My wife Heather, and I find ourselves in the generation of Millennials characterized by emotional giving because it’s trendy to give if emotions are in it, or by not-giving because they do not think they can afford it, or just not want to give at all.
Many Millennials have compounded college loans with debt from credit cards for laptops, smart phones, and other Millennial “essentials”. The typical graduates shoulder a load of debt that really does block their ability to give now, much less invest in their future, and are even psychologically crippled to focus on any financial needs beyond their own.
I talked to a student the other day who said he could not give to his church because he wants to focus on paying his loans off first. He is an Engineering intern, lives at home and makes more than I do. The same Millennial giving mindsets even shapes their future by thinking in order to give to church, we have to set their lives in order first – reliable car, 3 bedroom house and no student loans.
My wife and I are both extremely blessed and grateful to our parents to graduate from Clemson and Erskine debt free. Because of that freedom, we are now both able to work part time and support ourselves. There is no doubt freedom from debt helps encourage our conviction to give to God first and trust that He will provide our basic needs – needs not wants. So for us, giving isn’t optional. Not only has Christ given himself for our salvation, but also God put people in our lives who graciously supported us in times of need. Giving is a way for us to obey the Lord and demonstrate a heart of thankfulness for what others have done for us – most of all the Lord Jesus.
Even with our modest incomes, we recently opened a Roth IRA. We are not able to stash millions, and never plan to, but we wanted to make some preparation for the future. I honestly had no clue I could be a planned giver at 25 years old and a pastor. We had the desire to give and applied a simple strategy suggested by the ARP Foundation to keep growing the Roth’s tax free with access to our little nest egg if we needed it, but to also designate a percentage to World Witness. When we opened the account I asked the question, “Am I storing up treasures on earth?” After I realized I could be a planned giver, I saw I could prepare for the future and give to God at the same time.
It was so easy! It took little effort on my part. I went to my banker and told her what I wanted to do. She printed off some papers, I signed them and just like that I made a planned gift. But that was just the technical part.
It was not easy spiritually. When I was heading to the bank, I kept thinking of all the reasons why I should not make the changes on our account. “What if there isn’t enough for Heather? What if we have kids and they need the money in the future? What if…what if…” It took the grace of God in our hearts to trust that God will provide for Heather, and our future kids. It took trust in the Lord that he could use that money to bless the work of gospel ministry through World Witness in the future and that our family would be okay. The enemy does not want the work of gospel ministry to expand and he knows that the money idol is a big one for everybody. Do not give in but GIVE, GIVE, GIVE, to God. John Piper said, “Go, send or disobey.” For now, we are senders.
We believe the call to lead in ministry means that we do more than preach, and teach. If we want the people we shepherd to be generous givers, we should be givers. Peter said that elders should shepherd by example (1 Peter 5). We try to be “lavish givers” in the words of John Piper but we also have basic needs to meet. Planned Giving was a way we believed we could lead by example, take a step of faith in God, and act now for the kingdom.
Walker Suits is the pastor of Travelers Rest ARP Church Plant in Travelers Rest, SC.