Teaching Children How to Tithe

There are many things to think about when teaching tithing to children. This post explores some of the things we should and shouldn’t teach and offers money jars as a helpful teaching tool.

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

A Suggested Approach

I would like to suggest a different approach that we are using with our now six year old. We use money jars. We have three jars sitting on my son’s dresser that are labeled “Money for God,” “Money to Save,” and “Money to Spend.” This way, we will be able to teach him to be intentional about how he uses his money. He gets two dollars per week. 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 has seen Cindy fill out the offering envelopes at church, and he does it, too. It makes him feel so good that look on his face is a testimony to tithing in and of itself.

Here are some of the things that we discussed with him as we implemented the jar system:

  • 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, talking to Him in prayer, and by doing good things for others. In fact, when we give money to the church, it helps the church afford to do the things that 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 Problems with the Popular Way

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. I think that this is ok for young children (~ ages 2-4), because it gives them an opportunity to participate, but this may not send the right message to elementary school children. Here are some of the reasons why simply giving offering money to children falls short:

  • The money wasn’t theirs to begin with, so they do not feel the satisfaction of it being a personal gift to God. Giving is a way to express our love for God.
  • They put in all the money they were given, so there is no sense of teaching children to give a portion of what they receive. If we are truly teaching children to tithe, when a grownup gives a child a dollar to put in the plate, the child would say, “thank you,” and then put the dollar in his or her pocket and pull out a dime for the offering!
  • This does not teach the idea of putting God first in our finances. We want to teach children to be intentional about their giving rather than to give from whatever they have in their pockets on Sunday. In other words, we want to teach children (and adults) to give to God first, rather than to give God our leftovers.

Things Not to Teach a Young Child about Tithing

Tithing is a complex issue that we must learn about in stages, simply because it includes some developmental ideas that children might not be ready to understand.

  • We have not talked with our son about giving 10%. He is in kindergarten. He is nowhere near learning about figuring percentages! There is no need to teach him percentage tithing if he is not ready for it. Besides, the jar method teaches him to feel good about giving to God rather than feel that it is connected to a legalistic “we give because we have to” mentality. Teaching to give some is enough for now.
  • We did not talk about prosperity. One blog that I read suggested teaching early elementary children about the blessings they would receive for tithing, saying, “The blessings can be as simple as an increased spirituality in your home, health for family members or extra money when you need it.” While I believe that God blesses the gift and the giver, this promise of prosperity is bad theology, especially to a five or six year old. For an early elementary school child, and most grownups, even, it is enough to teach that we give to God because we love God. It is better to leave the concept of receiving blessings from tithing for later, or it could send a wrong message.
    • It teaches that we can pay God off. Want to heal your sick mother? Give a few more dollars in the plate.
    • It will cause a crisis of faith in times of crisis. When something bad happens, it will cause the child to think
      • That God did not hold up God’s end of the bargain, or
      • That the child should feel guilty because he or she did not give God enough money.

In conclusion, we chose the jar method because it seemed to teach what we think is important for a child to know about giving to God. We give because we love God and we want to put God first in all we do, including how we use our money.

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