Note to the Teacher
Learning Outcomes: Students will understand the importance of giving. They will also see that there are charities and nonprofits that do not use funds appropriately, referencing Jesus’ thoughts in verses 38-40.
The discussion encourages students to think about our responsibility to tithe and to help others and the delicate balance of sacrificial giving.
The ice breaker and activity allow youth to experience these themes firsthand.
Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker (10 minutes)
Create baggies of treats for your students (cookies, candies, etc.). Do not put equal numbers in the bags; be sure that at least one person gets only one treat. Consider allowing multiple people to have only one treat or even zero treats, even if there are enough total treats for everyone in your group to have several. (If your group is not gathering face to face, drop these off ahead of time and do the discussion via Zoom.) You decide whether the treat bags are clear plastic or opaque paper.
As students come into your space, hand out the bags of treats and ask them not to open the bags or eat the treats.
Once you begin your lesson time, address the entire group, saying something like, “I am so glad that you are here today. I am taking a ‘special offering.’ To fully participate in our time together today, each person needs to give me one treat from inside the bag.” Then collect the “offerings” one at a time from the participants.
After all “offerings” have been collected, start this discussion by asking:
- Is it fair of me to ask you give a treat for participation today? Why or why not?
- If you had more than two treats in your bag, how did it feel to give one up?
- For those with only one treat, how did you feel to have to give it up?
- (If you handed out bags that had zero treats) For those with no treats, how did it feel to know you may not be able to participate today?
- Would any of you with more than one treat left be willing to share with the people who had zero treats and cannot participate? How about with those who had one treat, but had to give the treat up and now have none? Is that fair of me to ask you to share?
Say something like, “Today, we are going to talk about a story in the Gospel of Mark that describes something very similar to your experience.” (Also, if you have generous participants, you can of course eat the treats you still have during the discussion.)
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today comes from Mark 12:38-44. Please read it aloud; consider reading it aloud from more than one Bible version.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
Ask students the following questions:
- Verses 38-40 have a different heading from verses 41-44 in most versions of the Bible. What knowledge do we gain from verses 38-44? How does knowing what Jesus says in verses 38-40 inform how we hear about what happens in verses 41-44?
- Verse 41 mentions the “temple treasury.” What do you think that was and what was it used for? (Please feel free to allow students to Google this information and guide them to some historical information. You could also use resources like printed Bible encyclopedias if your church has them available, or you may borrow some from a pastor’s office!)
- Why do you think the widow gave all she had? Have you ever given all of yourself (time, energy, mental focus, money, etc.) for something? What was it and why did you?
- What lessons do you think church leaders might try and share about tithing (giving money, time, gifts, or talents to the church) through this story?
- Is there a lesson in this scripture about something other than money?
- How do you think the rich people reacted to the widow? What are the responsibilities of the people who watched the widow give all she possessed?
- Have you ever given to the church or other charities? Why did you and how did it make you feel?
- What have been some ways or times you have given your possessions to someone specific who was in need?
- When giving, how can we know if the charities we give to are legitimate? When you give to our church, how do you think that money is used?
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
Have students do some research on apportionments. Here is a link with more information. Explain to them that some of the money they donate to the church goes to support the work of the larger church as well as work in other churches that need help. Ask students:
- From that link, what do you understand about apportionments?
- Why do you think it is important for a church to pay apportionments?
- Is there anything that bothers you about apportionments?
- What percentage of a church’s budget would you think is fair to send as apportionments?
Invite students to brainstorm about raising funds for an outside charity. They might be interested in using a site like charity navigator (charitynavigator.org) to see how responsibly the donations are handled.
- What causes/organizations feel the most important?
- What organizations are being the most responsible with their funds?
- How might we want to raise funds? Collect change? Do yard work for people?
Consider having people come in to talk to students from a local organization that they can support and that they are passionate about.
If your church or youth ministry is included in the raising funds conversation, ask something like, “How could we raise funds with projects that impact and bring money from people who are not already connected and giving to our church?”
- Bags of treats