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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.simplycindyblog.com Cindy

    Obviously, I agree with you on the points that you have made. There really is something to giving from what is yours and not expecting something in return. Ten percent is a nice guide, but D3 is actually tithing about 12.5%- it’s easier to divide up his allowance that way. So, we’re really not teaching a %, just to make God #1 in all areas of your life- including money.

  • http://www.education-blog.net Education Blog

    Teaching children to tithe is an important part of their faith education.The earlier you give your child a faith education, the better it will be.Following commendeents is also very important. child teaching should take place with special care.

  • Debra

    Loved this idea!!!! Matt and I have on numerous occasions wondered how to help Dani and John learn the concept of tithing and this is VERY doable. Do you give Daniel $2 week with responsiblities??? We have discussed allowances and never made up our mind regarding it.

    • http://www.churchandtea.com Dan

      Thanks, Debra. We want to teach Daniel about earning money, but at this point, we wanted to focus more on earning an allowance for being a responsible household citizen. He has a morning and evening checklist that have normal tasks like ‘tidy up the bathroom’ and ‘clean your room’. There are also behavioral tasks on the check list like ‘no whining’, and ‘be a responsible big brother’. On one hand, he knows that he is expected to follow his chart regardless of whether or not he gets an allowance. On the other hand, he knows that his allowance is tied to how well he contributes around the house.

      • Ling

        Thanks for your article. If your kids do not finish the chart, do you give him parts of an allowance or not give him any allowance on that day?

  • Mom of 3

    Thank you for this article. Yours was the first that came up in my google search. I appreciate the clear and kind way that you express yourself even when disagreeing with others.

    • http://www.churchandtea.com Dan

      Thanks for the kind words! I haven’t posted on here in a little while. I am working on a new site with my church, and I think I will move these posts over there. I’ll make sure to post more when I know more.

  • http://www.bjfunk.com B.J. Funk

    Hi Dan, I am also a United Methodist Minister (LP) and I am currently the Associate Pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Fitzgerald, Georgia. I attended COS at Emory. Tomorrow I am doing a teaching to our small children on tithing. I came to your site and received so much help. I love the Jar Idea, and I will be sharing that with our children. Thank you so much. B.J. Funk

    • http://www.churchandtea.com Dan

      Thank you for your comment, B.J. It is encouraging to know that this post was helpful. I wrote this almost 2 years ago, and we still use the jars at our house! They have really worked out well.

      Blessings to you and your congregation!

  • “Dan”

    I want to try your idea with a group of kids and see how they respond to it. It will call for some follow-up, but that should be good for them as well to reinforce what was said.
    Thank you…. It is still an important topic and will be as long as we have kids….

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  • Tandra Chandler

    I love your jar method. I am going to do this with my granddaughter. I am a leader in the children’s ministry for my church. I am trying to come up with creative ways to talk with the parents about tithing with their children. I do not want to make the parents feel like I am making them send money with their children for tithes and offering. Some parents may feel like they can not even afford to give their child a dime for church, on the other hand you have parents that honors the spirtually principle on reaping and sowing which is paying your tithes and offering. They send money with the envelop for their child to pay in church. I want to haeva parent meeting to bring up the important in teaching a child now while they are young, but do not want to offend someone who do not have it to send. So I need direction on the correct lanuage to use and not offend a parent. Thank u so much for your wisdom in working with children. Please advise

    • http://www.churchandtea.com Dan

      That’s a good point, Tandra… My suggestion would be to offer a Christian financial management program for parents.

      Tithing is not only about giving 10% of our finances to God… it is also about ensuring that we keep God in the other 90%. Tithing changes the way we live as it affects our entire budget. So, when teaching adults about tithing, I try to teach good management of all our assets. In my experience, this has been received very well. Instead of saying, “we only care about the 10% your going to give to the church,” we are saying, “We care about the struggles you go through at home trying to make ends meet, and God does, too.”

      I use Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (www.daveramsey.com). It’s a great program that really helped me and my wife. We wanted to tithe, but never seemed to be able to do it. After that program, we were able to do it, and we’ve stuck with it.

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  • deob de wet

    God does not fail, HE is faithful to all that is promised, we must seek HIS covering at all times.Bad things happen because we allow it by speaking it over us, God’s promises always comes to pass.We are seperate and Holy and this is what God wants , we have to be obedient and operate in HIS realm and not the world system as that will fail.Look to and keep your eyes fixed on HIM and you will not sink.Therefore God has no bad theology, man creates own understanding , lean not on that.

  • Mel

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you, I was just wondering how to explain this to my kids. Its a great idea, thank you from our family in Australia :))

  • Hero Kao

    Thanks for the advice, i am start teaching my 2 daughters about tithing, and i found your article is a good idea.

    Thanks, and God bless you.

    • http://www.churchandtea.com Dan

      You are welcome, Hero. I am glad that you found the article helpful!

  • https://twitter.com/sj_weston sj_weston

    A great article. Thanks for sharing the idea. Definitely something that I will be able to pass on to the parents of children in my church.