Photographer and Dog Teach Kids Stewardship Principles
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
“I use the example of Moses. God asked him what he had in his hand, and used that to save the people. Well, what I had was a black, furry dog and a camera and a couple of rhymes, so I hope God can use those to help people.”
Janice Mathews’ day job is that of nurse practitioner working with Cardiology Associates in Annapolis, MD. She is married to John Mathews, Stewardship Director for the North American Division, and mother of Angela, who is married to writer Seth Pierce and lives in Seattle. But for the purposes of this article, the important member of Jan’s family is a black Labradoodle called Jack.
Or Stewardship Jack. He even has his own website—www.stewardshipjack.com. I asked Jan how this happened.
She explained that she had always been interested in photography, but hadn’t done much with it until a few years ago. “It’s so involved! But I started making Shutterfly booklets for the kids, and Jack seemed to like to pose, so I made some with him, with funny sayings. Then, when John got this stewardship job—“
John Mathews was in the room, and interpolated, “’Stewardship Jack’ just appeared out of nowhere!”
As the two discussed stewardship issues, Jan says she became concerned about a new generation of adults who are skeptical and feel that institutions such as churches are irrelevant to their lives. “I’d always thought I’d like to do a ministry for God, but I’m so busy with my job. But I thought, if these young adults were parents of kids and you used an innocuous little furry dog, you could teach stewardship principles in a way that would catch their attention and not cause bad feelings.”
Jan is also strongly interested in stewardship for children because she believes it will be an antidote to the consumerism and materialism that are strongly affecting kids today. She has read research which supports the hypothesis that the strong upswing in depression, anxiety disorders, and addictions among ever-younger children may be at least in part traced to advertising directed at children, making them want (and think they need) ever more and more of “what everybody else has.” She believes children (and adults) who can learn to be grateful and generous will be happier and less likely to succumb to these problems.
So Jan created three books for 4 to 8-year-olds, with Stewardship Jack as their focus. The books, Jack Gives Back, Jack and the Ten Rules, and Jack’s Hats, present principles in kid-friendly rhymes such as these examples:
Speak the truth; don’t lie or cheat
Even if offered a yummy treat.”
“I will not covet.
Be content with your bed,
Your bone, and your buddy.
To want someone’s things
makes life very muddy.”
Jack also counts out one bone of ten to give back to God, and advises kids, “God made the world, man, money, and dogs. Let’s manage like good stewards and not be like hogs.”
Jan Mathews says there are two basic principles which can make life simpler and give peace of mind. “Number one, be converted. And number two, understand that God is the owner. We are only managers—stewards.”
Jack himself couldn’t comment for this article, but he did seem to be content and grateful.
Stewardship Jack books are available at www.adventistbookcenter.com and www.amazon.com.