Are We Robbing Our Kids by Giving Online?

A Note from CynthiaMost of us have heard the story in the Bible of the widow’s mite. A woman gave her last coin at the temple, and Jesus said that her gift was larger than all the others because she gave out of her poverty while all the others gave out of their wealth (Luke 21:1–4). By the way, a mite is just a small contribution from someone who is poor.

Not to brag, but I outdid that widow right after I got my first job in my twenties (or so the story is retold in my family). I had just gotten out of law school and was so excited to finally have a job and some adult responsibilities. I purchased a new car, some nice work clothes, and I was so excited to tithe to our new church in Dallas. So I wrote my check (yes, we used to write checks) and threw it in the plate one Sunday. I was feeling good and very adult-like. It was all great until the church called me a few weeks later to let me know my check had bounced.

I’m sorry. What?

Now, it’s embarrassing to have your card declined anywhere (speaking the language of the younger generation that has yet to figure out what I’m referring to with said “check”), but you haven’t known humiliation until you bounce a check to the local church. Might as well put it in the church bulletin: “Cynthia has overspent, has misplaced priorities, and please someone point her to the hoarding recovery class.”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was humiliating. The widow gave all that she had. Apparently I had given more than I had.

But I bring up that story because I think it’s interesting that, right out of school, with my first job, I was excited to tithe. I don’t know that my parents ever intentionally came up with a formal plan to teach us to tithe and instill the importance of faithful giving. But what they did was consistently give back to the Lord, even when there were times it was very difficult for our family to do so financially. Like all kids, the actions of their obedience made a much larger impact than their words ever could have.

As we look for ways to teach our kids to honor the Lord in all areas of their lives, it’s important we consider something as important as tithing. We are instructed to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), generously (Luke 6:38), sacrificially (Luke 21:1–4), and secretly (Matthew 6:1–2).

I hope the article below by Bob Brooks gives you the opportunity to think about your family’s giving and how it may be impacting your kids’ views on tithing when they are adults.

“Online giving is simple, fast, and convenient,” the staff member at our church said one Sunday morning. Something struck me as I sat there sipping on my coffee. The attributes of online giving are that it is simple, fast, and convenient. It’s convenient in that, once you set it in motion, it is automatically withdrawn month in and month out. If you think about it, online giving shares the same attributes as a 401(k) deposit.

I remember sitting in a finance committee meeting at our church years ago discussing the merits of online giving. At first, I will have to admit: it didn’t sit well with me. I contemplated where the holiness of the tithe had gone and if it was forgotten at some point between the reward points for church contributions and the tax deduction.

OK, I get it. Come on, Bob, get with the times. Who writes checks or gives cash anymore? In fact, online giving has been around for so long it is almost an archaic idea.

Since then, I have come a long way in my thinking. Let’s be clear: online giving is still giving, which is the point. The vehicle is a secondary consideration. However, there is one casualty of online giving that I can’t get past: our kids.

Here we are practicing one of the most important spiritual disciplines and our kids don’t know about it or participate in it from the standpoint of the family?

I have the luxury of having a Christian-based financial planning clientele. Tithing is very important to those I serve. I love to ask, “So, how did you start tithing?” The answer that I received almost 100 percent of the time was that “my parents modeled it for me.”

I remember my dad writing the check to the church each week. I don’t ever recall the amount. That was never really important. But the visual of him giving was etched in my head. For most kids, this observation of giving money “away” creates the opportunity for conversation. “Why would you give money to the church? Wouldn’t we rather go on vacation? Why wouldn’t you spend that money on video games instead?”

The floodgates of questions around giving create a perfect opportunity for you as a parent to model and teach about tithing and giving. You will get the opportunity to discuss the spiritual aspects of money and God. You can also talk about the greatest stewardship verse in the Bible. Matthew 6:24 (and Luke 13:10—twice for emphasis) says the greatest competition for our heart lies in the struggle between money and God. Giving and tithing are the answers/surrender that position us to keep those priorities in order. Our kids seeing us giving on Sundays gives us the opportunity to teach that truth.

I had one client tell me that, every Sunday morning, his parents would write the check as a family and then pray over it before church. Later, when the offering plate came, the little pink envelope with the tithing check (I never understood why they were pink) was placed in the plate by the kids.

So, am I advocating that churches rethink online giving? That is far from the case. I am just advocating you don’t miss a valuable teaching opportunity when it comes modeling generosity for our kids.

So, how do you go about the convenience of online giving and still make an impact on your kids?

Really, the solution is quite simple and might just make an impact on you as well. Go to the bank or credit card site and find the one-time, weekly, or monthly transaction and print it. Explain to your kids the various ways to give money to your church or to a ministry. Of course, they are going to relate to the process of online giving versus the small offering envelope that you drop in the offering plate.

Even consider gathering your family for a few minutes before leaving for church and pray over that online offering. The impact of that few minutes each time you give will be invaluable for your kids. In fact, have them lead the prayer from time to time. You can even go as far as having them fold up the paper and place it in the offering plate for even more emphasis.

As you know, little eyes are watching our every move. It is an awesome responsibility and blessing to be a parent trying to raise young Christian kids. If you are like me, we get it right and wrong sometimes when it comes to parenting. When we are getting it right by obediently living the Christian life and doing something as special as tithing, it is a shame to waste that teaching moment because of the simple, quick, and automatic process of online giving.

Consider making giving a weekly teaching priority for your kids. Maybe trade in the online giving for a while and model tithing the old-fashioned way. Or even consider how you handle online giving and make a point to share it with your kids. You might also find that it renews something special within your relationship with Christ as well.

Remember, if we aren’t teaching our kids about the spiritual aspects of money, the world is happy to do our job for us!