A few years ago, while I was a Sabbath School teacher for the primary class at my church, I noticed a very peculiar thing: whenever the offering was called for in Sabbath school, the majority of the children had nothing to give. The reasons they gave for this included that they did not have any money, and that their parents had not given them anything to give.
It soon became clear as well that the children were not giving because it wasn’t expected of them. This section of the children’s worship program had been ignored, while teachers tried to pack the lesson into the 30 minutes or less scheduled for Sabbath School. Over time, it had faded from the Sabbath School’s worship agenda.
After observing this for a while, I decided to start talking to the children about what it means to give an offering. Tying in the stories of less fortunate children we read about weekly in the Missions quarterly, I taught them about the blessings of stewardship, both for the giver and receiver.
Over time, more of the children started to bring their dollar coins. I didn’t get 100 percent of the class involved, but it was an improvement over the non-giving that had existed before.
Children often adopt the wrong attitudes to stewardship, giving, tithing and offering, from the unfaithful examples of their parents. Many of us can recite by heart the well-known scripture on tithing: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be food enough in my Temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in!” (Malachi 3:10). However, how many of us practice it and teach our children to do the same? Training children to cultivate an early habit of giving should be a shared responsibility between parents, children’s ministry leaders, and Sabbath School teachers, as well as pastors and treasurers.
The Bible is clear that this should be an integral part of a child’s faith education: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV). Ellen G. White also emphasized this in her writings: “Too much importance cannot be placed on the early training of children. The lessons that the child learns during the first seven years of life have more to do with forming his character than all that it learns in future years” (Child Guidance, pg. 193).
This doesn’t mean we should force children to put their pennies into the offering plate. Stewardship is a voluntary habit. Counsels on Stewardship advises us that giving should be done because we love God; additionally, it should be done willingly and cheerfully. Children should be taught early on that giving is an important way to honor the Lord, which involves taking care of what God has given us, and sharing a portion to help others.
Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase. (Proverbs 3:9, KJV)
A simple definition of stewardship is a responsibility and care for the resources with which God has entrusted us—creation, gifts and talents, money, time, the gospel—for the sake of God’s purposes in the world. However, for the purpose of this article, I will be focusing only on the stewardship of money.
Because children are primarily motivated by play, many of the ideas I’ve curated here combine a fun element into teaching moments. The goal of these suggestions is to enable parents and children’s ministries leaders to germinate ideas that will creatively persuade children to develop a joyful giving habit, whether by voluntary giving, sharing to help others, or taking care of the financial resources God has blessed them with in order to attain economic wellbeing for a lifetime. Some of the ideas are borrowed from other children’s ministries and parenting websites.
#1 Stewardship-Themed Family Worship
Use simple Bible truths that your preschoolers and other young children can relate to when you share concepts about stewardship and giving.
According to The Essential Guide to Giving, prepared by the New Zealand Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, children need to learn four key concepts of stewardship so they can give from a heart of love. Using family worship as the concreter, families can use contemporary/Bible stories and songs to cement the spiritual principles of stewardship in children’s hearts.
Create a set of stewardship-themed lesson outlines for the duration of a month, or feel free to use the suggested framework I’ve compiled below. Integrate age-appropriate worship activities into the four concepts/themes to fit your family’s style and personality. Involve children in planning and identifying the resources to be used in the sessions. The songs and stories suggested may be used for preschoolers to primary-aged children.
Concept: I praise God because He made everything
- Bible Truth: God made everything.
- Bible Verse: “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, NIV).
- Bible Story: The Story of Creation
- Song: Who Made the Twinkling Star/Let Everything that Hath Breath
Concept: I Bring my tithes into God’s House
- Bible Truth: Jesus expects us to show that we love Him with our tithe, money, and effort.
- Bible Verses: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…” (Malachi 3:10).
- Bible Story: Story of Noah
- Song: With My Whole Heart; Arky Arky
Concept: My tithes and offerings help people all over the world
- Bible Truth: God uses what I give to help others.
- Bible Verses: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it” (Proverbs 3:27, KJV); “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9).
- Bible Story: The Boy Who Gave His Lunch—see Animated Story (Grace Link).
- Song: Give it With Love, Store it Above
Concept: I honor the Lord with my substance
- Bible Truth: God is pleased when I give something that is important to me.
- Bible Verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:22, NIV).
