This week we asked our bloggers what younger pastors are thinking about and what they think the rising generation of Presbyterian leaders sees different than previous generations. Here are their answers.
I had a very short-lived post-college music career. Well, “career” is a very generous term. Let’s call it a year of suspended disbelief and magical thinking. Instead of practicing hard and booking gigs, I played bass in a ska band with high school buddies, fervently hoping someone would start listening to ska music again. I imagined it was a job. It was not.
It felt like a job. It felt like it could be the future of something. It didn’t have any sustainability though. I lived with my parents the whole time and paid no bills. I spent more (of their money) on gas getting to gigs than I ever earned. My folks paid for all of it and it wasn’t really the future of anything. I don’t regret it because it made me decide to become an adult, which has become a choice these days. It just wasn’t the future of my life because I didn’t have the drive or work ethic to fund the dream.
Just like my future was pretty uncertain back when I was 22 and trying to be a rock star, the future of our church is elusive too. My hope is that we do have the drive and the work ethic to get there. My concern, and what I think about constantly, is how we are going to fund the dream that God is revealing to us. Because right now, our parents are funding this church situation. It is the baby boomers’ pledges and the end-of-life gifts of their parents that make up a bulk of our church budgets. That will last for a while, but how are we millennials going to pay for this future church ourselves? We young folks need to start talking about money and the church now.
I can’t believe that I am the one saying this. I don’t really even like talking about money, but I don’t see many of my generation working on this. I’ve read a few studies from the secular nonprofit world about millennials and giving. Who is working on this in the church? In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)? Show yourself! Give us a better insight than enabling electronic giving. This is bigger than that.
I’ve seen a lot of good work around end-of-life giving and estate planning, which is very important and necessary. But I don’t think we’re ever going to figure out what the future of the church looks like if we’re dependent on our parents paying for it. Maybe the legacy gifts of the baby boomers will get us over this cultural hump we seem to be stranded on, but we won’t get much further unless we engage millennials in honest conversations about money and faith. Right now.
To the folks who are my parents’ age and older: Have you been trying to have this “talk” with us for a long time, but worried it would set us to screaming and door slamming like when we were teenagers? If so, well, it is time we had that “talk.” If you aren’t sure how to do it, here is a starting place: Resign your seat on session and give it to some one under 40. Let them lead and listen to them. Ask them questions about what is most important to them and how the church can be more financially transparent to them. Let that young leader design your stewardship campaign this year.
To the folks who are my age: A lot of us also had parents who loved us enough to fund our wildest daydreams. A few of us have figured out how to make careers doing what we love out of that parental springboard. Most of us have figured out that money doesn’t grow on trees, student loans are the worst and adulting is hard. Since they pushed our desks into “pods” in elementary school, we’ve known that working in groups is hard but usually makes the work better. That’s what the church is right now: a chance to work together to bring about a better world by reflecting the love of God. Go ask for a seat on your session. When they pick their jaws up off the floor, they’ll probably give you one. Offer to help plan the stewardship campaign this year and push some new ideas there. With new conversations, honest ones, person-to-person ones, about money and faith, we can fund the future of the church ourselves.
ALEX WIRTH is a father, writer and associate pastor for congregational care at Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego. He types his prayers, sermons and stories on an old manual typewriter even though he was born in the 1980s. That should tell you a lot about him. Follow him on instagram and twitter @alexjrwirth