In many Christian circles, fall is synonymous with stewardship. And it makes sense that this would be the time of year when we gather to discuss harvesting, abundance, and the nourishment of ourselves and the world. For a long time, church discussions around stewardship focused almost entirely on money, namely how much of it parishes needed to function and how to increase pledges to make ends meet.
In recent years, our focus has tended to shift in a more holistic direction, remembering our covenantal commitment to use the planet's resources in ways that are just, and emphasizing the role of the church as a body whose call is focused primarily on the well-being of the world outside our walls.
But these discussions can still be stressful. In a culture where the wealthy make most of the decisions on behalf of people and planet, it's not surprising that we've developed an aversion to talking not just about money, but also about who gets what, and who gets to make those decisions.
One of the ways we can break through this aversion is to allow ourselves to be led by the children in our midst, especially those who are young enough that they haven't yet learned that they "shouldn't discuss such things." It has been my experience through years of ministry with children and youth that kids tend to ask questions that get to the heart of what it means to live with sharing as a foundational principle. Whether it's "Who gets the money I put in the offering plate?" or "How come the people in our congregation look different than the people in the neighborhood?" or "Why do we recycle at home, but not at church?," it has often been questions from a churches' youngest members that hinted at places in our ministry where God was calling us to closely examine how we use and distribute resources.
Another way I find that children can be tremendous leaders in stewardship efforts is in confidently talking with and listening to God about how the church is being called to use its time and energy.
Ours is a faith that proclaims that God speaks to all of us, both individually and collectively. But it can be hard to resist years of conditioning that has taught us far more about how to talk to God than about how to listen. So often, kids are able to listen for God's voice and to be in the world with lenses that can see the world both as it is and as God wants it to be.
There are many ways that families and churches can empower children to lead in these important areas. Children can absolutely serve on council and committees. Adults can also bring children's concerns to those meetings when they aren't in the room. Children are also uniquely equipped to help us listen for God's voice. We can allow them to help write the prayers for worship. We can invite them to lead us on prayer walks around the neighborhood, asking God to show us where need and resources meet. We can encourage them to tell us what they learned in school that lit a fire in their hearts and allow that fire to ignite entire communities. If we will trust them to do so, our own children can teach us much about the God who came to us embodied as one of them and proclaimed, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."