How did you learn the things you know? Did you learn to cheer for your favorite sports team by attending games with someone who enjoyed that team? Did you gain a love for hunting by trudging across the cold, barren ground with someone who had a love for hunting? Did you learn to cook by standing next to someone adding ingredients and stirring when directed? We often learn from someone’s example. A person says, “this is important,” and invites us to be a part. We watch and mirror their actions. We practice. We try it on for ourselves. Over time, this activity may make a difference in our lives.
This is our hope as people of faith. In baptism, “we are united with all the baptized in the one body of Christ…and joined in God’s mission for the life of the world.” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 4th edition, Augsburg Fortress, 2006. page 227) Parents, godparents, and the gathered congregation promise to help the baptized learn about God, participate in sacraments, worship, pray, and learn to trust God. They promise to help a person learn to care for others and God’s world. At the end of the service, the newly baptized is welcomed into the family. I am partial to the welcome in the green, Lutheran Book of Worship because it welcomes the baptized as workers with us in the kingdom of God.”
This is stewardship. As children of God, we are called to use our time, talents, and resources to serve God’s world. While the church teaches a lot of things, we don’t do a good job of teaching stewardship. Many complain that young people don’t know how to give, often referring to money. Others say “young” people don’t serve like previous generations. From my experience, young people are looking for purpose and want to make a difference in the world. They give to things they think are making a difference.
The church is one place where we connect generations and help people understand each other’s shared concerns for the world. Together, we practice loving the neighbor, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked. Serving together creates space for conversations to happen between different ages. How do you start having generations serve together? Start by pairing a grandparent and a fourth grader to read scripture during worship. Have a confirmation student usher with the older gentleman who is always willing to usher. At a church I served in Omaha, kids started to serve as greeters at 3-years-old! They were the best greeters! These kids and parents gathered to learn about prayer and then served together that same week. They’d line up by the doors, with their Sunday school teachers, and shake hands with every person who walked in the door. You can’t help but smile and feel welcomed when a bouncy, three-year-old says good morning! Did you also know that grandmas make the best VBS snack makers? Pair them with a kid who feels too old for VBS and watch what happens! Not only will both groups serve, but they may just build a relationship with each other!
Teaching and Modeling
If we want people to grow in stewardship, we first must teach what it is! Then, we model how to serve and give. We can’t forget to talk about why we serve and give. We can’t assume people know how the church gets money or what is done with it. Like everything else, we must teach financial giving. This is best done with a whole community of believers. Instead of filling out annual pledge cards and calling it a stewardship drive, create another space for conversations.
- Bring all ages together.
- Check out stories of generosity in the Bible.
- Talk about how people shared their resources and their talents.
- Ask people to name the abilities they see in each other.
- Challenge people to commit not only to giving of resources, but of time and abilities.
- Brainstorm ways to serve the world together.
The best curriculum for this is The Generosity Project -ELCA. Written by faith formation leaders across the ELCA, this tool gives you more than enough material to talk about stewardship with all ages for weeks.
Need a new perspective on stewardship in your congregation? Gather all of the workers in God’s kingdom and do it together!