Teach our children stewardship by example
I have been thinking lately about how we teach children about giving. There are some good programs out there like 10-10-80 that help kids to look at what they have and learn how to share and save and spend. They are great.
The truth is, however, that children learn more by example than from anything else. The best stories I hear from people who tithe are stories about watching their parents or their grandparents sitting down and paying their bills. Often they are stories from the days when people dealt primarily in cash. The grandfather would bring home a pay envelope, and then he and the grandmother would sit together and divide it up into other envelopes with labels on them for where money was owed. First would come the envelope for church. Next would come the rent or mortgage and other fixed bills. There would be some for saving and hopefully some for spending on clothing and other necessities and then maybe something for extras.
People who grew up seeing that have at least an idea of what they are doing when they fill out lines in budgets or pay their bills online. They are putting money into virtual envelopes. And those who tell me these stories always tell me that the first thing they do is give to church. They have a framework for seeing giving and for doing it.
But our kids have never seen that done. Maybe at least they have seen you sitting paying the bills by writing checks and have seen you putting your check for the church in the proper envelope. Maybe you have even explained to them that the giving to the church comes first before even the bills.
But what happens with the automatic withdrawals that I have been encouraging in my congregation? My offering to the church is deducted from my checking account twice a month. I pay most of my bills online. I give to Lutheran World Hunger and Bread for the World online. If I had children living in my house, how would they ever see and learn about giving?
I am not suggesting you stop your modern method of giving. Not at all. I always figure that it is a way that I really can do first fruits. I have to make sure there is enough in the account to cover, so I can't spend on anything extra without making sure I have enough to cover that withdrawal. It makes me a better steward all around because it makes me more conscious of what I spend and on what.
But maybe we need to find a way for our children to know how it all works so that they can learn by example, as some of us did.
Maybe we can make a really retro game of it and get out a bunch of envelopes and play with the kids about bringing home our pay and showing them how we divide it up. We could even explain that the church then does the same thing with their money, sending it along for ministries, such as feeding hungry people and teaching new pastors.
Maybe when they are big enough and computer literate enough (today a six-year-old has my level of computer literacy), you can sit at the computer and show how you support your church and help people with your computer and the gifts that you have been given by God.
If nothing else it would serve to remind us of what we do and why we do it.
Lord, first help us to be reminded of what we have been given and in gratefulness give back, and then show us how to share that with our children that your name will be glorified and all your people cared for forever. Amen
Copyright © 2007, The Rev. Dana Reardon. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Email her at
The Rev. Dana Reardon is pastor at St.
Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Warwick, RI. A lifelong Lutheran, she
came to ordained ministry after 21 years in nursing, mostly in pediatric
intensive care. She graduated from Lutheran Theological Seminary at
Philadelphia in 1998 and served 4 ½ years in Upstate New York before
becoming a New Englander. She is still trying to understand the
accent. While in the Upstate New York Synod she chaired the Stewardship
Team. That began her fascination with what makes stewards -- and more,
what makes for generosity. She has three amazing daughters: Pastor Reardon says much of what she knows of
life she learned from them.