In this month’s episode of the CSN Podcast, our host, Derek Sisterhen, interviews Chris Brown in a discussion about Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z on, “How to organize your stewardship ministry to reach across the generational divide in your church.”
Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and dynamic speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. Available on radio stations across the country, Chris Brown’s True Stewardship provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Prior to joining Ramsey Solutions in 2014, Chris spent seven years leading many to Christ while growing churches in North Carolina and Florida. Chris and his wife, Holly, live in Franklin, Tennessee, with their three children. You can follow Chris online at Stewardship.com, on Twitter and Instagram at @ChrisBrownOnAir, or at facebook.com/ChrisBrownOnAir.
What to read more about this month’s episode? Here is an excerpt from the transcript of this episode’s conversation.
Derek: So it seems, to me at least, almost a daily occurrence that I come across something talking about how millennials are taking over the world. The baby boomers don’t know what to do with them. Gen-Xers don’t know what to do with them. We’ve just got this generational kind of tension if you will. All of these generations, these people, are present in our churches, and our stewardship leaders are trying to figure out, “How do we minister to them?” So my first question to you is, how do you see stewardship leaders in the local church effectively reach across those generational divides in the days ahead?
Chris: Yeah. Great question, and definitely a felt need. I think first and foremost; the millennials want to feel involve. They want to feel valued. So when you’re trying to bridge that gap between generations, you’ve got to look to your staffing. How many millennials do you have on your staff? How bought in are they to the stewardship movement? The only way you’re going to get buy-in when it comes to the stewardship movement is to get them involved so they can actually feel the pain. They can touch the pain, and they can be real to them. They can see the results.
So first of all, I would just say staffing. If you look around and you’ve got 14 people on staff and all of them are over 50, you’re not going to connect well with millennials. Another one is your stage, and it might not just be the auditorium. It might be everywhere there’s influence. Do you have any millennials that have influence? Are they onstage in some capacity? Maybe they’re making an announcement, or maybe they’re doing worship, or maybe they’re even speaking occasionally.
But get them involved. Millennials are going to connect with you more if they see millennials onstage. It starts even on Sunday morning and Saturday nights, and then it goes from there, so in the ministries and everything else after that. I think also, we’ve got to research. What are they excited about? They’re excited about life change. They’re excited about being involved in movements. They love like serving Saturdays and community outreach. So we’ve got to do the research on what they’re actually looking for.
Another thing is programming. If your programming is directed towards the 55-year-old or 45-year-old, you’re not going to reach them. So there’s got to be some programming. We’ve got to kind of move with the times and make sure that we’re connecting, not alienating other generations, but we’ve got to find some common ground where we can connect to all generations through our programming. That’s counting the weekend services and also counting secondary environments as well.
Then, recently, there was a post. I think there was a Washington Post article that talked about what millennials are looking for in the church. They’re not looking for flashy lights and all that stuff. The primary thing they’re looking for is warmth. They’re looking for warmth. It’s a little bit more than friendliness. It’s this tone of the environments that you create. Create warmth. Even though there is a generational gap, all people are attracted to warmth.
Chris: So you’ve got to create that with your programming.
Derek: I think those are really great observations. I know here, in North Carolina, when we are engaging that particular age segment, the millennial group… So they tend to get a bad rap, and we think of them as, “Well, maybe they’re kind of lazy or entitled,” and those kinds of things. But I think you’re making a great point. There’s a sense of wanting to belong.
Derek: Wanting to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves. When we can create that atmosphere in our churches, absolutely, you start to draw them in.
Chris: Yeah. Derek, I’m going just to add, I would say that they appear to be very entitled. But I would just say, they just haven’t mastered the art of covering up their entitlement. I actually think that 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds, we have an overall problem. Our human nature is that we deserve. I just think millennials have not grown up enough to polish it and make it look sophisticated. They’re coming out being blunt about it. So they get the bad rap, but all of us have an entitlement that we’ve got to beat over the head on a daily basis.
Derek: I appreciate you making that point. I think you’re right on. They’re just being more transparent. They’re just real about it.
Derek: From a practical standpoint, as particularly on the financial side, the stewardship side, I’d be interested in getting your perspective on this. But I would envision that over the course of the next, say, five, ten years, we see a shift in maybe stewardship programming and course offerings, and resource offerings towards really helping people work through systematically eliminating student loan debt. Because we know that the millennial generation has had this front row seat to the Great Recession. But then, on the other side, this is also the one, this generation is saddled with the most student loan debt coming out.
We’ve seen in some of our programmings at Hope; these folks totally get it. “Yeah. I need to have a budget. I want to be able to give money and contribute to what God is doing. I need to have savings. But I’ve also got $60,000, $80,000, $100,000 worth of student loan debt. Now what?” So it’s like, I don’t have to convince them that living on a budget and controlling their spending is smart. They want to get a real action plan together to eliminate that big monkey on their back. What do you see in that regard?
