This week we continue our series on generational stewardship characteristics with a look at Generation X, people born between 1964 and the early 1980's. As you engage in Stewardship formation with Generation X we believe you will find Pastor Tom Jenkins insights to be helpful.
Generation X: Authenticity, Community and Hope
by Pastor Tom Jenkins
Generation X is one of the most widely diverse generations in the history of the United States. However, while I cannot claim to speak for the whole generation, I do believe my life experiences are rather common place. Many of us came of age during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In my own rural upbringing, people were experiencing the loss of the family farm, the departure of union jobs, and the breakdown of communities. Seemingly overnight, small businesses and community functions gave way to large box stores and disconnection. Those of us who were more fortunate went away for education and have never gone back. We have settled primarily in Suburbia—with its promises of wealth, success, and security. Yet, our generation is keenly aware that Suburbia is not nearly as wonderful as we had been told it was. We are caught between John Cougar Mellencamp's "Scarecrow" and James Howard Kunstler's "End of Suburbia." The past we knew is gone and we have grown disillusioned with what is being offered. All of this affects what our generation has come to believe about giving.
Understanding this generational context helps provide insight into adopting effective strategies for congregational stewardship with Generation X. There are six key elements I would like you to consider as we work together to engage others in the mission of the Church. These have been helpful where I have served and might prove helpful where you serve. Generation X is looking for the following: authenticity, clarity of purpose, tangible results, sense of community, an eye towards holistic stewardship, and hope.
Nothing will drive our generation away from financial commitment like the lack of authenticity. Generation X wants our leaders and our institutions to be who and what we believe them to be. We have grown to middle age with scandal after scandal destroying institutions that were formerly trustworthy. If the church claims to be a vehicle for making positive impacts on the world around us, then the church and its leadership must deliver on these claims. Generation X will financially support the work of leaders and institutions who do as they say.
Our congregations and denominations must have clarity of purpose. Similar to the need for authentic leaders and institutions, it is imperative that our congregations be able to communicate the purpose and direction of their ministries in concise, succinct, and effective ways. Congregations can ill afford to lose a sense of focus. I have noticed that direct asks for immediate financial needs have been well received by my peers. Generation X feels that time is already running short and we would like to spend our time making a difference.
Making a difference for our generation must end in tangible results. Narrative budgets and stories of transformation have been effective tools in conveying the tangible results of congregational life to Generation X. People react in amazing ways to concrete stories about the effects of our ministry. Line item budgets are still necessary, but we have to be able to tell our stories.
The breakdown in older forms of community and the failure of suburbia has left us with an increasingly disconnected world in many ways. While technology has allowed the people to connect in ways we never dreamed possible, it seems as though people are less connected with humanity in their own backyards. In order for effective stewardship ministry with Generation X, congregations must develop and foster a sense of community. The Church must completely discard the notion of church participation as consumers of religious goods. A sense of community will help increase the financial commitment of all ages.
Congregations must have an eye towards a more holistic understanding of stewardship. For too long, stewardship conversations have been relegated to realms of charitable giving. Generation X needs a more integrated approach to the conversation. We need to know how the practice of giving could teach us to better steward all that we have in life. How can the practice of generosity inspire me to greater efforts in stewarding relationships, our health, or the environment?
Finally, please allow me to speak about hope. Generation X stands at the crossroads in a world that is beset by a host of large-scale issues that are simply overwhelming. Global Climate change, political instability in much of the world, and unsustainable energy practices are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Whether or not we agree these are the issues is beside the point. Generation X must be given a message of hope. We have to believe that our financial giving to local congregations is a viable avenue to help alter the course of events. We need to believe that we can help craft a better future for our children and grandchildren. Our giving must facilitate the spread of the Gospel in ways that give new life to people that have lost hope. Generation X must come to believe that healthy stewardship frees us to live more deeply and with enough courage to believe we might still change the world.
Pastor Tom Jenkins is a member of Generation X and he is also the Senior Pastor at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minn.
More about Generation X: 45% Give to religious groups including churches 77% Give to secular causes 31% Attend worship once a week 35% Don't attend church at all
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.