On June 25th, the U.S. Census Bureau published an article entitled “Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse.” Their research shows that the U.S. population born between 1982 and 2000 now represents more than one quarter of the nation’s population (83.1 million versus 75.4 million boomers). This group is more diverse than any previous generation, with 44.2% belonging to ethnic groups not identified as non-Hispanic, single-race white. This diversity is projected beyond Millennials, with 50.2 % of Americans younger than five representing a minority race or ethnic group, a transition first observed in 2014.
Church Planters, Change, and Purse Strings
Using these two pieces of information from the report, how can we begin to consider this generation when it comes to church planting? In this post, I wish to explore with you one particular aspect of church planting: funding churches that have substantial budget needs. Although I have more questions than answers at this point, as fellow church planters, I see the value in exploring this together. Here are a few things to consider:
- Most funding agencies and organizations that support church planters are still controlled by baby boomers, a large percentage of which are Caucasian. For example, just 21.7% of persons over 65 belong to minority groups. (I am increasingly less comfortable with this language.) Will the individuals holding the purse strings notice the shifting demographics and choose to intentionally invest in new churches that are led by people who are not single-race Caucasians?
- In the majority culture, time is equated with money. Time is a commodity. Church planters often considered the most fundable tend to be those associated with what has been noted as the Anglo-Saxon, Protestant work ethic. However, the notion of working 80-plus hours each week and abandoning the family for church work (thankfully) does not translate as a permissible work style in every culture. In addition, boomer culture predominantly values time linearly—time is planned, scheduled, organized, and spent “wisely” in a results-oriented manner. But how will those who fund church planters relate to the work styles and varying chronological values of other cultures? I must confess to being guilty of thinking of some church planters as lazy simply because I have been ignorant of their culture’s time-management styles.
- Many funding organizations for church planters will back only the ventures they perceive as potentially successful. Here, success means large, or at least financially viable within just a few years. However, the business models of many cultures are small and sometimes even family led. In 2014, people representing minorities led just 4% of America’s Fortune 500 companies. Is there an unconscious bias towards race within the corporate ladder, and do churches align with this corporate ladder? Are there preferred or even culturally inherited business models that appeal more to certain cultures? How is risk management handled in various settings? The church world is fairly risk averse in the name of stewardship. How do these cross-cultural factors affect what is perceived as fundable? What is the resultant effect on church planters and their churches?
- Asking for money is not acceptable in every culture. However, church planters are currently expected to “do the ask,” seeking financial support from family, friends, and other churches. This is not an acceptable practice in every culture. Some funding agencies match the donations raised by the church planter’s other supporters. In such situations, church planters are sometimes considered poor risks if they cannot raise large amounts of support. Likewise, within these cultures there are fewer models of asking for financial help from individuals.
The questions we ponder here are but a few ways to consider the whole issue of funding. Personally, I am inclined towards bivocational models already embraced by many church cultures. Even in bivocational situations, however, some form of funding is still preferred by the church planters I know.
What Do You Think?
What needs to change in order to embrace the larger issues of change happening around us? What are some other critical observations you have related to millennials, diversity, and church-planter funding?
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