This year my congregation will be doing things a little differently, and will introduce a Children’s Offering into the elementary age classroom every Sunday. Previously we had done an offering, but only at the monthly Children’s Chapel. Why the change? The main reason is consistency, so that it’s not so hard to remember which Sunday of the month the children should bring cash with them. The other reason is habit formation, since a regular habit will be more lasting than something you only did occasionally as a child.
But why do a Children’s Offering at all? Why does money have to be part of what we do as a religious group? Well, money is how we symbolically organize our material lives. And, truly, our spiritual and religious lives are not completely separate from our material lives. They are mutually related, with the material being needed to support the religious community and the values of the religious/spiritual having a lot to say about the material aspect of life. Where and how you spend your money is a reflection of the life you want to live and the world you want to contribute toward creating.
Of course, there are many other ways to contribute materially toward the world vision of your faith: food drives, coat drives, care packages, sock drives, Toys for Tots, etc. And of course you can also contribute your time rather than your money.
But ultimately, money is still the most versatile and flexible thing you can give. Someone asked in class last week if the kids could bring cans of food instead of money on Sunday. Of course they can! We have a food bank collection bin here at church, and it would be lovely to contribute to that. But food can only go to the local food bank. With the money we collect, once a year at the Children’s Annual Meeting they will offer ideas for where they would like to send their Share the Plate and all will vote on it. In past years they have sent money to Japanese Earthquake Recovery, to Save the Kakapo (an endangered New Zealand bird), and to the World Wildlife Fund. We send 50% of what they raised, and the other 50% supports the church (which cannot exist without material contributions, either). Money can go anywhere in the world, and help in many different ways.
The other reason I think a Children’s Offering is a good idea is that it helps children develop a healthy relationship toward and understanding of money. It’s not news to anyone that Americans have trouble with money: more people in debt, more use of credit cards, less savings than before, and other trends all speak to trouble with money – and yet we don’t like to talk about it! Money can be almost taboo to talk about, even though it affects our lives and the world around us.
There are many ideas out there for how to teach kids to manage money well. One popular method is the Moon Jar, which has a three way division of money between Spend, Save, and Share. My son got a free piggy bank from a bank that has four divisions: Spend, Save, Give, and Invest. And of course, you could make a three jar system at home (I went over to Pinterest to look for ideas and was overwhelmed by all the cool things you could do!) The main point, however, is to provide practice with the actual handling of money.
For adults to grapple with their relationship to money, there is a new Tapestry of Faith curriculum from the UUA: The Wi$dom Path. I’m intrigued – you should check it out too if you’re interested.
And that is why we will do an offering each Sunday! Kids in the elementary grades are invited to bring cash to drop in the basket, just like the adults get to do in their worship service.