The case for children’s stewardship education


Come for stewardship lessons the day you start earning a salary.” In real life, the probability of a church leader uttering these words is nonexistent. Our practice regarding stewardship education, however. may reveal such a mindset when little or no attention is given to stewardship education for children. Our omission is because of an unspoken belief that children first observe, and then later, when they are of age, stewardship educators will fill in the gaps in their knowledge. This is driven by a false standard where stewardship is assessed by the benefits it brings to the recipient. 

This perspective leads us to brush aside children as stewards because their contributions often appear insignificant. However, if we accept the idea that our God is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and the owner of everything (Ps. 24:1), the amount we bring as stewards is no longer the most important element of stewardship. Hence, our article focuses on three positive results for children when they are taught to practice good stewardship. 


Self-esteem refers to the value, positive or negative, one assigns to oneself. This attribution has direct consequences for the behavior and development of the person. It is well established that “enhanced initiative and pleasant feelings” are among the numerous benefits of high self-esteem.¹ 

The Bible speaks of young Gideon, who was struggling with a negative self-image. His comments reveal this self-assessment: “But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 5:15). Gideon considers himself to be without resources and of low status, whereas his real condition is expressed in these words of the angel of the Lord: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 5:12). Gidean’s negative self-perception, which does not reflect reality, leads him to hide in a winepress. As a way of helping Gideon to overcome his low self-esteem, the angel attempts to convince him of what he had received: “Go in the strength you have” (Judges 5:12). As a result of a change in self-perception, Gideon became a great conqueror in Israel. 

Stewardship education is meant to play a similar function in the lives of our children who are in a crucial stage of self-esteem formation, a window that does not remain open indefinitely.² Stewardship helps individuals to move away from the “empty pocket” mindset to where they acknowledge that they have each received something valuable from God. Generosity, a key expression of stewardship, also contributes to this purpose. For one to give or share one’s talents or resources, one must first acknowledge that they have received them. As one grows in this awareness, they correspondingly stewards from the cradle  Stewardship education is part of God’s toolbox for parents, teachers, mentors, and spiritual leaders to help children grow to their full potential 


An alarming and growing social phenomenon that we see today is unhappy children. For those of us who think of childhood as the happy, carefree, innocent season of life, this seems paradoxical. Occasional sadness is part of a child’s life, but persistent sadness may reveal the presence of depression. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health reported that from April 2019 to March 2020, 3.2 million kids aged 12 to 17 years old experienced at least one major depressive episode. It is worth noting that this was previous to the COVID-19 pandemic. The causes are many and beyond the scope of this article. However, stewardship, manifested through acts of generosity, can contribute to bringing joy back into the child’s life. 

Scripture offers the basis for this assertion: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b). Much social science research reaches the same conclusion. A 10-day experiment during which participants were assigned to perform acts of kindness demonstrated an increase in life satisfaction by the end  of the experiment. Another experiment involving 2-year-olds observed a higher degree of happiness when giving treats than when receiving treats, and there was a peak in happiness when the act involved costly giving.⁴ Sean Grover provides an interesting explanation for these observations: “Too often young people fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on their own needs. This narcissistic tendency is a breeding ground for depression or anxiety. Altruism breaks through the hard shell of self-absorption by nurturing compassion for others.”⁵ 


Many churches are struggling with a significant reduction in attendance among young people. For many, this information is simply a statistic until the day our own son or daughter announces that he or she is no longer going to attend church. Unless we can foster a renewed sense of ownership among young people, it will be difficult to stop or slow the hemorrhage of the younger generation from the church of their parents. 



Abundant life is the result of possessions. 

Abundant life is a GIFT from God (John 10:10). 

Craving for more is normal. 

Cultivating CONTENTMENT is a virtue (1 Tim. 6:6). 

The pathway to happiness is to get a little more. 

Real happiness is found in the HAPPINESS of others (Acts 20:35). 

Money provides status. 

Our identity is in AFFILIATION to God (2 Cor. 6:18). 

