Adam J. Copeland, director of the Center for Stewardship at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., in the November cover story of The Lutheran magazine presents and corrects five myths about young adults and giving. In November, Living Lutheran highlights Copeland’s suggestions for turning these money myths into engaging ministry with young adults.

To engage young adults, find an area of passion and expand from there.

When I was leading a faith community made up largely of young adults, I was often asked to give presentations about young adults to the greater church. When asked how we convinced young people to show up for our events, I often spoke of “passion.”

I’d explain that our faith community’s popularity had to do with finding an area of passion, and building on it further. For example, if a young adult had a passion for animals, we’d organize an event volunteering at an animal shelter. Many folks had a passion for deep conversations and good beer, so our pub theology ministry took off.

While there’s a certain wisdom to this approach, when it comes to ministry and money, it’s not enough. A pastor shared this at a recent seminary conference: “When it comes to money, I’m less interested in engaging passions than shaping passions.” Bingo.

Correcting Myth #2: Cast a vision and help shape our passions.

At the same event at which this wise pastor sparked my change of perspective, a speaker from the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, addressed the topic of young adults and giving. David King explained that many young people actually read ministries’ mission and vision statements.

“Young people care about what you stand for,” King told the leaders at the gathering. “And they often think, ‘I want to give to a place where I’ve seen the mission in action.’”

The church has an opportunity to help shape the giving patterns of our young adult members. But what churches do, and where our money goes, is not always apparent. Pomroy suggests peeling back the veil of church budgets.

For example, giving to “keep the lights on” is uninspiring. After all, very few of us have a passion for electricity. But giving to ministry that feeds the hungry, heals the sick and welcomes the stranger (due in part to the gift of electricity) helps shape reasons and excitement for giving.

King also described a paradigm shift in the church from members approaching giving as a financial contribution, to viewing giving as creating change. Young adults, and all of us for that matter, can grow into mature givers when we’re invited to help create positive change in the world.

Adam J. Copeland
Adam Copeland teaches at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., where he is director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders.

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