- Bible Story: The Woman Who Anointed Jesus Feet
- Song: Give Me Oil in My Lamp
Extended Activities: You can extend the lessons by using other activities such as Scripture memorization games, crafts, and skits. If you come up short for teaching moments, here are a few more ideas to inspire you.
Resource Tip: Download The Essential Guide to Giving for some free stewardship-themed stories your child(ren) will enjoy. Also, share stories from the Children Missions quarterly which you can also access online at AdventistMission.org.
If you’re looking for a program for Children’s Church, check out this cheap resource from Advent Source: “Director’s Manual – Stewardville Daily Times”—a 13-lesson compilation which explores topics such as returning tithes, using talents, managing time, protecting our planet, and more.
#2 Use Tiny Tots Envelopes
Check your Christian bookstore to see if they have these specially customized tithe envelopes for children in stock. Pass these kid-friendly envelopes to the children in your children’s ministry class as part of a tithing lesson pack. If your church or Christian bookstore doesn’t have these child-friendly envelopes, or if you don’t have the budget to get them, print and distribute the illustrated templates provided in the Essential Guide to Giving, which doubles as a coloring activity.
Having their own tithing envelopes will give children a sense of responsibility, and make giving a fun ‘adult’ thing they can do to honor God. At home, encourage children to practice putting aside a small percentage, even 10%, of spending money as their church offering. Show them how to enclose it in the envelope, read the print, fill in the required information, and then place it in the offering plate each week when the offering is taken up.
#3 Teaching Moments for Tiny Tots
“Won’t you share?” (Mom’s voice)
That’s the belligerent sound of a two-year-old as she clutches her mother’s skirts and holds her doll behind her back, as her playmate tries to play with her toy.
Typical? Child development specialists agree that between a year and 1/2 and three years old, the word “mine” will be heard frequently as toddlers become extremely possessive about what belongs to them. In fact, parenting advice website Ask Dr. Sears notes that sharing should not be expected or forced from a child under two, unless the child has been conditioned to do so by his or her parents. According to Dr. Sears, children are seldom capable of empathy under six years old.
But while he advocates that the child’s right to protect his possessions should be respected, parents are advised to:
- Create attitudes and an environment that encourage children to want to share, by encouraging and modeling sharing.
- Employ teachable moments to encourage sharing. Say: “Mommy is sharing her cookbook with her friend.” Let your sharing shine. Share with your children: “Want some of my popcorn?” “Come sit with us—we’ll make room for you.”
Snackable Lessons: In the church classroom, using snack time may be a good opportunity to teach infants how to do this. The children ministry folks over at COGOP shared this three-step lesson teachers can adopt:
- Give half of the children a snack that can be easily divided into two portions.
- Ask the children with snacks what they can do to make sure that everyone has a snack.
- Activity time. Have children work in groups and share supplies, rather than working individually.
Resource Tip: See this mommy blog for some more parenting advice on teaching your kids to share.
Play the “Share Your Wealth” Game: At home, play sharing games like “Share Your Wealth.” Give your two-year-old some flowers, crackers, blocks, or toys, and ask her to share them with everyone in the room. Say ‘Give one to big brother. Give one to Daddy.’ “You want to convey the message that sharing is a normal way of life and sharing spreads joy,” says Dr. Sears.
Use Praise and Encouragement: Parents are also encouraged to use positive praise and encouragement for this age group. When you catch your child sharing, celebrate the positive behavior and reward their good behavior. Just remember there’s a right and wrong way to praise children. Experts say that the quality of praise is more important than the quantity. Keep it sincere, genuine, and focused on the effort, not the outcome; give it as often as your child does something that warrants a verbal reward. Don’t over-praise.
#4 Sharing as Outreach
Promote the fun of giving with an outreach activity that helps the needy. Have the kids participate in a sharing project during a Sabbath afternoon by handing out simple sandwiches, cookies, gently used clothing, toys, and books to needy children.
Resource Tip: Show the animated Bible story podcast, “Helping Hands,” found on the GraceLink Youtube channel.
#5 Start a Bible Bucks Ministry
Children get play money for bringing their Bibles and friends to church, memorizing Scriptures, doing chores, as well as showing kindness and praying. To teach stewardship, use Bible Bucks as an incentive to encourage children to carry an offering to church. Here’s how the Children’s Pastor, Mimi Bullock, from the Ministry-to-Children blog uses this ministry to teach kids to give joyfully. “I have an offering machine, which is basically a balance with two buckets on either end that moves when you add in coins. Every week we hold a girls’ against boys’ contest, and see who can get their bucket lower. I give every child a Bible Buck for bringing an offering. (I always keep change handy so no one is left out.)”
