First Third Conversations

Halloween Post: Is teaching kids about money too scary? - by Rev. Tim Coltvet

Pumpkin cousins

This article was originally posted on 10/20/2011. If you didn't catch it then, we hope you enjoy its message anew!

Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra once unpacked the meaning of Christian practices. They write: "By Christian practices we mean things Christian people do together over time to address fundamental human needs in response to and in the light of God's active presence for the life of the world. Thinking of a way of life as made up of a constitutive set of practices breaks a way of life down into parts that are small enough to be amenable to analysis, both in relation to contemporary concerns and as historic, culture-spanning forms of Christian faith and life. At the same time, practices are not too small; each Christian practice is large enough to permit us to draw together the shards and pieces of particular understandings, beliefs, events, behaviors, actions, relationships, inquiries and skills into sets that are capacious and cohesive enough to show how they might guide one into a way of life." (Bass, Practicing our Faith, 1997)

As Bass and Dykstra speak of the connection between our behaviors and the larger aspects of living a Christian life, I begin to wonder about our practices with money, and in particular, our practices of talking about money with our children. Do we have tried and true practices that help us to bring about meaningful understandings and behaviors with regard to the gift of money? Is saving and sharing with others (say 10 percent) a regular part of our practice with our children, or do we fall prey to the cycles of greed and spend, spend, spend that seem to be lurking around every corner in a consumer-obsessed society?

Carrie Carroll and her daughter, Anna, have discovered a way of living into the Christian practice of tithing. In addition to giving money away to various charities and/or her local church each month, 11-year-old Anna is also learning to manage money that previously had been simply spent for her by her parents. Learn more about the innovative idea that Carrie and her husband have adopted as an effective way to teach their daughter about money -- its challenges, joys and strong connections to impacting the world that God so loves -- by watching a video of Carrie and Anna.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
- 2 Timothy 1:7
Teaching about tithing can happen at home, as the Carrolls have shown, and it can also be readily engaged in our congregations this time of year. As a parish pastor, I enjoyed watching children bring in 10 percent of their windfall of candy every Sunday after Halloween. Not only was this an opportunity to give some of those sweets to kids at homeless shelters -- kids that don't have a neighborhood street to trick or treat at -- it was also an opportunity to teach our kids about giving joyfully from that which they enjoy so much! I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, my bag of Halloween candy was something special. It was as close as I would ever get to stumbling upon a treasure chest.

Having some bearings for how to steward those resources might be the best teaching gift you can give to children in your congregation this year! Oh, don't be scared to talk about money this Halloween. Go forward boldly trusting that God will transform your teaching moments into the blossoming of generous hearts.

(This article was developed in collaboration with Luther Seminary's Center for Stewardship Leaders.)

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