Stuff. Kids want it. Toy stuff. Candy stuff. Name brand clothes stuff. Tennis shoes stuff that cost over a $100. Latest phone stuff. Video games stuff. When you walk down the aisles of the grocery store, they want cereal stuff.
Let's be honest. They get the desire for stuff from us. We wanted stuff when we were kids and now, as adults, we are still captivated by stuff. New car stuff. A bigger house stuff. Clothes stuff. Jewellery stuff. Big bank account stuff. A bigger TV stuff.
Gotta' have that stuff. Because stuff brings happiness, right? Stuff boosts our self-esteem. Getting more stuff makes us secretly glad that our neighbors are envious of our stuff.
I'm not totally knocking stuff. I don't believe there is anything wrong with having nice stuff. As long as stuff doesn't have you. And as long as you don't let the pursuit of stuff sidetrack you from your pursuit of Jesus.
So how can we help kids avoid the out-of-control pursuit of stuff? Let's look how to teach kids at church about this and how to get into the hands of parents.
Help kids and families see what really matters. Parents want their children to be successful. Academic success. Athletic success. Social success. Financial success. Why? Because these are all pathways to getting more "stuff."
What we must do as church leaders, is help kids and parents see that spiritual success is what matters the most. Yes, it's a good thing to provide a nice house for your family...but make sure the house is a home that puts Jesus first. Yes, it's okay to have a nice car in the garage...but make sure that car is driving the kids to church on Sunday. Yes, it's okay to have a big bank account...but make sure you are using a percentage of it to spread the Gospel.
Teach kids a proper view of stuff from an early age. It's crucial, from an early age, to teach kids that all of our stuff belongs to God. He has entrusted us with stuff. And we should honor Him with our stuff by being generous and investing in God's kingdom.
Preschoolers can learn to bring their offering. Elementary kids can be taught in more detail about how to use your stuff to help others find Jesus.
One weekend, when the elementary kids walked into their room at church, there was candy at each seat. We told them not to eat the candy and to leave it on the table in front of them. We then taught a lesson about giving your stuff to help others. Then, later in the service, we told them the candy sitting in front of them, was theirs to keep. It was more stuff to take home and enjoy.
But, we explained the second option. There is a city about an hour from them that is very poor. The kids there have little to anything. Getting candy is a big deal to them.
So the kids that day had a choice.
They could keep the candy and take it home to eat
they could leave the candy and it would be delivered to the kids in the city who had hardly any "stuff."
We had the kids bow their heads and we prayed together. You could feel the tension in the room as the kids struggled through keeping the candy or giving it to someone else.
I'm happy to say that the majority of kids left the candy. And I believe all of the kids that day learned what it means to not let "stuff" keep you from doing what God wants you to do.
Studies have shown that childhood is the time when a person is most likely to associate happiness with stuff. And so, we have a great opportunity to speak into the lives of kids and parents and help them understand what it means to "seek first the kingdom of God."
Encourage parents to focus more on experiences than stuff. I wish I had known this when my kids were young. At Christmas, birthdays, and other holidays, spend less money on stuff and more money on making memories with your child.
In other words, if you normally buy your child 6 Christmas presents, make an adjustment and just give them 2 presents and spend the balance on doing something with them.
Here's an example. Take the money you would have spent on the presents, and instead take them to an amusement park or go camping or spend a weekend away.
'Cause here's the deal. Kids will soon forget about the "stuff" you buy them, but for the rest of their lives, they will remember and cherish the memories you make with them.
Being a kid is not easy. You are trying to discover who you are. What is your purpose? Do people like me? What kind of person am I? And many of those questions we try to answer by how much stuff we have or don't have.
As church leaders and parents, it's up to us to model, by our words and actions, the proper view of stuff. When our kids see us drop a tithe into the offering plate, it speaks to them about priorities. When we sacrifice our time to serve and give to others, it speaks to kids about what's important. When we don't compete with our neighbors to have the newest, latest and greatest stuff, It shows kids that's Jesus is our greatest pursuit.