Chris: Yeah. I think the latest stat I saw, the average student is graduating with $37,000 in student loans. You think about their average salary coming is probably around $30,000 to $35,000. So it’s a year’s worth of debt. That’s a hard thing to tackle. For me, as far as whether you’re a millennial or whether you’re 50, regardless, if you’ve got that much debt, it comes back to Proverb 6:5. It just does. You’ve got to free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter. There’s no other way around it. I don’t like debt consolidation. I don’t like debt management. I don’t like debt kits. I like debt elimination.
What that means is you’ve got to be a minimalist for 18, 24, 36 months, and you cream it. You just absolutely send $1,000 payments and $1,500 payments, and you live on nothing. That’s the only way to do this. Otherwise, you pay your debt for seven years or 15 years. You know this. You can fall into debt, but you can’t fall out. So you’ve absolutely got just to slap it in the face. You’ve got to get mad at it. I think that generation actually does pretty good from the standpoint of minimalists. Somehow, it’s a little bit trendy. I know it [isn’t here, national]. It’s kind of like, “What’s the littlest amount I can live on and kind of be a mooch for a while?” Which is another whole sermon.
Chris: But I think they take pride in that, that, “Hey, yeah. I can get some Old Navy jeans and wear them ten times out of 14 days,” and figure it out. But that’s the only way out of this. Whether you’re 50 or whether you’re 20, it’s the same deal.
Derek: Yeah. I mean, this is the generation that kind of birthed the whole tiny house thing. Right?
Chris: Yeah. That’s true. That’s true. They’ve got some good ideas.
Derek: They do. They live on less. I like it.
Derek: Well, let me kind of make a transition here to talking about tools that we use. So we know that we’ve got this generational gap to bridge. But let’s talk a little bit about technology and how that’s going to help us in the days ahead. I know here, again at Hope, we made a decision a couple of years ago to record one of these live classes that we did. We just called it “Financial Foundations,” and we thought, “Well…” We saw attendance decline in the live version of the class. So we recorded it. We threw the videos out there online. People can watch them in their pajamas.
As a result, we were able to start connecting with a whole new group of people that either might not choose to show up to one of our classes, or they may not even be able to based on their schedule. All of our listeners are aware of FPU and just the incredible paradigm shift, I think, that occurred in stewardship ministry with that resource alone being available. How is technology influencing the further development of new tools and new resources at Ramsey Solutions?
Chris: Well, I think it’s a huge deal, and it’s a huge conversation, and it’s very, very important. When you’re thinking about this next generation, they’ve got a shorter attention span. So a 45-minute lesson, we’ve got to condense that. Instead of having nine 45-minute lessons, maybe we have… [We don’t want to cut out some of the material because it’s all very good material.] So maybe it’s like 15 15-minute sessions. They’re not called “classes.” They’re called “hangouts.” You sign up via text, not via email. Do you see the shift there?
It’s still the same content, but we’re going about it a different way, trying to make sure that we speak their language. I think whatever the recording and the capture, it’s got to be the latest HD quality. Subconsciously, they’re going to be equating that to what they’ve got in their living room and what they see in Walmart, and what they see in Target and Best Buy. They’re going to see the best stuff out there. So on the weekends, we’ve got to have the best screens.
So we’ve got to make sure that we work our budgets in a way where we’ve got money to put into those creative solutions because that is the mouthpiece of the vision. That’s the mouthpiece of, “Jesus uses the church.” We want to make sure that message is just as compelling as a Coca-Cola commercial on the weekend. So it’s got to be just as compelling. I also think, convenience matters. Convenience is huge to this generation.
So those kiosks that are in the lobby, the website to give has only got to be like one or two clicks. It can’t be seven clicks, and then you’re scrolling and clicking, and scrolling. You’re putting in everything, all your information, including like your blood type and where you were born. It really is just two or three things. It’s got to be quick. When you send out a letter, the letter can’t be three pages long and a bunch of text. It’s got to be just a couple paragraphs. “Hey, thank you so much.”
Those are the kind of moves that we’ve got to start making if we haven’t already, and I think we’ve got to be aware of skepticism. They live in a generation where they’ve seen several pastors fall over the last 20 or 30 years, which have been a little bit more public. They’ve fallen for hundreds of years.
Chris: But now, it’s more public. Because of social media, because of media in general, there’s a little bit of skepticism. So you’ve got to go about it in a different way, where it’s, I would say, just a little bit less threatening, and you’ve got to be aware of the stigmas that are out there as well. You can’t provide a class and just say, “Hey, we’re providing a class.” No. You’ve got to see if you can get everyone to kind of rally around it and go together. Because if you go to a class and you’re just one of five people, well there’s a stigma that you’re a broke person. “Oh, that’s the broke person class.”
Chris: We’ve got to think through all these things when you’re thinking about the next generation.
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