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Teaching Children to Give

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.  And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.  Mark 12:41-44 (NAS)

It is Missions Sunday in Children’s Church.  The children had been saving money in their missions jars all month and today was the day to bring it in.  Most of the children left their jars on the kitchen counter top throughout the month so whenever mom and dad had some spare change, they could drop it in the jar.  Sometimes, the child himself would have a few extra pennies, maybe a quarter, and would drop it in the jar.  Over the course of the month, the amount inside the jar would accumulate to a pretty hefty amount.

Meanwhile, little Johnny, who comes to church with a neighbor down the street, had his missions jar on his kitchen counter.  Johnny lived with his grandmother and money was extremely tight.  Johnny never received an allowance.  He was lucky if he got to get a new outfit from Goodwill with no holes or stains.  On Missions Sunday, Johnny headed for his neighbors to go to church.  He left his jar at home because it was empty.  Grandma just could not afford to put any money in it.  As he walked down the road, he noticed something shiny on the side of the road, right along the curb.  He was a curious boy, so, of course, he had to go see what this shiny matter was.

To his surprise and delight, it was two quarters.  He was absolutely thrilled!  He knew just what to do with it.  Normally, when he and his friends went to the food mart near his house, Johnny would have to wait off to the side while his friends bought their candy and sodas.  Then, he would sit and watch them eat their snacks.  The next time he went to the store with his friends, it would be different.  He would be able to get in line at the counter with them and later, eat candy with them.  He picked up the quarters, put them in his pocket, and proceeded to the neighbors house to go to church.
Children’s Church began and, one at a time, the children brought up their jars and presented them to their children’s pastor.  Bethany gave $15.  Everyone cheered.  Christopher gave $30.  Everyone cheered again.  They cheered even more when Amanda presented $60.  Surely, she would be the winner of the contest.

As Johnny watched, he thought about the two quarters in his pocket. It was so rare that he got to go to the food mart and make a purchase.  However, as he looked at the pictures of the boys and girls across the world living in small huts with no food, he was moved with compassion.  He knew what was right.  Johnny got up and presented his two quarters to his children’s pastor.  No one cheered.  No prize was awarded to him.  The children’s pastor said, That’s nice, Johnny as Johnny headed back to his seat.  No one said anything about Johnny’s gift-that is, no one except Jesus.  For Jesus said, Truly I say to you, this child put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but he, out of his poverty, put in all he owned, all he had to live on.

Tragically, this is an all too common scenario.  Who will bring in the most offering?  The girls or the boys? Who will give the most in their missions jar?  Will we raise enough money this year for the children’s pastor to die his hair pink?  Who will get the prize?  Unfortunately, we never stop to remember that God does not count money the same way we do.  Two cents given from a generous and thankful heart is much, much more than $10,000 given out of someone’s surplus (money they could easily live without).  If you are interested in teaching children to be givers, there are some basic principles that must be considered.

What Not to Do

1.      Do not miss the point of what you are teaching.
Getting children to bring money to church is not the same as teaching them to give.  The goal is not to bring in money, the goal is to teach children to be givers.

2.  Do not bribe.
In an attempt to teach children to be givers, many people unintentionally teach children to be buyers.  Without balance and proper teaching, rewards for giving can reduce generosity to an exchange of goods and services.

3.  Do not use numbers to measure your success.
Just because giving is up this year from last year does not necessarily mean your children have become givers.  Are you still using rewards?  Why are they giving more money?  Try this:  remove all rewards for giving and see if the money still continues to come in.  If not, you may need to re-think your strategy.

What to Do

1.      Lead by example.
Are you a giver?  I am not asking if you are a tither, I am asking if you are a giver.  Are you generous with your time and your material possessions?  If you see someone in need, do you do anything about it?  How often do you share?

2.      Teach about giving regularly.
Teach about tithes and offerings.  Talk about giving to others.  Teach lots of scriptures about giving (Pr. 14:21, Pr. 19:17, Pr. 21:13, Pr. 22:9).

3.      Be patient.
Do not get frustrated if it does not work right away.  Our kids are growing up in a selfish world.  It takes time to break bad habits.

4.      Regularly give opportunities for children to give.
Here are some tips to remember as you plan opportunities for children to give:
a. Put it in their world.  Children enjoy giving to other children because they understand their situations better.
b. Appeal to children’s naturally sensitive nature.  Though they are selfish at times, children are sensitive when a genuine need and hurt that they understand is happening. Have them imagine in detail what it would be like to live in the hurting child’s situation.
c. Make sure the children are doing the giving.  We are not teaching them anything by having them give someone else’s money.  Giving requires sacrifice.  Expect the children to be the ones to sacrifice.
d. Make sure the giving is the child’s choice.  Giving is not giving if it is done under compulsion (II Corinthians 9:7).
e. Be creative.  Children can give more than money.  They can give clothes, toys, and services as well as many other things.

5.      Let the satisfaction of seeing someone else be blessed be the reward.
Children will feel good when they see the happiness of the recipient of their gift.  Let that be it’s own reward.

6.  Always give affirmation after a job well done.
Just as God affirms us, we can affirm children when they have done well.

Some Ideas

These are just a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless that your group of children can do:
1.      Sponsor a needy child as a group.
2.      As a group, support a missionary who ministers to children and would be able to send you some information a few times a year about what he is doing.
3.      Have kids clean up an elderly person’s yard or plant flowers for them.
4.      Find opportunities for community service.
5.      Make a big card or craft for the church janitor.
6.      Respond when you hear of a family with children that is in crisis (an accident, etc.).
7.      At Christmas, have children pick out one of their toys that they really like and is in good condition and give it to a needy child in your community.
8.      Allow the children to participate in church missions projects. For example, if your church is going on a missions trip to build a church somewhere, have the children raise money to buy the bricks.  Have pictures taken of all the bricks that were bought so the children can see what they have accomplished.
9.      Be creative.  Listen to what is happening in the community and around the world that your group of kids could help with.

To sum it up, keep focused on the heart behind the giving, not the gift itself.  We must teach children to live by the true love that Christ shows toward us.

In everything I showed you by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.  Acts 20:35 (NAS)

©  by Children’s Pastor Leslie Bienz


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