Teaching Children to Give


Ok, so I’m a pretty dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist, which means I pretty much agree with all other Southern Baptists about two things:

  1. We will put you all the way under the water.
  2. We support the Cooperative Program.

I’m also a stewardship guy with kids. Miss E is about three years old now. I love that she’s really starting to get things. This has caused Mrs. J and I to have to kick up parenting a notch or two… thousand. Now is the time that I really have to start modeling behaviors that truly align with our values. You know, as opposed to before, right? And I’ve been thinking lately: how do I pass on lifestyle of stewardship to my kids?

My Stewardship Journey as a Child

As a child, my parents taught me by their actions and words this important truth (God owns it all). They also taught me to respond to this truth through giving.

When I was a child, our church would provide for each member of our family offering envelopes. We each had our box with our number on it (mine was 18 for what seemed like forever). Every Saturday my parents would give me a couple of quarters or a dollar bill to put in the envelope. This became such a consistent part of my childhood that I can still remember running up to Mom or Dad, saying “I need some quarters for my offering.”

That’s how I remember always calling it: my offering. Most every Sunday, as we left to go to church, one of them would ask us: “Do you have your Bible? Do you have your offering?” And most Sundays I would dutifully hand in my offering during Sunday School or put it in the plate as it passed.

We did this over and over again. This pattern is a deep grove in my childhood, the beginning of my stewardship.

So, I’ve been thinking: how do I pass it on?

Stewardship. Passing It On

Passing on stewardship habits across the generations has been one of the greatest struggles for the church and parents alike. I see the same problem in the nonprofits – parents struggle to pass on a legacy of giving. Why? We don’t teach our children to value what we value. While we may say that we value something, it’s only when we put action to our words that shows what we truly value.

The simplest starting point for passing on stewardship to children is to teach them to give offerings. Yes, you read that correctly – not just giving, but giving offerings. Our offerings are are not merely to the church, but are ultimately to the Lord. It’s time to put away the idea that we are only giving to an institution.

Teaching our kids to value stewardship and the worship we experience through giving offerings takes practice. Much like writing our ABCs, teaching children to give means that sometimes we take their hands in ours and help them put a dollar bill into an envelope. It means that when the plate is passed, we lower it for them to put their offering in. It means that we lift them up to where they can put an envelope into a benevolence box. It means every Sunday we ask them, “do you have your Bible and your offering?”

Stewardship has at its core an element of cultivation. It is our responsibility to show them how to make offerings to the Lord and provide them with opportunities.

Dusting Off The Envelopes

This is the simplest way I know how to teach kids to give offerings. It’s the way I learned:

  1. Gather up a stack of envelopes, some quarters or dollar bills, and some pen(cil)s.
  2. Sit down with your kids around the table.
  3. Have your kids write “Thank you, Jesus” on the envelopes.
  4. Give them their offering, and have them seal their offering in their envelope.
  5. Bring kids and offerings to church, and have them put it in the plate/basket/accepted-receptacle-of-choice at the appropriate time.
  6. Do it again.
  7. And again.
  8. And again until they remind you when you forget.

Your routine with your little ones may not look like this – that’s ok. What’s important is to pick a way, and stick with it until it becomes a rhythm in your worship patterns. As parents, it’s our job to show our children how to worship through offerings just as it is our job to teach them to sing praises, wash their hands, and write their ABCs. Someone is going to take our children’s hands into theirs and show them what to do with money. Let it be us, the parents.

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