Money provides freedom. 

Real freedom is in CHRIST (Gal. 5:1). 

Money provides security. 

God is our SHIELD (Ps. 28:7). 

Money is the access pass to love. 

You are UNCONDITIONALLY loved (Jer. 31:3). 

Any strategy for financial well-being is acceptable. 

God gives the POWER to produce wealth (Deut. 18:8).

Stewardship is not a panacea, but it can contribute in at least two ways to curtailing the alarming trend of youth apostasy. 

One significant known cause of spiritual wreckage is the consumerist worldview: “believing that we can find fulfillment by accumulating wealth and everything that comes with it.”⁶ In the parable of the sower it is represented by the thorny soil: “The deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). 

A survey comprising 100,000 participants conducted by Open University of Business and BBC has revealed how people view material possessions as the source of status, freedom, and security, and even as the exchange currency for love and affection.⁷ This confirms the unsated, underlying assumption of consumerism: “Salvation can be found by acquiring and using things.”⁸ The god of gold and silver is causing thousands to drift away from the true God and His church. 

Stewardship mindset and practices provide an antidote to consumerism. One of its primary objectives is to lead us to rediscover the true value of money and to put God in His rightful place. This will protect our children from deceitful consumerism and help to free others from its grip as well. The table below shows how biblical stewardship deconstructs the claims of consumerism: 

Stewardship education can also serve as an instrument for retention by fostering a sense of belonging in our children and young people. McIntosh and Arn in their book What Every Pastor Should Know share a series of questions individuals ask when deciding whether to stay or leave the church.⁹ One decisive and often final question is, “Is my contribution important?” This is questioning the value of their participation in the mission of the church. The absence of a satisfactory answer leads to a tipping point in the decision to leave the church. The stewardship message helps church members to acknowledge the value of what they have received and teaches about partnering in God’s mission using God’s given resources. Believers journey from being bystanders to becoming active partners. In this process the young person constructs an adequate answer to the question: “Is my contribution important?” 

Our primary goal in engaging and enrolling others in stewardship education for children and young people is to grow wholesome and happy disciples of Christ. When this becomes our foremost priority, we’ll have a church in better condition to participate in God’s final mission. 

¹ Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger, and Kathleen D. Vohs, “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 4, no. 1 (May 2003), pp. 20, 21; https://doi. org/10.1111/1529-1006.01431. 

² Dario Cvencek, Anthony G. Greenwald, and Andrew N. Meltzoff, “Implicit measures for preschool children confirm self-esteem’s role in maintaining a balanced identity,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 62 (2016), p. 55. 

³ Kathryn E. Buchanan and Anat Bardi, “Acts of Kindness and Acts of Novelty Affect Life Satisfaction,” The Journal of Social Psychology 150, no. 3 (2010), pp. 235-237; https://doi. org/10.1080/00224540903365554. 

⁴ Lara B. Aknin, J. Kiley Hamlin, and Elizabeth W. Dunn, “Giving leads to happiness in young children,” PLoS one 7, no. 6 (2012): e39211, p. 3. 

⁵ Sean Grover, “4 Ways Altruism Produces Happy and Empowered Children,” Psychology Today, November 6, 2015; https://www.psychologytoday. com/us/blog/when-kids-call-the-shots/201511/4- ways-altruism-produces-happy-and-empowered-children. 

⁶ Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape our Lives (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), p. 45. 

⁷ Sophie Von Stumm, Mark Fenton O’Creevy, and Adrian Furnham, “Financial capability, money attitudes and socioeconomic status: Risks for experiencing adverse financial events,” Personality and Individual Differences 54, no. 3 (2013), pp. 344-349; pre-publication.pdf. 

⁸ Wilkens and Sanford, Hidden Worldviews, p. 45. 

⁹ Gary McIntosh, “The Important First Year,” Growth Point 28, no. 4, April 2016; 

Aniel Barbe

Aniel Barbe is an associate director of Stewardship Ministries and editor of Dynamic Steward at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.