Monday, March 26, 2012

Teaching Children to Tithe

Teaching children to tithe is an important part of their faith education that we often overlook. Giving to God is a core value of our faith that should be taught early and reinforced often.

The most common way that I see tithing taught to children is simply by grownups giving children a quarter to put in the offering plate. This is okay for very young children because it gives them an opportunity to participate. But this may not send the right message to elementary school children. First, the money wasn’t theirs to begin with, so they do not feel the satisfaction of it being a personal gift to God. Second, it does not teach proportionality in giving or the idea of putting God first in our finances.

We want to teach children to be intentional about their giving. But our adult understanding of tithing can be too complex for children. For example, children are not generally taught to figure percentages until their middle-elementary-school years. So teaching younger children to calculate a percentage tithe is not age appropriate.

When our son was five, we started to teach him about giving using “money jars.” We have three jars sitting on his dresser that are labeled “Money for God,” “Money to Save,” and “Money to Spend.” He gets a two-dollars-per-week allowance. We give it to him as a dollar bill and 4 quarters; that way one quarter can be given to the God jar, one to the savings jar, and the rest in the spend jar. On Sunday, he takes the quarter from God’s jar, and takes it to church. He fills out the offering envelope and proudly makes his offering at church.

As we implemented the jar system we discussed the following things with him:

  • God made everything, so everything is God’s. Even us. We are God’s creation. We are thankful that God created everything. God has given us so much that we want to give back to God, too.

  • We want to think about God first. So, the first jar we put money in will be the “Money for God” jar.

  • We give to God because we love God. We also show God our love by going to church, praying, and doing good for others. In fact, when we give money to the church, it helps the church do the things God has asked the church to do. It helps the church teach people about God so that other people can know that God loves them, too.
The jar method seemed to teach what we think is most important for a child to know about giving to God.

Dan Pezet is pastor of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Opelika, Alabama. This article is adapted from Dan’s blog,

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's the Relationships, Stupid!

During the second week of this semester I was leading a small group discussion with graduate students and I asked our group if we needed to do introductions. Since everyone in the group had been showing up at worship for at least the past two years, I was ready to move on to our scripture reading when three of them spoke up at once, pointing to someone else in the group and saying, "I recognize you, but I don't actually know your name." And all of the sudden I felt like the worst pastor in the world. How is it that these students had been a part of our program for so long and they didn't even know each others names?

I'm always the last person to find out two of our Wesley students are dating, sometimes many months after the fact. It's not that I need to know these things, however, I'm always surprised and I know I shouldn't be, because when college students get together these things naturally happen.

Every other Thursday I meet with a group of graduate students at a local bar. We like to eat, drink, and talk about God. When I asked them what they wanted to talk about this semester, they said "relationships."

If I've learned one thing, then forgotten it, then had to remember it again, it's that college students are looking to build relationships with one another. Yes, sometimes romantic, though, mostly, they are just looking to make friends.

Over winter break I prayed and thought a lot about what we needed to do to be in ministry with more students. Then, one day, it hit me like a ton of bricks: We needed to get back into the business of building relationships.

We decided to take a risk with worship. If most of our students were willing to give Wesley an hour or two, each week, then we needed to maximize our time with them.

It was time for me to stop talking to them. It was time for them to start talking to one another.
So, for our worship time, we kept the music and communion, but I scrapped my sermon.
Instead, students are now meeting in small groups for forty five minutes.

So far, the small group model has been a success and, in addition to our worship service, we're using it to grow an informal lunch gathering we have on campus during the week, another lunch gathering we do on Sunday afternoons, and with our graduate student group. This has already made it easier for students who have been on the periphery to find new opportunities to be involved with Wesley in a meaningful way. It's also made it easier for students to invite their friends to something less intimidating than a worship service. We plan to add back in a more traditional worship service, but only after we have built a strong relationship based ministry.

So, are we creating programs that we are trying to "attract" students to?

Or, are we creating space where students can be in relationship with God and one another?

We don't even have to create those spaces, we just have to be present in those spaces that have already been created on campus and in the community.

There's a phrase that we need to be repeating to ourselves over and over again: "It's the relationships, stupid!"

Rev. Rob Rynders is the UM campus minister at Arizona State University. He blogs at

God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let us bloom where we are planted

Frost covered my front yard early one morning in late January when the trees were barren of leaves and the sky was gray.

As I pulled out of my driveway and started down the street it was a drab scene except for three sunny yellow daffodils that dared to brave the elements and bloom. They stood in sharp contrast to their dull surroundings. Their presence was an expression of hope.

Winter had not had its last say but the daffodils were proclaiming that sunnier and warmer days were just ahead. It was a risky venture for them to poke out their heads knowing that there would still be some cold and maybe frigid days ahead.

I was grateful for the courage of these tender plants and I was encouraged. New life was present. Spring was not far away.

A few years ago when Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly wrote about the United Nations fight against malaria. United Methodists joined with several national organizations to provide bed nets and many thousands of lives have been saved since 2006. The goal is to eradicate malaria by 2015.

Each of us has opportunities to make a difference. To bring hope and help to our world. What idea has God planted in your mind and heart? What need do you see that moves you to want to find a solution? Who in your circle of influence do you need to reach out to?

Just like those daffodils, all we have to do is bloom where we are planted. Act on our urgings with God’s guidance. The landscape may be harsh. The ground may be cold and hard but we are presented with an abundance of opportunities to make a difference. Let’s brave the elements and share the warmth of God’s love. God will bless our efforts. I believe that. Do you?

Jamie Jenkins, from the North Georgia Ann Conf

PS: Are you blooming where you are planted. I would like to hear about it.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

Monday, March 5, 2012

Some Lenten ponderings from 1911: Seven Ways of Giving

First – The Careless Way: To give something to every cause that is presented, without inquiring into its merits.

Second – The Impulsive Way: To give from impulse – as much and as often as love and piety and sensibility prompt.

Third – The Lazy Way: To make a special offer to earn money for benevolent objects by fairs, festivals, etc.

Fourth – The Self-denying Way: To save the cost of luxuries and apply them to purposes of religion and charity. This may lead to asceticism [severity] and self-complacence [self-righteousness].

Fifth – The Systematic Way: To lay aside as an offering to God a definite portion of our gains – one-tenth, one-fifth, one-third, or one-half. This is adapted to all, whether rich or poor, and gifts would be largely increased if it were generally practiced. (1 Cor. 16:2)

Sixth – The Equal Way: To give God and the needy just as much as we spend on ourselves, balancing all our personal expenditures by our gifts.

Seventh – The Heroic Way: To limit our own expenditures to a certain sum and give away all the rest of our income. This was John Wesley’s way.

-by Dr. A. T. Pierson from Gems of Thought on Tithing, Published 1911 By George W. Brown, a Presbyterian laymam, WI Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer