People born between 1977 and 1985 are often referred to as millennials. However, nine years is hardly enough to qualify as a separate generation and so many who are born in that timeframe feel as though they don’t quite belong. They have one foot in Generation X and one in Generation Y. They are the bridge between an analog childhood and a digital adulthood, and we often remind them of that.
Our younger son, Christopher, was born in October of 1985. He doesn’t appreciate being “labelled” as a millennial, especially given the stereotypes we assign to them, such as being lazy or self-absorbed. Chris worked hard to get where he is today and endured some of life’s difficult challenges. As college graduate, he searched for nearly two years for a job during the economic downtown a decade ago.
Chris lives outside of Washington, D.C. He is a good steward of what he has and spends a lot of time keeping track of how he uses his resources. I especially admire him and the way he manages his money during the holidays. He loves experiences. He and his friends often give gifts that involve spending time with one another, like an overnight trip to Philadelphia for dinner, a movie, and other fun activities. They are less interested in accumulating stuff than my generation.
As the holiday season approaches, Chris plans what he will spend for gift-giving and considers several charities where he thinks a gift will make a difference. He does research and knows how the gift will be used. Once his decision is made, he matches the amount he has budgeted to be spent on friends and family with charitable contributions for the same amount.
Younger generations are quite observant of our giving behaviors, and I think we have a lot to learn from them. They see our excessive spending and the debt we incur to make sure everyone has “enough.” They choose to redefine what “enough” looks like as they make choices about their money and their time.
Arthur Simon, in his book “How Much is Enough,” suggests that Jesus’ words about possessions, and his call to deny self, take up the cross and follow him, gave the people hope and purpose as they formed a new community of faith. Believers were keenly aware of the idolatry that comes with attachment to money and saw generosity to the poor as a service to God.
As an individual, consider this as you approach the holidays:
- Make a plan for what you can spend without causing debt and burden after the holidays are over.
- Make a list of the gifts you want to give so you don’t find yourself making a last-minute purchase that goes beyond your plan.
- Include on your list of gift recipients at least one charitable contribution, in addition to your church.
As the church, how will you appeal to the hearts of all generations in your congregation? How do you tell the story of the offerings we bring to the manger? Compare this list to the list above:
- Make a plan for what you will ask your congregation to do during the Advent and Christmas season and make sure you have not extended them beyond what they can do.
- Make a list of the ministries who need your generosity, and let your congregation know of the ways they can give as they consider their gifts.
- Include on your list of gift recipients a place of need in your community that takes you outside the walls of your congregation.
Several years ago, Chris introduced me to Casting Crowns, a contemporary Christian rock band started by a youth pastor who serves as the band’s lead vocalist. Every year as we approach Advent and Christmas, I listen again to the lyrics of one of their songs:
Over the skies of Bethlehem appeared a star
While angels sang to lowly shepherds
Three wisemen seeking truth, they traveled from afar
Hoping to find the Child from Heaven falling on their knees
They bow before the humble Prince of Peace.
We bring an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus, may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord, I bring an offering to You.
This Advent and Christmas, as gifts are being bought and money spent on “stuff,” let your sacrifice be to bring an offering to the King, one that gives God glory for all that we are and all that we have been given.
Associate for Stewardship
This article was published in the November/December 2019 issue of Presbyterians Today as part of their Money Matters Series.