Once every week or every month, open up the Bible Bucks store and allow children to use the bucks they have accumulated over the time period to purchase gifts for others at the “Christian Corner Store.” Children will learn that there are rewards for practicing Christian disciplines, and often those rewards can be used to help us help others.
Resource Tip: To find items for your Bible Bucks store, children ministry leaders or Sabbath School teachers can collect gently-used or new items donated by the congregation to sell in the store. Alternatively they can ask members or parents to sponsor the program, or to set aside a special fund to make it work. Google the phrase “bible bucks play money download” to find play money printables.
#6 Meet & Greet Mission Trip
Create experiences with less fortunate children to help children get up close and personal with the beneficiaries of their voluntary giving missions. Teachers can use this activity with their primaries and juniors. Alternately, parents may want to make this a family trip. Plan a visit to a local home for children in state care, and bring care packs for the residents there. You can also broaden your reach to include homeless people if your class prefers. Your country’s Ministry of Children and Youth, Church-run nursing homes, or the SOS Children’s Village are all good places to start your search if you can’t immediately think of one in your town. Contact the home administrator to obtain consent, a convenient date, and any rules the group needs to follow.
#7 Team up for Planned Giving and Volunteerism
Parents and childrens’ ministry teachers should model concern for people facing crises in your local community or elsewhere. Let your young charges see you support causes that can relieve human suffering and death. Make it a family priority to give to local and international relief agencies to help political refugees and victims of disaster. Choose a nonprofit or social enterprise that supports a cause you are interested in, and get your family involved as donors or volunteers.
Here is how one parent at ONE does it. She writes, “Our kids have a small allowance each month, and are expected to complete certain daily chores as part of their “family work.” I use a simple app on my phone to track finances; any income (including extras like birthday money) is automatically divided into Charitable Giving, Long-Term Savings, and Short-Term Savings/Spending. About once a quarter, or if there is a major issue like the Syrian refugee crisis, they will decide where they want to donate the money, and we do it together. Most recently they gave to the UN Refugee Agency’s urgent appeal for Syria.
Start Here: Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) has some ideas on how you can make a difference through the Agency’s causes. You can also choose from this suggested by CrowdRise, a respected crowd-sourced online fundraising website where, as a family, you can donate or raise money online for causes familiar to you and your family, or as far away as Haiti and India.
#8 Kitty Blessings
Remember the story of the talents, and how the three servants chose to use the responsibilities entrusted to them by their boss? Only one was rewarded highly. Why? He practiced the principles of financial literacy.
Wikipedia defines financial literacy as “the ability to understand how money works in the world: how someone manages to earn or make it, how that person manages it, how he/she invests it (turn it into more money) and how that person donates it to help others.”
The Bible supports teaching financial literacy as a vital stewardship lesson among youth. There are numerous scriptures advising against debt, dishonesty in handling money, and the risk of being corrupted if one develops a “love for money.” The Bible also says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow (Proverbs 13:11, NIV). In this age, the Christian parent must proactively teach responsible principles about money and wealth creation so as to help their children achieve a healthy balance between consumerism and stewardship, in keeping with a modest Christian lifestyle.
By teaching your children about money, you help them understand the relationship between earning, spending and saving. In so doing, children also begin to understand the value of money, according to Investopedia. Many money advisors support starting with your toddlers by teaching them simple money concepts such as counting coins and making change for purchases. “Older children can learn about savings accounts, balancing a check book and creating a personal budget. The key is to teach a concept and let them try, even if it means a little extra time in the toy store while your little one painstakingly counts out coins from his or her piggy bank.”
Families are advised to give age-appropriate allowances, and provide a multitude of opportunities for children to make choices with money over a prolonged period. Have frequent discussions about your money choices, look for teachable moments, and always answer their questions.
A coin bank is the most basic tool to help young children learn money management. A simple one will do, but you can add a delight factor by getting a playful kitty or doggie coin banks (available at Storenvy or GearBest), and encourage younger children to deposit money on a weekly or fortnightly basis. You can then have fun counting and tracking income earned for chores, as well as recording withdrawals needed for purchases.
Since we are concerned with joyful giving, it’s important to emphasize generosity alongside stewardship practices:
- Model and encourage simple planned giving from an early stage.
