Children (as well as adults) need to approach stewardship in a holistic manner. When we look at the whole person, we visualize education as the head, gaining knowledge about all of our mission, and outreach and witness as the hands and feet, extending our ministry to others. But worship and stewardship both must lie in the heart of the person, for it is there that we are moved to carry out our ministry.
Stewardship goes beyond just a way to raise the budget. The early Christian church recognized stewardship as a way of life, sharing all that God had given to them with others. We lost the true meaning of stewardship when Constantine declared everyone in the Roman world as a Christian. At that time, the church budget became a part of the government budget, financed through taxes. Churches needed only to raise money to "spread the Word."
We can find our way back to the early Christian understanding of stewardship by seriously carrying out the vows that we take when we join the church. We plan confirmation classes for the sixth or seventh grade, but wouldn't it be great if children came to those classes with experience in the vows that we take for membership? I can see the "ah-ha" moment of a child when he or she reads the membership vows and recognizes that this has been a part of his or her life for years.
We can do this by establishing a Stewardship Table in each classroom. This table could have five places for children to register their week's experience as Christian stewards:
- A place to write or draw a prayer request: Our Prayers
- A place to record attendance (by checking or with a star/sticker): Our Presence
- A place to leave an offering (money, canned goods, or such): Our Gifts
- A place to record some way the children have helped someone else: Our Service
- A place to record the names of people that the children have told about church or Jesus: Our Witness
The Stewardship Table could also be a family experience, with a place for the whole family to stop each Sunday and register the five ways they carried out their membership vows during the week.
What better way to prepare children for membership in the church than by helping them live the life of a Christian steward, even before confirmation?