Messages of Generosity
With our children receiving 3,000 messages a day urging them to spend, where is the voice in the village inviting them to share? If you believe the church has the responsibility and opportunity to be that voice that teaches some very different ideas about the use of our time, talent, and treasure, here are a few suggestions for sharing those ideas with our children.
The Children’s Offering
Make sure children have an opportunity to participate in the regular offerings of the congregation. If they leave worship services after the Gospel reading and return to see the offering precede them down the aisle, make offering part of their Sunday School experience. Make sure they have something in which to place that offering that looks like real church equipment and not an afterthought.
This is not the time for used mason jars and shabby baskets. And let the ushers present that offering at the altar along with the rest. Even better, let one of the children carry the children’s offering to the altar alongside the usher carrying the other offering plates. The children’s offering can come during Sunday School, children’s church, or the morning worship but it should be an event, part of the liturgy.
Envelopes and Commitment
Give everyone offering envelopes and invite everyone, regardless of age, to make a financial commitment to God’s work through their congregation. The company who sells you your regular envelopes probably has special ones for children. You might give smaller children plain ones and let them create their own designs. Or you can simply get the usual envelopes for everyone. Children rarely complain about having some things that are just like mom and dad’s.
Do not be dismayed by the uses children will find for these envelopes. I will never forget the morning we had to find an extra envelope for a child who had found it a convenient place to put the tooth which had come out during Sunday School. Yes, it is a good idea to tell parents what you are doing and give them veto power, though I have never known a parent to refuse or complain.
If you have an annual financial commitment program (pledging), let anyone participate. As someone who began making pledges at age 10, with an allowance of a quarter a week, no one is too young and no amount too small. This is one of the best ways to encourage a financial habit of sharing in a planned, systematic, disciplined way.
Honor Every Gift
Record children’s offerings and give them regular statements along with adults regardless of the amount they contribute. If the cost of keeping the records and generating the statements exceeds the amount of the contribution, so what? This is an investment in formation and is well worth the cost.
Incorporate a discussion of stewardship into confirmation class. One minister I know includes it in preparation for baptism which is an even better idea.
Honor Your Own Experts
Include Christian Education volunteers in planning for your annual stewardship program. They are a valuable ally and may bring some fresh ideas along with them. Encourage them to look for stewardship teaching opportunities in whatever curriculum your church is using. There are a number of resources available but your own people may have ideas as good or better.
Read Prodigal Sons and Material Girls: How Not to Be Your Child’s ATM
The book is by Nathan Dungan, published in 2003 by Wiley Books and it makes an excellent group study. Instead of making it the focus of a Sunday morning adult forum, you might consider having it on a weekday evening or Saturday, so your members can invite their friends.
Think Share, Save, Spend
This alliterative financial management mantra comes from Nathan Dungan. Encourage adults and children to adopt it. It is also an excellent way to organize the congregation’s own spending. Remember the old adage ,“Practice what you preach?” Pointing out the ways in which the congregation has shared, saved, and spent makes it a model for the household. It is also a very interesting financial/budget presentation at the annual meeting.
One way to encourage sharing as a household activity is a Share Fair. Perhaps different households can sponsor the various table displays featuring good places to share. Whether these are local, national, or international organizations, this is an excellent way for members of the congregation to explore opportunities for sharing. Don’t forget, a household may be just one person.
Encourage Goal Setting
Our study of Biblical teaching makes it clear that God rejoices when we live up to His expectation that we:
- Acknowledge all that we have as a gift from God
- Return a tenth (tithe) of those gifts to God’s purpose
Financial planners know that saving a tenth is one of the most healthy things we can do with our money.
Therefore, share this information with members of the congregation of all ages. Encourage them to set goals for sharing, saving, and spending. Encourage families to talk about these goals and ways to meet them.
Moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and anyone who has children anywhere in their lives can help. Most of what children learn is learned at home. Encourage adults to pay attention to what they say and do about sharing, saving, and spending, whether they think children are paying attention or not. Help them tell the stories about their own lives that have helped or hindered their own relationships with money. Tell about those who inspired and encouraged them to healthier habits of sharing and saving while making better spending decisions. Most of all, ask for their ideas for inviting our children to know that net worth does not determine self worth and to experience the joys of sharing.
Resolve to assist adults in acquiring mastery over their own finances. The reason children are not learning this is that their parents didn’t learn it either. Consider initiating a financial counseling ministry in your congregation, not just for the members but as an offering to your community.
Above All, Pray!
Most of all pray and get to know what the Gospels have to say about the role of money in our lives as members of the body of Christ.
Last, but certainly not least, cherish the children. They are one of the best gifts God has given us.