A blog post by Grace Duddy
For most people, stewardship is about paying the congregation’s bills. When they hear the word “stewardship” in a sermon or talk in worship they almost instinctually take out their wallet waiting for the “ask” for their money. Many church leaders choose not to talk about stewardship with children and youth because, in this model of stewardship, children and youth do not seem to have a lot to contribute due to their lack of a steady income.
Love Your... by Charlotte90T on Flickr
Yet, stewardship is about so much more than money and giving to the congregation. According to Clarence Stoughton, stewardship is everything that we do after we say, “I believe.” Stewardship is a way of life. It is the way that we use all of the resources that God has entrusted to our care to love God and our neighbor. Stewardship is love in action. And love is something that children and youth know a lot about.
I spent 3.5 summers working at Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Ferryville, WI and can think of many instances where I saw the campers be “love in action” for one another. I watched campers be patient and enthusiastically encourage one another as they completed obstacles on the challenge course. I saw them take time away from fun and games to comfort homesick campers. But probably the best example I have is from my last year at camp.
The theme for that summer was social justice. So, I created a world-hunger themed activity for Wednesday night, which began with a Hunger Meal, where we served the children a cup of rice and beans for dinner. The activity continued with a game-like poverty simulation called “Survivor,” where we taught the children about the inequality of wealth and reality of malnutrition around the world. This message was followed up the next day in hour-long “Kids Against Hunger” sessions where campers watched a short video about world hunger and then packed food that would be sent around the world.
Most of the campers that I worked with that summer were completely unaware of the depth of the issue of world hunger prior to coming to camp. I can still remember the looks on their faces when I told them that over 16,000 children die every day from hunger-related issues. These numbers became even more real for them as they experienced the frustration of not being able to get their basic needs met in the poverty simulation. Many of the campers who had complained about the rice and beans served at the Hunger Meal the day before could not be more excited to pack food for those in need at the “Kids Against Hunger” sessions. They were changed because they had learned about the needs of their neighbors. They had a deep love and concern for their neighbors across the world and wanted to do something to help them.
The only regret that I have from that activity is that we never made the stewardship connection. We were doing a great thing by introducing the topic of world hunger to the campers, but we needed to do more. It isn’t enough to just talk about the plight of the poor at camp; the campers had to live differently when they got home. Stewardship is what integrates this “mountain top moment” into someone’s daily life. I wish that we had been more intentional about helping the children to see the resources that they do have -- time, money, talents, voice -- and how they could use those resources right now to further that cause. We needed to show them how they could be love in action when they returned home.
I think that one of the most important things that children, youth, and family leaders can do for the church is to teach stewardship “as love in action.” We have to help children and youth to see the gifts that they can offer the church and the world right now -- time, talents, money, their voice, their actions and so much more -- and help them to use these gifts to love both God and their neighbor through good stewardship. They don’t have to wait to be stewards; they are stewards! We can help our children and youth to love deeply, not just with their words, but with their whole selves.
For more information, check out the resource: Stewards of God’s Love
Grace Duddy is a Midwest native and self-proclaimed Millennial with a passion for frugality, stewardship and young adults. She moved north to attend St. Olaf College and then Luther Seminary. She is currently working as the Assistant Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary. She is the author of the new stewardship resource Stewards of God’s Love and the blog Frugal-Community that offers tips for living a fun and frugal life on a graduate student’s budget. When she is not thinking about stewardship, you can find her reading in a comfy chair, hiking in the woods or in the kitchen cooking with her fiancé.