Children, Money, & the Sanctuary

Reposted from Carolyn Brown’s Worshipping with Children blog 

Whole books can and have been written about raising children to be good stewards of their money. This is more focused. The question here is how can worship planners speak to children about money while they are in the sanctuary.

To explain to children (and remind adults of) what happens to the money that goes in the offering plates, offer a series of photographs and/or items.

1. Begin by sliding the contents of an offering plate into a bank bag or displaying a picture of a member doing that. Note that the money goes to the bank.

2. Display a picture of the church treasurer writing checks. Explain who decides what money can be spent on and who does the bookkeeping. If the treasurer is in the room, send a child with the picture to stand near him or her.

3. Display a series of pictures of things on which the church spends money.

* Start with a photo of the paid staff. Note that just as their parents are paid for work they do, church pays staff to work on behalf of everyone. If staff members are present, send a child with this picture to stand by one of them. If not, have the children stand beside you with the picture. Briefly describe what each staff person does.

* Send a child with a picture of the choir to stand near the choir and describe money spent for music and care of instruments.

* Send a child with a picture of a light switch to stand near one and list the utility bills that the church like all families must pay.

* Hand a child a copy of current church school curriculum and a box of crayons and some paper and anything else that will show how much stuff it takes to have church school classes to illustrate the money needed for classes.

* Hand a series of children one photograph or item each to represent some of the missions of the church. Briefly note how money is needed to make each mission happen.

4. Gather all the pictures together. Place them in an offering plate. Pray over the pictures and the money.

This might be most effectively done by calling the children forward for the conversation while the offering is being collected. At the end of the conversation, offering plates are brought forward and placed on the Table with the plate of pictures for the prayer of dedication. It could also be done at any point in the service as a children’s time or be woven into the “real sermon.”

Other suggestions…

$$$   One obvious way is to plan for children to be among those putting money in the offering plates as they are passed. This begins with teaching parents the value of the habit. The parent who supplies his or her child with money to put in the plate each week is making doing so part of worship for them. It establishes a habit. Point out to parents that the money should be more than the price of a candy bar if we are to teach the children that we need to bring significant financial gifts to God – not just tip God. If money is tight and children are numerous in a family, suggest that the family deduct the children’s contributions from their family contribution. If the adults put their offering in envelopes, provide the children with envelopes also.

$$$   In the age of electronic giving, it takes extra effort for children to see their family’s gift as well as their own. When children do not witness their parent’s gifts, they can easily assume that their small gift is all the family gives – and all that is necessary. So parents need encouragement to occasionally ask their children to help them write the check or email the family contribution.

$$$   Occasionally highlight The Offering in your service. Invite the children forward during the offering (perhaps during the offertory) to point out the Offering in the printed order of worship and walk through it, talk about how the money is used, put one of the usual songs and prayers into your own words and even practice them and talk about the importance of sharing our money.

$$$   Include children among those carrying the plates from row to row. Children quickly learn how it is done and tend to stay even more alert than adults do. Young children or first timers can be paired with an adult. Older children quickly take their places as independent members of the team. Passing the plates, then bringing them forward as the congregation sings makes children feel like full members of the church family now.

$$$   If lay members of the congregation offer a prayer of dedication of the offering, ask a child or a children’s class to prepare and offer that prayer occasionally.

$$$   When children make their gift in worship is important.

When children are encouraged to drop their money into a basket at the side as they enter or leave the sanctuary for a children’s time, they misunderstand that they are paying to get in – or even worse, to get out of worship!

When children are expected to give during Sunday School and not during worship, they see that as different and feel uninvolved in the worship offering. It is possible to work against this by having a child carrying in the church school offering process to the Table with the ushers each week. It is better to plan for them to give with everyone as part of worship.

$$$   If your congregational has an annual pledge drive, ask children as well as adults to make pledges. The financial folks will point out that it costs more to prepare materials for them and record their gifts than they contribute. That is true. But, this is not about money raising. We are raising children to become stewards. It’s an educational expense.

$$$   Ask all members of each household to sign their household pledge card and to walk it to the front of the sanctuary together (if that is your custom). Suggest to parents that this is an opportunity for parents to show their children what they give as a family and to talk about how the family uses its money.

$$$   One time Worship and Stewardship Education Activity: During Stewardship Season give worshipers sacks from the area food bank and a list of items needed for a week’s worth of groceries. Challenge them to go to the grocery store together to fill the bag. Encourage parents to use this as an opportunity to discuss how much food costs and how hard it is for some families to buy enough food to eat. Filled sacks are placed at the front of the church around the central table, along railings, down the side walls, wherever there is space. (It will not be pretty, but it will be awesome!)

Simply dedicate the food along with the money at offering time.

Or, take time to revel in the huge pile of food. Then note that people not only need food, they need clothes and homes and medicine and schools and….

Point out that it would be impossible to meet all these needs by bringing stuff to church even if we did it every Sunday. That is why we bring money. Name some of the missions your money supports describing their work in very everyday terms. Then dedicate both the food and the money today with reference to other missions that are supported every week.

$$$   Children get a great deal of satisfaction and grow toward mature stewardship when they offer some of their own money. For young children this means bringing a little of their spending money and even some of their birthday money. Older children can make gifts out of their earnings from small jobs. A number of children in my area have begun asking friends to bring books or other gifts to their birthday party that will be donated to a specific ministry rather than presents for the birthday child. The honoree chooses the ministry and delivers the gifts. They have the fun of the party and the joy of sharing with others.

WARNING: Some parents are very much against asking children to give any of their own money. The anger with which they respond I suspect indicates discomfort with giving on their parts. In any case, I find that these possibilities are best presented as ideas in a sermon, i.e. seeds planted with hope.

Posted by Carolyn Brown at 8:53 PM

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