We have recently been sharing our concerns about how online giving is creating a huge gap in how our children learn about and participate in giving. (For more details, read our recent post Is Online Giving Raising a Generation Who Won’t Give?.) Since online giving makes life easier for adults, it probably won’t go away. That’s understandable, but we need to do things that help children learn about, understand, and participate in giving in the concrete ways that they best understand.
There are lots of things you could do, but here are seven of our favorite ways to get you started.
- Encourage regular use of the “giving box”. Ironically, many churches have gone back to the ancient practice of a giving box for those who wish to contribute offline. Most members probably have never even paid attention to where it is. Encourage children to bring their contribution and place it in the box every week. This could also be something they are encouraged to do at a specific time each Sunday – like on the way to Bible class. Encourage some adults to give using the box and let children put the money in the box for them as they give a little mini lesson of a couple of sentences about why they give as the child helps them.
- Have regular in-person special contributions when the plate is passed. Most congregations have special contributions for ministries, missions or natural disaster relief. Use the opportunity to give children a visual of giving by the Christian adults in their lives by passing the collection plate as well as allowing for online giving. Encourage the children to give as well. Try scheduling them regularly so children don’t go a long period of time without seeing giving visually.
- Have periodic special collections of items like food, coats and other physical items that can be gathered on the pulpit/stage. This is a great, super concrete way of explaining giving to children. We give to serve others and share our faith. We attended one congregation that did that a few times a year. It was a great reminder of giving for everyone as well as a visual of the impact the congregation was having in the local community. Piles of donations in a box or scattered around the church and photos of delivery don’t have the same impact on children as a stage covered with boxes of food, bags of school supplies, etc.
- Encourage weekly giving in children’s Bible classes. This is not a great way for them to understand how adults give, but it can be a great way for them to learn how elders make decisions about how the contributions are spent. Have an elder come in and explain how they make their decisions about how the money is spent. Then have the children use the same framework to donate their class donations to a ministry.
- Have Bible class lessons and sermons on giving, generosity, sacrificial giving, etc. These fell out of favor when adults complained about being ”guilted” into giving. I’m pretty sure the complaints were never from generous, sacrificial givers. Feel free to explain the lessons and sermons are crucial for the children and an important reminder for adults. We need to preach what people need to hear and not just what they want to hear.
- Host family service projects and use some of the preparation and reflection time to discuss the vital importance of giving God our time and using all of our gifts to serve Him. Many churches and ministries are finding more and more Christians believe donating money means they don’t need to give their time or use their gifts to serve God. Christianity cannot accomplish the goals God has for it by only using paid staff. Time is abstract, but physically do something to serve others establishes good habits and attitudes.
- Consider hosting children’s or family celebrations of Jewish holidays that point us to Christ and had an element of giving involved. Make the giving portion a service project. Purim, for example, has elements of a fun celebration of the story of Esther, but the biblical celebration also included giving gifts to the poor.
This generation needs to learn about giving back to God in the concrete ways they learn best. Once or twice a year is not nearly enough. Finding new weekly ways to reinforce this critical spiritual discipline is necessary if we want to avoid raising a generation of children who don’t give.