- At home, come up with a “random acts of kindness” project each week or month that will encourage your child to give a portion of their income to help others in need.
- Keep kids enthused by returning “blessings” to their banks every now and then to demonstrate how God “pours out a blessing” to those who give. Show kids how toys, clothing, food, and other necessities/privileges are examples of God providing blessings for us when we give our tithes and offerings. Get other family members involved in these “blessing investments.”
Helpful Resource: Need to know more? These national standards map out age-appropriate personal finance education children should acquire to attain a lifetime of economic wellbeing.
#9 Play Free Rice as a Family
Kids can give and learn at the same time while playing this online trivia game, hosted by the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP). The Free Rice game offers an interactive and fun way to encourage people to test their knowledge, while donating rice to feed the world’s hungry. To play the game, you’ll need to register so you can track your score total and create groups. Children under 14 will need parents’ approval, and can’t use their real names. If you want to play as a family, it may be best to sign up as a class group using this specific procedure suggested by Free Rice.
To play the game, answer questions correctly in eight subject/knowledge categories, and watch as 10 grains of rice are donated. A smart family can fill a bowl pretty fast. The visual filling of the bowl with rice as the game proceeds will keep your family hooked on the game.
If you wonder how the game translates into actual rice, the donations are sponsored by advertisers on the site. The website interface also allows users to see a live score table that reports on the number and quantity of rice donated to date, watch videos of rice being distributed, read stories about the Syrian refugee crisis, and obtain vital current statistics about world hunger.
All in all, the game will leave you and your family feeling satisfied that it was time well spent on supporting a worthwhile cause. Additionally, your children will emerge mentally stimulated, being smarter and joyful stewards, hence creating a win-win situation for the beneficiaries of the game, as well as your family.
# 10 Soda Explosion
Demonstrate the diet soda explosion gimmick. Draw reference to the fact that God asks us to put in a little, just 1/10th of what we earn. When we give this 1/10th, He will pour out blessings much like a geyser seen in the explosion created in the demonstration. Do this at an outdoor activity. If done inside for children’s church story time, prepare to mop up once the excitement dies down.
#11 Money Jars
This idea came from blogger Norma Thomas at Techie Church Kids. She suggests allowing kids to create a tangible money management system by decorating three mason jars labeled Give to God, Save, and Spend. Essentially, parents are expected to encourage children to place a weekly “tithe” for church into the special Give to God jar. Another system she recommends is My Giving Bank, a collection of three books/banks in one (from Faith kids). This visual collection is now out of stock on Amazon. However, I found a similar site—Three Jars. According to the product description at the site, Three Jars makes money management fun and easy for 5—13 year old kids and parents. Kids learn to manage “money” through saving, spending, and charitable giving jars—with guidance from Mom and Dad. Use the jars to help your children learn the value of tithing to the Lord, sharing responsibilities, and spending wisely for a lifetime of financial accountability.
#12 Tasty Object Lessons
Use these sweet object lessons in children story time to teach giving. Here is one from ministry-to-children.com using bananas, another using Skittles, another close candy cousin and yet another idea using chocolate chips.
#13 Role-Play Skits
Sit with your class and challenge them to come up with, rehearse, and act out sketches about tithing as a fun way to teach the habit. Sketches and role-play can go a long way to help children see things from a new perspective, and reflect on the message you want to convey.
Resource Tip: I found a free Parable of The Talents script here, but feel free to make up your own.
#14 Coloring pages
Over time, for younger children, reinforce the Bible stories you share in Sabbath school with coloring page activities. Here is one you can use: “No One Can Serve Two Masters” from Matthew 6:24.
Resource Tip: A quick search on Google revealed a treasure trove of coloring pages on various stewardship themes. Search children ministry boards on Pinterest as well.
#15 Plan and host a Stewardship campaign series.
What better way to reinforce the message of stewardship than with a series? For your next crusade or childrens’ church series, try a multi-week Stewardship series. To get your thoughts flowing, here’s an example from the Kidology website. It’s intended to be a three-week series, but I can find only this PDF for one week. Visit their website to get a free sample lesson offer, or brainstorm with your childrens’ ministry team to write your own.
So, there you have it. Fifteen fun and creative ways to teach kids to drop pennies in the offering plate, and do it with responsibility, willingness and joy.
Q: Do you know of other ways to encourage children to give an offering? What works for you at home or in your children’s ministry? Share your ideas in the comments below.