Children and Christian stewardship (April 19, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Children and Christian stewardship

April 19, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0060}

An e-Review Commentary
By Tom Wilkinson**

In a previous life I was a technology and human resources manager for a major European investment bank. My boss Craig would attend a yearly gathering of CIOs (that's chief information officer) where the boys (they were overwhelmingly male) would debate the next big thing in managing information technology departments. My colleagues and I would dread his return, knowing that we would be in for some thrashing around, because Craig would attempt to implement the latest leadership idea on and through us.

I was guilty of the same thing myself once. I attended a human resources seminar in Washington and heard a presentation by Alfie Kohn, author of "Punished By Rewards," a book that had the distinction of being excerpted simultaneously by the "Harvard Business Review" and "Parents" magazine. Kohn argued that rewards-that is, compensation, bonuses, allowance-were in fact negative influencers. To paraphrase, "If they have to pay you to do it, you must not like doing it."

After hearing Kohn I returned home with a new philosophy of teaching children about money. Allowance was not to be "compensation for services rendered," that is, household chores, but rather a sharing in the family's resources. And chores were a way of sharing in the family's responsibilities. My much wiser wife cautioned that I was being utopian in my thinking, but I persisted. And boy was I wrong. The children were all too happy to share in the family resources, but were none too happy to share in the family responsibilities. So we soon returned to the time-tested model that goes something like this: "No allowance unless your room is cleaned and the grass trimmed and the wastebaskets emptied."

Which, believe it or not, brings us to children and Christian stewardship. Most local church stewardship programs emphasize the fact that stewardship is not just about money, but our relationship with God and the resources God has provided each of us. Those resources include our time, our talents and our treasure. Put differently, our attitude toward stewardship depends on how we answer the covenantal question, "Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church and uphold it by your prayers, your presence, your gifts and your service?"

Teaching children about comprehensive Christian stewardship, then, must be about more than money, but money plays a vital role. Gary Davis, a member of the [Florida Conference] Foundation board of directors, writes that how well we teach our children about money depends on how well we manage ours. Is your home a "do as I say" or a "do as I do" household?

So whether kids receive an allowance, are paid for household duties or receive "a little something extra" enclosed with a birthday or Christmas card, their attitudes toward giving and saving can be influenced while they are young. The "80/10/10" rule is a good place to start. Encourage your children to tithe, giving 10 percent of their allowance to their church or Sunday school. Encourage them to save 10 percent. Encourage them to spend the remaining 80 percent wisely, but allow them enough freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their experience.

Together we are training the next generation of Christian stewards. It's a big, important job.

The Development Fund of the Foundation provides investment options for United Methodists, including kids who want to open a savings account. For information contact the Foundation at 800-282-8011, extension 106, or visit


This commentary relates to Stewardship.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Wilkinson is vice president of planned giving for The Florida United Methodist Foundation.

Contact Us

The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011