Today Grace Pomroy, Director of the Stewardship Leaders Program at Luther Seminary, is talking with Samuel Christensen, current Luther Seminary student and member of Generation Z (Gen Z) about their approach to generosity. While Gen Z is often talked about in the media as “kids” or “youth,” it’s important to note that the oldest of members of Gen Z will be turning 26 this year. According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z includes anyone born after 1996. They have entered seminary as well as the workforce and are quickly changing the face of generosity today.
Grace Pomroy: What pronouns do you use and why does this matter?
Samuel Christensen: I use pronouns like “he” and “they,” and I feel most cared for when people switch back and forth between the two. For example, “He is a student at Luther Seminary. They will graduate this year.” It can feel a little clunky at first, but a little practice and some concerted effort go a long way. Sometimes it seems like the recent proliferation of pronouns and genders came out of nowhere, and the whole concept might not connect with all of us; yet for a lot of people, especially the young and diverse people with whom our church wants to connect, pronouns are really important. Using and understanding the names and pronouns individuals have chosen is a great way for communities to embody the often trite mantra, “all are welcome.”
Grace Pomroy: Thanks for sharing this. Stewardship is about caring for something that belongs to someone else. I think calling each other by our chosen names and pronouns is a form of stewardship, too! As you said, it’s a great way for churches to actually live into their “all are welcome” slogans. I’d love to hear more about what generosity looks like for you. Why do you give to the church and/or other nonprofits?
Samuel Christensen: I give because God first and continuously gives to us. This is not an obligation or a requirement, but a grace-filled response. We see this giving lived out in Christ, who talks about money more than almost anything else in the Gospels. We are called to give not only as a way to love those around us, but as a way to grow deeper in our own faith as well.
Grace Pomroy: I love the both/and of giving you mentioned—it’s not just for our neighbors, our giving is for us, too. How do you prefer to give (i.e., via credit card, check, text message, etc.)? Are you a spontaneous giver, a regular giver, or a little bit of both?
Samuel Christensen: I almost always give regularly and electronically, usually in the form of an automated withdrawal from my bank account (probably because I almost never have cash or checks with me). Giving in this way helps me ensure I am consistent in my giving: since the money moves automatically, there is no chance for me to forget or say “oops I didn’t set money aside this month.”
Grace Pomroy: I’d love to think more about giving specifically to the church. What encourages you to give to the church? What discourages you from giving to the church?
Samuel Christensen: I have a lot of friends who have been hurt by the church—sexually assaulted by a minister, told they would never fit because they were gay, shamed for living with a partner before marriage, the list really goes on and on. I, too, have been hurt by the church. It is difficult to give to an organization when your trust has been so broken. And yet, I give to the church. Why? Because young people need spaces where they can experience unconditional love, because sick and lonely people deserve comfort and companionship, because the world so desperately needs hope and new life—and I think the church is uniquely equipped to meet such needs.
Grace Pomroy: Wow—I hear the beauty and the brokenness of the church today all wrapped up in the last answer. Can you say more about the values that guide your giving?
Samuel Christensen: Justice, reparations, and belonging.
Grace Pomroy: We’ve talked a lot about stewardship in this interview so far, but I’d love to hear more about what it means to you.
Samuel Christensen: For a while, stewardship was just this foreign word with scary associations, like “ten percent” and “pledge cards”—and it was only about the church. Recently, stewardship has started to grow in my mind, becoming larger than just the money I give to the church. Sometimes we talk about stewardship like God only cares about what you do with that holy ten percent. I think God cares about what I do with not only all of my money, but all of my thoughts and actions as well. For example, how am I stewarding the stories others have shared with me? How am I stewarding the planet we call home?
Grace Pomroy: I hear you saying that stewardship is about money and so much more. It’s about all of life, not just what we give away. I’m curious if you can tell us more about how you decide how much to give to the church and/or other nonprofits?
Samuel Christensen: I often explore this question when I find myself in new financial situations. To start, I make a list of organizations to which I have given or want to give and think about how much I would like to give to each of them. I then compare my income with my bills and saving goals, seeing how much is left over after I take care of the necessities. From there, it is honestly just a balancing game until things feel right. If you didn’t know, seminary students don’t make very much, so most weeks there is not ten percent of my budget to lop off the top and give away. Sometimes I move to save less and give more. Other times I have to give less or to fewer organizations than I had hoped.
Grace Pomroy: As we bring this interview to a close, I’d love to hear about how your giving has changed over time?
Samuel Christensen: Well, it actually exists now, so that’s a start! There was not a lot of emphasis placed on giving as I grew up, so it has really been through my discernment journey that giving has become important. I now look at my giving not as something I should have “all together,” but as a spiritual practice that helps guide and form my relationship with Christ and the world around me. In many ways, the process of giving has become just as important as the gift given.
Grace Pomroy: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with us, Samuel!
Curious to learn more about generosity and Gen Z? Here are some of the resources I’ve found on the topic:
- Blackbaud Institute: The Next Generation of American Giving
- Forbes: Why Gen Z Might Become One of the Most Charitable Generations Yet
- Qgiv: Generational Giving: Generation Z Giving Trends, Preferences, and Patterns
- Barna: Why the Generations Approach Generosity Differently
How is your congregation engaging Gen Z in generosity? Let us know in the comments below!