Mind the Gap: An Open Letter from a Millenial

Posted on November 11, 2019
by First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor

(this letter was read by Pastor Stacey Simpson Duke during worship on Sunday, November 10, 2019 – scroll to the bottom for the audio)

Good morning, friends!

My name is Marissa, and as you may know, I’ve been working in fundraising and communications at our mission partner AMOS Health and Hope in Nicaragua for more than a year now. Over the past 14 months, I’ve helped AMOS communicate their work and raise funds so they can continue to work alongside community leaders and improve living conditions for people in remote areas of Nicaragua.

I believe in helping to create a world of peace and justice, where there is health and hope for all people. And these deeply ingrained values started here in this sanctuary, when I was three years old and singing hymns standing up on a pew next to my parents. Even my connection to the mission of AMOS started here, when more than 5 years ago, I flew down with 19 others from this congregation to work with them for the first time.

This church has given me so much. And I never want to compromise that. But I have a confession to make…

I’m… ……… ………. ……….

A millennial. Many of you must already know that, because as I just explained, I grew up in this church, but I don’t know, the shock value of that buzzword may have hit you differently. Yes, those “lazy, attention-seeking, self-absorbed” millennials like me are known for buying locally-sourced cold brew coffee and vegan skincare products, decorating our tiny rented apartments with tiny succulent plants, obsessing over adventurous experiences and documenting them on Instagram, and moving back home with our parents in exchange for teaching them how to use iPhones, Netflix, Airbnb, and Uber.

Other generations love to talk about how us millennials are entitled, disloyal, and treat life like we think we deserve a participation trophy. A simple Google search yields hundreds of articles that claim millennials are “killing” certain industries through our selective consumption – the real estate industry, home improvement stores, chain restaurants, the diamond industry, relationships, breakfast cereal, and yes… we are killing bars of soap, canned tuna, fabric softener… and pants.

Recently I heard about a new trend started by millennials: the phrase, “Ok boomer.” Directed at baby boomers or older generations who talk smack about younger generations, this phrase is code for: “I’m trying to explain a new perspective to you, but I now understand that you will never understand.” Ok, boomer. Just forget it. You’re dismissed.

The truth is, I know a lot of baby boomers to whom I would never have to say “ok boomer” – people across all generations who share in my values, trust my work, and advocate for my potential. And I would hope that a lot of you know a lot of young people who you respect and understand, too. We have grown up in different decades, with varying trends, diverse priorities, and adapting technologies. But how amazing is it that each generation exists in a new environment to cultivate growth and potential? We all have differing opportunities, skill sets, and perspectives that allow us to uniquely contribute to the work to build God’s kingdom and better our world.

A report from a fundraising software called ​Classy​, compiled from 36 different sources, breaks down each generation’s unique characteristics in regards to giving.

● People born in 1945 and earlier,​ 60 percent of “matures” donate to religious or spiritual causes.

● Baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – represent ​43 percent of total overall giving!

● Born between 1965 and 1980, ​nearly 30 percent of Generation X members​ volunteer, and they are top supporters of causes that provide health services, care for animals, and protect our environment.

● Born between 1981 and 1997, ​84 percent​ ​of millennials​ donated to a nonprofit in the past year.

● And last but not least, born in 1997 and later, and nicknamed “Philanthrokids,” ​60 percent​ ​of Gen Z members​ say they want their work to make a difference in the world, and ​more than 10 percent want to start their own charity!

“Ok, boomer.” When we come together across generations, we mind the gap. And our togetherness helps us close even more gaps. This is why I give and will continue to give a lot of myself to this church. Because I believe in the power of our community.

Minding the gap is advocating for one another across generations, leaving a legacy, and empowering future leaders. Minding the gap is listening, learning, and responding. Minding the gap is coming together with a mindset of abundance – to support one another and to give together, to leverage our hope and come together in the work to build God’s kingdom of justice and equity – a kingdom where the gaps we know now don’t exist.

Working in fundraising, I’m a fan of coordinated funding. We use a Coordinated Funding model right here in Washtenaw County. The county, the United Way, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, St. Joe’s and other large funders come together, pool their funds, and disperse their support to worthy organizations doing the on-the-ground work to mind the gaps and address high-priority needs – like early childhood and school-aged development, affordable housing, food security, and services for seniors.

Amos 3:3 says, “Do we walk together unless we have agreed to do so?” Minding the gap requires our coordinated funding. When we come together as a church and as a community, our support goes so much further than it could alone. And that’s what you’re doing when you give a financial gift, your time, your energy, your ideas, and simply your presence to our church. You are saying yes, this place – these people – matter to me. This music, these sermons, this children’s ministry, these incredible pastors and staff, this spiritual growth, these educational opportunities, this family and friends, these people served by Vespers and Hope Clinic and AMOS, this community that is committed to minding the gaps – all of these things matter to me.

My coworker Elvis in Nicaragua has a tote bag with a message that I love. It says ​“Poné de tu parte, no le dejés todo a Dios.”​ It means ​“Do your part – don’t leave everything to God.” T​oday, in our togetherness, across all generations, we have an opportunity to invest in hope. Together, we have an opportunity to mind the gaps between our realities now and our visions of the world we dream about.

And so, I invite you to turn in your pledge card today – or if not today, then as soon as possible, please – and commit to making a financial contribution to this church for 2020. I invite you to join me in reflecting on a mindset of abundance – a mindset of joy, generosity, gratitude, and hope. And I celebrate you and the change we can create together when we live through the lens of God’s limitless love.

Thank you!

Marissa Alaniz

Marissa Alaniz