Where do Americans learn the value of charitable giving? John and Sylvia Ronsvalle of empty tomb, inc. state that “religion serves as the seedbed of philanthropic giving in America.” They point out in their studies that 90% of religious giving in America is done through a local church. Today, fewer and fewer of the younger generation are showing up at church. A significant percentage of under-25-year-olds state that when it comes to religion, their preference is none.
If giving is learned through a local church and Americans are more and more disengaged from the church, how might this impact charitable giving? Will America’s charitable record of leading the world in giving suffer? What will this mean for the Church, for you, and, more importantly, your church?
In the previous edition of the Stewardship Journal, we interviewed Pastor Greg Fine of First Higginsville about how his church uses VBS. When I asked Pastor Greg about using VBS for stewardship education, he said, “We usually view VBS as more of an evangelistic opportunity and discipleship opportunity and not as much a stewardship education opportunity. We still collect an offering during VBS for missions. That offering has dwindled, so I probably need to do a better job of promoting it to the kids. Most of the offerings come from adult workers. Perhaps I need to reconsider how we can incorporate that more effectively in our VBS. Maybe I could find a good ‘coach’ with some helpful ideas on that front.”
Pastor Greg’s comments are typical of the kinds of responses I get from pastors whenever I broach the topic of stewardship education. I’m all in with utilizing VBS as an evangelistic outreach tool. And I don’t disagree that it is also a great discipleship opportunity. My question is why we don’t consider stewardship education as a part of the discipleship opportunity. So, this week I have been thinking through how I would “coach” a pastor to consider making stewardship an essential part of the Vacation Bible School process.
You probably have files of notes and clippings of articles on various topics for future reference in sermons. I keep a similar file for all things stewardship related. Frankly, the VBS file on stewardship is thin, as little to nothing has been written on this topic. I did find one article that bears listing. Last year, I reached out to long-time MBC pastor, Richie Rhea, asking essentially if we should teach giving during VBS. Pastor Richie wrote a great post for us entitled Should We Teach Giving During VBS? Here is a summation of what Pastor Richie wrote.
1. Understand, first, that children desperately need this God-given grace of generosity. Children are naturally selfish. If a child can experience how good it feels to give rather than keep, the entire rest of their life will be blessed in all kinds of ways. Givers make good marriages. Givers make good parents. Givers are loving. Givers are illustrations of the powerful, life-changing grace of Christ.
2. Build principles of giving into your VBS experience. Just a couple of minutes explaining the Biblical principle of giving in big, bright, inspired ways can produce amazing results.
3. Resist cheap manipulative tricks. Children love the truth. Leading them to give only to win a prize or be the star of the show, and you will create an air of excitement and take in more money. Maybe. But children will, in time, see it for its manipulation and could be tempted to turn away from the Lord and the church.
Instead, share the truth in love. Be clear. Be passionate. Be creative. Be real. Trust the Lord to open their eyes and their hearts to the truth. Challenge them to give to Jesus out of love for Jesus.
4. Ask the church to give to Christ by supporting VBS. Just as you plan to teach children to give, teach the church to give. Because VBS is so important, it should hold an important place in the ministry budget. Budget to communicate with your entire community before VBS. Budget for materials. Budget for great healthy snacks. Budget for fantastic décor. Budget for special guests and whatever else is needed to effectively communicate the message of God’s Word.
Thanks, Richie! I could not have said it better, and your post remains in my VBS giving file! I contend that teaching the positive benefits of giving can help increase giving at any church. It helps train up the next generation of generous disciples, and the mission of VBS connects with the hearts of your existing donors.
VBS has come a long way from a woman named Mrs. Hawes, who lived in New York City and became concerned about the poor children running around in summer without anything to do. She started what was called Everyday Bible School. Most historians track this as the beginning of what became Vacation Bible School. Here is what I think is the funny thing, Mrs. Hawes started her Everyday Bible School in 1898, renting out a beer hall during the daytime. Vacation Bible School developed from a beer hall to sweep the nation.1 Millions of children have been impacted for eternity through Vacation Bible School.