July 23, 2018

Why do you give to the Church?

Why do you give to the church? Is it out of obligation, loyalty, gratitude, assurance that the gift will make a good impact, support for community?

It turns out that there are studies about what motivates giving. They conclude: Often your perspective is tied to your generation.

The Episcopal Church Foundation has stressed this for several years in its teaching about how to strengthen stewardship ministry. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, took the lessons to heart, including differently-worded letters to parishioners of different generations. The letters are delivered in annual giving packets that include a booklet describing the impact of St. John’s ministries, and a pledge card.

St. John’s Stewardship Chairman John Harberts says the letters have the same opening and closing, but a paragraph or two in the middle are written to particularly resonate with the persons who will receive it. Below is a chart with examples:
Millennials/Young Families:
Characteristics: Socially conscious, digital media, child-focused world, school shootings, terrorist attacks.
Message: Your gift is important and will impact lives. Now, how can we get to know you?

St. John’s wording: In this fast-paced world of instant communication the news and events of each day come at us quickly and continually. I sometimes find myself wondering about the future and thinking, “What world will our children face? Will they have the ‘moral compass’ to make the best decisions?” This thought always leads me to think about how valuable St. John’s is not only for us as adults, but maybe even more for our children.

Generation X (born between 1965-1978)
Characteristics: Entrepreneurial, cynical of authority. Wish to “experience” church though may not attend regularly. Experience tied to giving.
Message: We are a people/community who care about each other.

St. John’s wording: …I realize that in “our corner of the world,” we have a place we can trust. There is a place in touch with the needs of all of us – St. John’s. By being involved through our attendance and being informed we can even help to guide and steer it. St. John’s offers many direct and specific programs to our members and the greater community as well.

The Silent Generation (born between 1930-1945)
Characteristics: Value loyalty, conformity. Married early and set up the Church as we know it.
Message: Legacy (“You built this!”)

St. John’s wording: More and more I realize that our church – the oldest church in Grand Haven – is a beacon to us and the greater community. The values we teach and the help we give to those in need are timeless. This is a gift our generation can provide to future generations. This church is a legacy to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is something we can give to them and our community.

The above examples reflect that the church can speak to our differences with integrity, welcoming all to support a community of faith.