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Generational Challenges Impacting Ministry Building Projects

In the old days, fundraising for a church building project was fairly straightforward. Some congregations went so far as to divide the building estimate by the number of members, telling each one how much they were expected to donate (For example, a $2M project split between 400 members would be $5,000 each).


Traditional efforts focused on banquet dinners, capital campaigns, and pastoral visits to key donors. But just like so much in our world, this too has changed. Old methods of fundraising simply won't be successful in today's world. What is it keeping folks from donating? That depends on the generation.


Retirement Planning of Boomers and Gen X

Especially in the wake of the pandemic-response, older generations are holding steady, waiting to see how things pan out. Gen X-ers have their eye on retirement and want to make sure their financial plans continue to be feasible. Meanwhile, Boomers are hesitant to completely leave the workforce, especially as the American health care system seems to be in a constant transition. Those who are already retired may be doing some part time work or pinching pennies until the future becomes more clear. In any case, they aren't interested in anything but the most secure investments - and likely short-term ones at that.

 

Financial Fears of Millennials

Millennials are often blamed for the continuing decline of church participation, but one thing is for sure, they aren't going to be investing big bucks in a church project, even if they are involved. Millennials are less financially secure than previous generations were at their age, and those who have been able to buy a house are saddled with high mortgage payments or improvement costs.


Meanwhile, they are having less kids and raising them (Generation Alpha) differently than their parents might have expected. This includes encouraging the kids to select their own hobbies, schools, and summer camps, which often means church-based activities that haven't shifted since the 90's aren't a top pick. Millennials are also interested in finding a different pace of life, burnt out from their side hustles and the stress of the pandemic. This includes working from home, prioritizing their own hobbies, and taking a more active role in child-rearing. Any financial flexibility they may have will likely be geared toward these experiences.

 

What About Gen Z and Alpha?

Gen Z is actually a highly philanthropic group, perhaps due to the difficult things they have been experiencing - from the constant fear of school shootings to peers dying by suicide. They are quick to support the financial needs of friends and those they are connected with around the globe. However, a traditional church building project does not fit the bill, especially with their distrust of religious institutions. Even if they wanted to help, the oldest Zoomers are at the very start of their careers.


Gen Z and Gen Alpha are digital natives that are more politically progressive, more educated, and more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. Both groups seem to be highly collaborative, enjoy diversity, and oriented toward practical solutions. If the pandemic has done one thing, it has developed an even greater interest among these young people for developing a green­er, health­i­er world, meaning they will be more supportive of efforts that are cognizant of their environmental impact.

 

Fundraising to Build in a Tumultuous Time

This makes it sound like no generational group is excited about investing in a church building project, and that's probably true. But that doesn't mean individuals within these generations won't be open to funding the project God has placed on your heart. It just means you need to be especially thoughtful about how to move forward.


Want to chat more? Contact catherine@danielcookarchitect.com and we can discuss how ministries are currently finding success in funding their building projects.


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