For many of us, our earliest memories of giving occurred in church. We watched our parents put their offering envelope in the plate, and we looked forward to getting something from them that we could also add to the plate. So how are we teaching our children stewardship and the joy of being generous?
Here are a few tips from Rev. Michael Erwin who is a pastor of Christ Church United Church of Christ in Evansville, Indiana and the founder of Coaching for Generosity:
1) Know your own beliefs about stewardship and giving.
First of all, as a parent, take some time to clarify your own thinking about stewardship and generosity. What does it mean to be a good steward of your resources? What does it mean to be generous? Why do you give? Perhaps a Philanthropic Autobiography might be a good first step toward understanding your own beliefs about stewardship and giving generously.
2) Let your child see your stewardship in action over and over.
Children learn by imitation. No doubt you remember the first words that came out of your child’s mouth. Early on, they were unintelligible. But soon they were adding words at a rapid pace as they interacted with people around them. Children pay very close attention to the actions of adults around them, especially those closest to them, and they imitate. Learning stewardship is no different. If a family manages their money well – paying bills on time, saving up for large purchases, avoiding impulse purchases – children will learn to be good stewards of their financial resources as well. If children see their parents giving in the offering plate, and writing checks to support worthy causes, if they know their parents are involved at church and in the community, then the job of teaching stewardship is mostly done without a conversation.
3) Teach children how to handle money and make good stewardship decisions.
As children get older, they need hands-on experience managing money. Play is one of the ways children learn best. Think of the child with the kid-size kitchen and fake plastic food and utensils, copying mom or dad as the evening meal is prepared. Playing with money can be just as fun. Think Monopoly here, or the Game of Life.
Help your children set up a savings account. The very young can have a savings account at the Bank of Mommy, for example, with three simple glass jars. An allowance can be used to teach children to save, to spend, and to give. As they grow older, a time will come when a savings account at a real bank becomes another opportunity to teach stewardship.
4) Create ways to help children understand the joy of giving.
How can we, as a church, help families teach their children stewardship and generosity? The Sunday School classroom might be a good place to start. There are lots of resources available not only from our own denomination but also from Stewardship Centers at other denominational offices for those interested in teaching stewardship to children. (Contact me at the Presbytery of the James for more information on available curriculum and resources.)
Be sure to involve children in every aspect of stewardship and giving in the life of the church.
- Use special children’s giving envelopes to include children in the offering during worship each Sunday.
- Provide offering boxes for children, especially for special projects or emphases.
- Get older children to serve as ushers from time to time, passing the plates down the pews.
- Involve children in special giving projects, such as capital campaigns or the annual pledge campaign.
- Establish a special goal for your Vacation Bible School and excite the kids to give during that week.
5) Help children to see stewardship as a way of life!
Stewardship is a way of life marked by the abundance of God’s gifts for us. As stewards, we practice responsibility, joy, generosity, and thoughtfulness about the resources available for our use. This spiritual discipline can be nurtured and enjoyed at any age.
Associate for Stewardship