Our Children Be Stewards?
The occasion was a vestry meeting to write a stewardship statement.
The group was completing a discussion of early memories of money
in which the final portion, that devoted to early memories of money
as an offering, had been particularly lively and I couldn’t
help commenting. “You seem to have really enjoyed talking
about these memories of giving offerings as children. Tell me, what
do the children in this congregation now do about offering?”
There was a sudden silence which became filled with embarrassment
as it continued. Finally, one quiet voice responded with a mixture
of realization and regret, “Nothing, I guess. I really hadn’t
thought about it until now.”
As we talked,
members of that vestry realized that in their congregation there
was no Sunday School offering collected. Children left the worship
service as soon as the gospel had been read and returned in time
to follow the presentation of the offering, the bread and the wine
down the aisle. There was literally no opportunity for them to participate
in any offering at all!
The good news
is that that situation changed for those children on the very next
Sunday. The vestry member who also served as the primary children’s
Sunday School teacher invited her students to talk about offering
and create their own offering box in which to begin placing their
gifts. Now, that box is placed on top of the worship offering and
presented at the altar each Sunday by one of the children. The priest
leaves the offering on the altar until the conclusion of the Eucharist
and the children see their box sitting there when they come to the
altar rail. The children have also selected outreach projects funded
by “the children’s offering.”
are we teaching our children about stewardship?” is becoming
a critical question for our church. The fact is that we are teaching
them very little. The baby boomers whose parents passed out nickels,
dimes, and quarters for childish hands to place in offering places
are not passing that instruction along.
Why does it
matter? Listen to a few stewardship witness talks. “My parents
taught me to tithe” is a common beginning. How many of our
children could say that? If we are not careful, we will soon have
a generation of gospel consumers who have not been formed to contribute
something of their own substance to the proclamation of that gospel
to the world.
In June, 1997,
I led a workshop entitled “You’re Never Too Young (to
be a steward)” for the Chaos to Creativity Christian Education
Conference presented by Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis.
During that workshop we identified some of the specific lessons
we want our children to learn about stewardship. Though this list
is still a work in progress, here is how it stands to date:
is using the gifts God has given us to do the work God has given
us to do.
- Our giving
is a thankful response to all that God has given us. Our lives
and the manner in which we use our resources should reflect our
belief that “All things come of Thee, oh God.”
- Part of
the work God is calling each of us to do is to support the life
and work of our congregation. Many of our congregations involve
children in giving projects which neglect or even subvert this
important lesson. Bringing soap and toothbrushes for children
in Afghanistan, collecting money to buy animals for third world
families through the Heifer Project and similar projects are excellent
learning opportunities but they somehow leave the feeling that
the day to day support of the congregation is boring and can be
left to someone else.
- God calls
us to give of our substance, not a portion of the leftovers. Our
gifts to God come first, before we spend on ourselves.
You will note that the lessons for children are identical to the
lessons we try to teach adults. The technology is similar. Here
are a few practical suggestions for making sure the younger members
of the congregation are incorporated into the stewardship program.
1. Make sure there is an opportunity for children to give
an offering each week. It sounds obvious but an astonishing
number of congregations, like the one mentioned in this article,
have never thought about this. 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.
2. 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 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.
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.
parents how to teach their children. An adult forum on
early memories of money will be valuable to the adults. End it with
the question “What memories do you want your children to have?”
and it will be valuable to their children. Anyone interested in
a “parents as stewards” training session, please call
for a copy of the outline we have developed in the Office of Stewardship.
a discussion of stewardship into confirmation class. One
priest I know includes it in preparation for baptism which is an
even better idea.
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 I think you will find that
you do not need special “stuff” to teach this.
but most important, cherish the children. They are one
of the best gifts God has given us.
©Copyright Terry Parsons. Used here with permission. Permission
for copy for church educational use. Please include this notice
in all copies.