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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912

Abstract

THERON, Edwin  and  VAN TONDER, Steven. Church commitment amongst the younger generations: Is relationship marketing the key?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.3, pp. 405-421. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2015/V55N3A6.

One of the key concerns that the nonprofit industry has to face is that of increased competition. Because this industry has grown almost exponentially in recent years, the industry is now more fragmented than ever before. It is therefore of critical importance that nonprofit organisations (NPOs) rethink the way in which they market their organisations to the public. A possible solution is for NPOs to practise relationship marketing in an effort to attract, retain and build relationships with their stakeholders. Traditionally, nonprofit organisations focused on the older generations when it came to fundraising, and not necessarily on the younger generations (such as Generation Y). This is interesting, especially since previous research has found that Generation Y is particularly prone to become involved in social causes. Churches are no exception to the rule, and especially traditional churches have the particular concern of countering decreased church membership. The relationship marketing approach is sometimes received with scepticism by churches; however, the modern viewpoint is that churches could gain significantly by applying relationship marketing practices. The question is therefore what churches (both traditional and non-traditional) can do in order to manage relationships with younger members. This article reports on an investigation of the management of commitment towards churches from the perspective of Generation Y. Although numerous antecedents of commitment in general were found in the literature, the same cannot be said about literature on church commitment. This area of commitment appears to be somewhat under-research. In this article 11 antecedents of church commitment are identified: trust, effective communication, relationship benefits, customisation, follow-up, seeker sensitiveness, beliefs, secularisation, compassion, small-group support and friendships. These antecedents were identified from a relationship marketing perspective, as opposed to the spiritual reasons for religious commitment. Since the primary objective of this study was to assess the perceptions of Generation Y consumers, it was decided to make use of a student sample. Data were therefore collected from 912 students at the University of Stellenbosch, and a web-based approach was used to collect the data. Multiple regression analysis was used to assess the hypothesised relationships. The findings of the study indicate that Generation Y individuals base their decision to commit themselves to a church on three dimensions: dependence, small groups and follow-up. Furthermore, traditional and non-traditional members are more similar in their perceptions on church commitment than was previously thought, while gender was found to be a strong indicator of church commitment amongst Generation Y members. The findings of the study are somewhat unexpected especially since many of the generally assumed antecedents of church commitment could not be confirmed. Instead, Generation Y consumers appear to follow a different set of rules when they make decisions on church commitment. Church authorities, and by implication NPOs, therefore need to reconsider their current strategies and tactics if they want to approach this largely untapped market.

Keywords : Generation Y; Nonprofit Organisations; Marketing; Relationship Marketing; Churches; Traditional Versus Non-traditional Churches; Declining Church Attendance; Church Commitment; Antecedents Of Church Commitment.

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