It is that time of year when many congregations undergo their annual stewardship campaigns. Themes, visions, budget goals, and sermons (using many of the parables found in our lectionary during the late Pentecost season) are heard during worship services, morning announcements, worship bulletins, and weekly newsletters. In the Episcopal Church, it’s about encouraging church members to make a financial pledge for the upcoming year. Our churches are funded largely through donations given by members, in addition to those “loose plate” offerings made every Sunday during worship. The target audience is adults – but what about the children?
Stewardship is a dreaded word for many. Perhaps because it comes around at this time every year, and rarely spoken of at other times. It has become associated with money and how much we give to the church – for its programs, buildings, staff salaries, and outreach projects. I’m not sure how many congregations actually encourage tithing anymore – which had once been a standard for giving.
“Life is not a having and a getting; but a being and a becoming.” Matthew Arnold
A tithe is a tenth of the produce of the earth consecrated and set apart for special purposes. The dedication of a tenth to God was recognized as a duty before the time of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek ( Genesis 14:20 ; Hebrews 7:6 ); and Jacob vowed unto the Lord and said, “Of all that you shall give me I will surely give the tenth to you.”
For our “annual” stewardship seasons to be “successful,” we need to develop gratitude all year-long – not just monetarily, but in how we view the world and care for it. It’s never too late to begin to teach children about being generous as a steward of gifts received and how each of us, as part of a community, can contribute to the whole in many different ways.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
What were the messages you were given about money when you were young? What message would you want your children to remember? One great resource (and program) is Share, Save, Spend by Nathan Dugan. There are other programs of a similar nature. Basically, when it comes to money, we can teach our children about money and stewardship through the giving of an allowance. An allowance comes with power, responsibility and limitation. Given on a monthly or weekly basis, it can be divided up into three jars:
- Share 1/3 (to be given away to something outside of the home – no strings attached, with the expectation that nothing will be received in return. We must learn to relieve ourselves of the attachment to money.)
- Save 1/3 (for big things worth taking the time to wait for)
- Spend 1/3 (on anything)
How are you including children in your stewardship messages and programs in your congregation?
- Make sure there is an opportunity for children to give an offering each week. The children’s offering can come during Sunday school, children’s church or the morning worship; it should be an event, part of the liturgy
- Give offering envelopes to every child who wants them. There are wonderful, colorful, inexpensive offering envelopes available from several denominational bookstores and publishers. 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 that had come out during Sunday School.
- 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.
- Last, but most important, cherish the children. They are one of the best gifts God has given us.
Download some resources that I distribute in my workshop presentation on involving children in stewardship:
- Developing Generous Children Handout
- Stewardship Bibliography (books for adults and children)
- Children and Stewardship: Practical Ideas (article I wrote for Building Faith that includes a sample child’s pledge card)
- A child-friendly pledge card from St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania