As we were preparing for our wedding earlier this fall, Shawn and I reflected on our desire to live simply. By living simply, I mean that we want to bike, walk, or bus instead of drive, read a book instead of watch TV, cook together instead of eat out, and engage in any number of other “slow” living practices. We do this as a way to have a richer experience of life, to tread more lightly on our Mother Earth, and to live out our faith by generally attempting to counter our culture of haste and thoughtless consumption.

We thought about our possessions. Having lived on our own for several years, we each brought various dishes, cooking utensils, and household items into our new home together. They may be a little eclectic, but they work! Many of them have emotional value too, such as my great-grandmother’s teapot that my own grandmother carefully preserved for me. We have been taught to care for our possessions as a means of stewardship. Why buy something new, albeit matching, that expends fresh resources, when we can preserve what we already have or buy a functional, secondhand piece for a better price? To us, it makes complete sense to keep and continue to use what we already have, instead of asking for brand new items just because we’re getting married.

Another factor in our desire for simplicity is the rich human experience we are able to have by not having to constantly maintain a plethora of unnecessary items. We have been blessed with rich experiences at Camp Amnicon in northern Wisconsin, where we guided canoe trips and lived in a nurturing community where work was shared and each person was valued for deep, intangible qualities. Our spirits were nurtured by others seeking God and by nature. We also believe that, as Christians, it is our responsibility to care for others who are in need. These experiences and desire for simplicity led us to request donations to Camp Amnicon, the Nature Conservancy, and People Incorporated nonprofit focused on serving those with mental illness and experiencing homelessness) as a way to lift up our nonmaterial values and avoid excess possessions that we might acquire as wedding gifts.

While we appreciate family’s and friends’ generosity, we didn’t want unnecessary stuff that would bog us down and hinder our enjoyment of how we believe God wants us to live our lives—enjoying the company of others, treading lightly on the Earth, and trying to use only what we need and to share the rest. Of course, many people still wanted to give us things—and most people did—but we appreciate those who saw that their donation in our honor is an equally valid gift to us because it helps us support organizations that give life and serve others.

-Casey Englund-Helmeke

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.