As we head into fall, many congregations will be talking about stewardship – or at least the financial pledging part of stewardship. It’s one thing to consider your response to God’s goodness as an adult, but how do you talk with your children about this?

When my children were 13 and 10, their understanding of our weekly giving could be summarized by the reaction to our end-of-year giving statement from church. It reported that we actually gave more than we had pledged. To that my son said, “Does that mean we get a refund?”

I wanted my children to grow into the joy of giving, and I yearned to have enough faith to trust God to take care of us. Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach what you want to know. If I wanted to be a role model for my children, I needed to improve my understanding of stewardship. Here’s what I learned:

  • Stewardship is about gratitude, not guilt. God is a generous God and has blessed us richly, beyond anything we deserve. God expects us to be generous, too, through gifts of our time, ourselves and our possessions. Trust God completely, even if you think you won’t have enough. To be a good steward, you must practice giving. To be generous, you must practice generosity.
  • Stewardship is a response, not a reaction. The Holy Spirit moves us to give – not so that we can get something back. Through baptism God has already promised us eternal life. This I believe: Giving is a spiritual act. When we follow God wholeheartedly, we experience God’s grace and freedom to live generously.
  • Stewardship is about mission, not about budget. We give as a response to God’s love, not because our congregation needs money. Together we can do so much more than we can do alone to further God’s work in the world. God is moved not by the amount of our giving but the trust and love that the gifts symbolize.
  • Stewardship is an act of worship. One of my stewardship mentors wrote, “On the day of worship, set aside an offering. If we give when we worship, we will give regularly. We cannot give what we have not received, but we can withhold what we have received.” (“Generous People,” Eugene Grimm, Abingdon Press, 1992).

Nobody said this would be easy. To promise to support God’s ministry with our financial resources may take a little courage. Whenever we feel challenged to stretch and grow, remember this from Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” Ask God to ease your fear of giving and give you the courage to act.

As we learn how to steward everything God has given us, my prayer is that we do so with a grateful heart and a joyful spirit. At 10 years old, my daughter showed that she had truly caught on. She insisted her offering envelope get to church even when she couldn’t. When I asked her why this was so important to her, she said, “Because it makes me feel good.”

Laurel Hensel
Hensel, a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, Ill., is director of communications for Presence Health Foundation in Chicago.

Read more about: