“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
We affirm this as Christians.
We know this from experience.
Yet, it rarely enters our minds to disciple our youngest Christians to start practicing generosity—not just with their siblings—but toward God and his church from a very young age.
Here, we are going to explore why the church has a great opportunity in teaching children to tithe, and what strategies we can implement to help foster generosity in their young hearts from an early stage of their development.
1. What tithing is.
Tithing is giving God the first portion of our finances in order to recognize his authority over our lives and to advance his cause to redeem the world through the kingdom work of the church.
Adults know the profound experience of being blessed by giving.
Giving is the practice God commands we participate in for our own spiritual, financial, and social health.
It’s easy to wonder why God is not doing more to relieve pain in the world, but it is difficult to participate in his work toward this end through being a financial agent of this mission.
When we accept that God has called the church to solve the problems that we see through sacrifice, then we can see that tithing is an act of love and mercy—toward us on God’s part, and toward the world on God’s part.
2. Why kids should learn to tithe.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Professional mental health workers such as counselors, therapists, and psychologists, often refer to “Family of origin” issues as the primary problems that people bring to therapy. This means that, when people seek help for their mental health, the first thing they often bring up is the way their parents negatively affected them.
It’s hard to be a parent, because parents are finite, imperfect human beings—then, when you bring a child into the world, all of those finite and imperfect qualities accumulate generational consequences. While difficult, this is simply reality.
What could be the relationship between tithing and parenting?
This is the connection:
Your children will either grow up knowing how to be generous and put the Lord first financially, or they won’t.
As weighty as this reality is, it is inescapable: Whether our children know how to be generous is often up to their parents.
Teaching children to give to the church is the best first step in helping children to become primally generous.
But teaching children to tithe does more than rescue them from a life of selfishness—it actually gifts them with an abundance of positive experiences as well. Isaiah writes:
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13)
3. How to teach kids tithing.
“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29)
When God entrusts us with the gift of faith, he also entrusts us with the task of instructing our children in that same faith.
The Apostle Paul goes as far as to charge parents to take responsibility for the emotional development and maturity of their own children:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
The Bible is fairly clear that the spiritual lives of children fall within the domain of their parents’ responsibility.
Here are a few ways that your church can teach children to tithe so that they can learn to (1) give the first fruit of their money to God and (2) become generous and loving people.
1. Teach how to give out of love rather than guilt.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
God desires children to give from the heart. If they learn that giving is deeply associated with guilt now, they will be less likely to give later. But if kids can learn to love their neighbors by giving financially to God, they will learn to love giving as a means of receiving and extending blessing to others.
2. Start teaching children to give early.
When should you start teaching children to give?
As soon as they have something to give, which is to say, as soon as parents can give their children something to give.
Financial ownership is a concept developmental psychologists have found begins ages 3-5, so whatever your particular church’s equivalent of kindergarten sunday school would be, that is the perfect time to begin entrusting children with small amounts of money and inviting them to give.
3. Set up giving in children's church.
Where exactly should children learn to give in church?
The obvious answer is Sunday School, or the children's equivalent of Sunday school.
In class, invite children to participate in a work that the church is doing. Resource parents with helpful ways of explaining giving and ideas for how to generate fun and open conversations about tithing in the home.
Ask parents to prepare children with a tithe before Sunday school so that they can participate in God’s work in the world on a regular basis.
4. Set up a special children’s fund.
The children’s fund should be segmented from the rest of the funds, or otherwise tracked, so that each year the children can give a special presentation to the church about a project they’ve funded.
This solidifies bonds of camaraderie and trust in the church as parents see their children creating good in the world through small-sized amounts of money and a world-sized vision for the kingdom of God.
5. Show the impact of the children's tithing.
Help children to see the direct impact of their tithing on the world. This will help them to feel good about giving and increase the likelihood that they will want to give again and give more in the future.
6. Give children opportunities to participate in service projects.
The primary obstacle to teaching children to tithe is that they often have no money, and therefore it is difficult to put them in a position to make a free offering to God from a collection of financial assets that are so small.
However, one of the ways you can help to better connect children to giving is to have them assist in a service project the church is doing. This may even be the assembly of gift bags for a service project, or creating PB&Js for the homeless in their community that the adults can use in the homeless ministry.
Give children some access point to real ministry so that they can see the real impact their work and tithes make on the church and on the world.
Over to You
“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6)
Use these strategies to help the young children in your church learn to practice generosity early in life.
They will thank you for it, because they will not only learn to practice gratitude, but they will also enjoy deeper fellowship with God as they become fluent in giving God the first fruits of what they have received.
By implementing this approach into church, we are not merely increasing giving on a small scale from the youngest generation, but increasing the generosity of the adults in our churches 20 years from now.
God will work wonders through a church full of hearts that have been taught to be generous from a young age. May God begin this work in your church this year.
It is appropriate to close with the words of Jesus: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)