No Cash. No Checks. How Do You Teach Kids about Giving?

3 generational family teaching about giving. Stock Photo.
3 generational family teaching about giving. Stock Photo.

Have you noticed? Fewer and fewer people are putting anything in the offering plate. The music gets played and the ushers come by furtively looking for an acknowledgement that “yes!” someone wants to put something in the plate. It’s not that people aren’t giving, it’s that more people are giving either through their bank’s automatic withdrawal or some other electronic means (text-to-give, on-line, or through the Square). Unlike the offering plate getting passed around, the newer way can be a very private process.

On top of that, oftentimes kids aren’t even there when the plate or basket is passed around. They might be in child care, Kid’s Church, or Sunday School when the offering is announced.

If this is the case, as it is for many congregations, how do you teach children about the importance of giving?

I'm glad you asked!

1. Start by educating parents and guardians. Find or create an opportunity to talk about the importance of nurturing generosity in the hearts of children. Have parents come up with some creative ideas how they can inspire their kids to give. Two suggestions:

  • Parents are the best role models for what giving looks like. When money is given to the church or to other non-profits, have them tell their children about it. Explain why monetary gifts are given and what the money is making possible.
  • At home, encourage the use of Moon Jars (dividing up a child’s allowance among three boxes, Give, Save, Spend). You can find a deeper explanation of Moon Jars here. And here’s another way to utilize the jar system.

2. Take time in Sunday School or during Youth Group to educate children and teens about money. Parents and guardians are the first line of education, but the church also has tremendous influence as well. Devote one or two classes every year to talk about money and the role it plays in their lives. Have children and teens decide on a church ministry or community group they want to support financially. Set a goal and invite someone who is a direct beneficiary of the project to talk about the importance of the ministry or organization. Here are some additional ideas for inspiring kids to give.

3. Share and read stories about generosity and giving.

  • There’s some terrific children’s literature on generosity and sharing. Unfamiliar? Check out these eighteen picture books.
  • The Bible is also full of stories about generosity. You remember (don’t you?): the feeding of the 5,000; the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, etc., etc.
  • And don’t forget to share family stories. When you’re at the dinner table, ask kids where they saw acts of kindness or generosity during the day. Think about someone in your family who was touched by or exhibited generosity either recently or generations ago and share its impact.

Once you get started, ideas for teaching financial generosity will flow. As with anything, it’s all about intentionality and overcoming the fear of talking about money…even if it’s with your children and teens.

You want children in your congregation to have a healthy relationship with money so that they are stewards of money rather than being controlled by money.

We want our children to nurture life, not just be users of it. We want our children to live in this world as generous souls who want to change the world for good. We want them to inspire generosity. It’s time to teach them how to do that.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann, consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing, Oregan-Idaho AC, Click here to subscribe to her blog: "Inspiring Generosity." 

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.