3 Ways to Encourage Catholic Millennials in the Habit of Stewardship

When it comes to Millennials in your parish, you are likely encountering a diverse group of Catholics. Some might come occasionally out of nostalgia, others might be running half the ministries in your parish. As priests and ministers working with these emerging adults, you spend so much time worrying about keeping them in the Church that you probably think it would be crazy to ask for anything above and beyond.

This is a mistake.

As the USCCB notes in Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults, “We need to be a Church that is interested in the lives of these men and women and is willing to invite them into our community.”

When we fail to call Millennials to take responsibility as adults in their faith, when we fail to inform them what taking ownership of their parish as adult members of the community means, we are actually barring them from our community. As the USCCB also reminds parishes:

“This communion of faith is a communion of charisms, of gifts and talents, a place where young adults participate not only as receivers but also as contributors. This communion of the Church, rooted in God’s love, offers young adults the vision, purpose, and foundation…that they long for.”

If you want Millennials to stay in the Church, you need to help them find those strings that will attach them to their home in the Body of Christ—their parish.

When it comes to those concrete parish ties, the most important way we can encourage Millennials to build them is through encouraging them to grow in the habit of stewardship.

Stewardship, as Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau of the Diocese of Green Bay, WI defines it in Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, is “about four things: receiving God’s gifts gratefully, nurturing and tending those gifts responsibly, sharing those gifts justly and charitably, and returning those gifts to God in abundance.”

We grow the habit of stewardship when we give of ourselves: our time, our treasure, and our talent. I’d like to share three ways you can invite the Millennials of your parish to assume responsibility for the parish in their practice of stewardship:

1. Invite them to show up

Whether it is giving of their time to join the Knights of Columbus, attending a Theology on Tap or a Diocesan Young Adults Dance, coming to coffee and doughnuts after Mass, or to organize donations for the Thanksgiving food drive, make sure to particularly invite Millennials. Often, we extend particular invitations to married couples, families, children, teens, but we leave out young adults, whose current state of life gives them the most freedom in attending these events.

This enables Millennials to know that they, just as much as others in different states of life, are important members of the community—members we want and hope to see in attendance at community events.

If your parish makes use of digital communication tools, make sure you include a calendar of events and tell your parish where they can find it so they can sync it to their phone calendar alerts.

Even more effective, put that calendar on your parish’s app so that you can send push notifications to remind Millennials of the various parish events, along with personalized emails inviting them to come. The reason push notifications are so effective is that while many emails go unchecked, and clicking through a website to find information is often frustrating, push notifications that are tailored to your parishioners’ interests enable them to find out about the information they actually want, which in turn increases their attendance at those events.

2. Let them give how they want

As a Millennial myself, I’ll be honest: I don’t carry cash. Most of what I buy is on my phone, and I’m not the only one. As mobile continues to provide Millennials with an easier and more convenient alternative to cash-based interactions, parishes who provide Millennials with the opportunity to tithe over their phones give younger parishioners the freedom to tithe in a regular, manageable way.

Moreover, when you encourage Millennials to tithe through your parish’s mobile app, you can encourage them to link their tithing to their online bank account, budgeting their tithing into their financial activities. This can be brought up at the announcements before or after Mass, as a reminder to all your parishioners.

But why stop there? Offer a Theology on Tap style money management series for the young adults in your parish to attend. Not only can you help them faithfully form their financial lives as adult Catholics, but you will also provide them the opportunity to interact with older members of the parish community, and to learn how to build lives that are receptive to God’s call in all aspects, even the fiscal part.

3. Ask them to share their talents

You might have a great guitarist, an incredible youth mentor, or a financial genius in your pews and never even know it. When a parish is running smoothly, most people don’t bother to bring up their skills since they believe it isn’t necessary.

That’s why it’s important to follow the lead of parishes like St. Thomas Aquinas in Wichita, which offers a Spiritual Gifts survey in their website. But go one step further: post a Google From version on your parish app and ask parishioners to complete the survey. Then, at the end, include a free response question asking about any talents or skills they have that they might be willing to share with the parish. The data will all be retrievable on your end in spreadsheet form.

Now, when the parish opens up a new position on the Financial Council, or you are looking for someone to help out at the Knights of Columbus Crab Cook-Off, you can pull the young woman who has spent the past two years at an accounting firm, or the young man who has spent his summers helping with his grandfather’s restaurant. You know what talents might be hiding in your parish, and you have the opportunity to invite Millennials to share theirs with the whole community.

Parishes can’t just be a place Millennials go on Sunday only to otherwise feel out of place. Many people mention music, liturgy, formation, and any number of other reasons why Millennials fall away from the Church. I think one of the biggest reasons is also one of the most natural: people don’t go where they don’t feel wanted. In particular, what distinguishes children from adults is that children tend to ask that things be given to them, while adults tend to ask how can they share what they have to give. If Millennials are not given a share in the stewardship of parishes—if they are not invited to give their time, treasure, and talent in meaningful ways—it is little wonder that they might feel their presence is unnecessary.

Stewardship Is a Process, Not an Event

Part of formation means we are always learning, always growing in our spiritual lives. But it also means that as people reach adulthood, parishes need to encourage and continue that formation as adults.

So, I encourage parishes to reach out to the Millennials of your parish with the words Pope Francis proclaimed to the young men and women who came to celebrate their faith with him at World Youth Day:

“Freely we have received, so freely let us give. We are called to serve the crucified Jesus in all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh in those who are disadvantaged, in those who hunger and thirst, in the naked and imprisoned, the sick and unemployed, in those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord.”

When you call Millennials to stewardship, first and foremost, you are inviting them to find our God, to touch our Lord.

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