Chances are your parish is doing its best to communicate the importance of stewardship to the adults in the pews. But what about the kids — the stewards of tomorrow?
The time is now for children to learn the importance of stewardship because they are hearing plenty of counterproductive messages. The average child watches 40,000 ads on television alone per year, according to widely cited data from the APA, a figure that doesn’t even include ads on mobile devices or online. All of those ads are prompting them to think about the material goods they want — clothes, video games, snacks. It’s training them to focus inward on their own desires. As Catholics, we need to help guide their focus outwards.
Here are some ways you can help families at your parish teach children to look outside of themselves, helping to cultivate a generation of stewards for tomorrow.
Focus on Education
Find ways to introduce the word “stewardship” and its meaning to the kids of your parish. This could take the form of special family-oriented programming, it could be implemented in Sunday school teaching or your parish priest could address it at an all-school Mass. Why do we give back some of what God has blessed us with? Bible stories that could be shared include Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 28:20), Jeremiah’s call to active citizenship (Jeremiah 29:5-7) and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
Launch a Family-Centered Campaign
Have kids collect toiletries for the local homeless shelter and set up a time that families from your parish could stop by and deliver them personally, meeting some of the people their donations will help. Have a baby shower for a local crisis pregnancy center and encourage kids to include handwritten notes of encouragement and support for the moms in their gifts. Or consider something that benefits your parish — does the cry room need a coat of paint or the donation of a few new children’s books? Find ways for families to become actively involved in stewardship, so that kids can see with their own eyes what faith looks like in action.
Pass the Basket!
Encourage parents to let their kids place their offering in the collection basket themselves. Especially for little kids, this simple action is an exciting and engaging ritual that they will remember as they grow up. Better yet, can your parish set up a special “Children’s Fund”? Hold a contest to design fun, eye-catching envelopes that children can take home with them and fill during the week.
Include “Giving Testimonials” in your Parish Bulletin
This could be a very brief paragraph submitted by parish kids describing some act of stewardship they undertook that week — shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk, giving their sibling the last cupcake or skipping a chocolate bar to donate the money to church instead. Consider keeping these testimonials anonymous to further instill a sense of altruism in the kids.
Promote a Culture of Stewardship at Home
Give parents useful, concrete ideas for conversation starters or activities that can help them explore stewardship at home as a family. Here are some quick and simple ideas:
- Help the kids learn more about the charitable causes your family chooses to support. If you make monthly or yearly donations to the local seminary, see if you can schedule a tour or watch a YouTube video about what seminarians learn. Do you donate to Catholic Relief Services? Their website is full of helpful info about who the money benefits!
- Find moments to take special note of God’s generosity with us. Go around the dinner table and have each family member identify some way God was generous with you today.
- Make a family project of compiling some simple data on their spending habits as a family. What do the kids spend in a year on clothes? Fast food? Coffee? Movie dates with friends? Discuss what it would look like if even a small percentage of that was given back as charity. How many backpacks would that buy for needy students? How many meals at a soup kitchen?
- Create a “giving tree.” Pin stewardship ideas to the branches of the tree and have each child choose one periodically. These can range from acts of service (mow the lawn, help with the dishes) to small donations (give part of your allowance to a charity of your choice, go through clothes and toys to donate what you don’t use anymore).