Keeping the missional aspect of "extravagant generosity" relevant to children is vital to nurturing a spirit of stewardship and giving, says Lisa Conway. Director of children's ministry at Los Altos United Methodist Church in Los Altos, California, she has incorporated both local and international projects to encourage giving.
"Asking a child to give 10 percent doesn't mean much to him or her," she says. "But if we tell them that the gifts from their own resources combined with their classmates' gifts can purchase an animal for a family through Heifer International, or provide breakfast for families in our own community, they begin to make the connections."
So when fourth grade Sunday school student, Faith Watters, realized how much money her class needed to raise to purchase a llama for a family in need, her passion and creativity stirred.
"Mom, I'm worried we are not going to raise enough," she said. "I'm going to sell lemonade and artwork to make sure we can do what we promised." Through her hard work, she raised $300 for Heifer International to support the purchase of a llama.
Delia Halverson, long-time Christian educator and author of Let the Children Give: Time, Talents, Love, and Money(Upper Room Books), reminded participants in a webinar that "children learn by watching and grow through action." As children learn about the intersection of the "head and heart" of stewardship and the "hands and feet" of mission, Halverson suggests they must first learn to value the church.
The Rev. Rosanna Anderson, associate director of stewardship at Discipleship Ministries says, "It's important to engage children and youth with resources that are designed for their age and stage of faith development.
As part of the campaign, children can be asked to join their parents in pledging their gifts, prayers, presence, service and witness. Halverson says that a special pledge card designed for children helps them promise to care for the church by cleaning up litter, tithing from their allowance, greeting and serving as an acolyte.
Giving with a joyful heart is not limited to placing offerings in baskets as pre-loaded debit cards become more common among young people and adults increasingly tithe through automated giving.
"We realized that with electronic giving, children today may miss the visual and tangible cue of people contributing to the offering," explains the Rev. Ken Sloane, interim associate general secretary of leadership ministries. In response, Discipleship Ministries collaborated with United Methodist Communications to create "I'm a UMC E-Giver!" cards. Sloane says, "Now people who sit in the pews and do their regular giving electronically can participate in the Sunday morning offering by putting a card in the plate as it is passed."
Haigler says the Bethesda church encourages electronic giving. "Technology is part of every day lives. Everything is paid online," he says. "We can buy a fast food burger through automated giving. Shouldn't it be as easy to make a gift to the church?" he suggests.
The Rev. Melissa Hinnen, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, Croton-on-Hudson, New York. She formerly served on the communications staff of the General Board of Global Ministries.
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.