Janice Mathews talks big dogs and stewardship

Janice Matthews.

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Janice Mathews is a nurse practitioner working in a large cardiology practice in Annapolis, Maryland (USA). However, she is married to John Mathews, director of Stewardship for the North American Division (NAD), which prompted her interest in stewardship—and a series of books to teach children about stewardship principles. She talked about the “Stewardship Jack” series.

What sparked the idea of using your dog Jack as a way of sharing principles of stewardship?

“Stewardship Jack” was a little black “golden doodle” puppy that no-one wanted. When I saw him on the internet, I knew immediately that he was the puppy for me and named him Jack before I even met him. I didn’t dream that this furry little puppy would grow into such a lovable, good-natured dog with a ministry. It all began with a playful pose in a baseball cap, which inspired corresponding rhymes. He now continues to pose patiently for his photographs, and when he sees I am getting things ready, he seriously prepares for “work”. Of course, the doggy treats are satisfactory wages.

How has Jack been part of the ongoing work around these books?

What has developed is a whole new ministry to children ages 4 to 7, called Stewardship Jack. It is centred around books that provide positive stewardship principles in a whimsical, interesting and informative manner to help parents interact with their children, and teach them how to happily use the resources God has given them.

Stewardship Jack has a website <stewardshipjack.com> with many other resources focussed on stewardship, with more in development. Jack is a mascot for stewardship and has appeared at the NAD Pathfinder camporee, various NAD meetings, and has gone to numerous camp meetings, Sabbath schools, churches and children’s church services. He has had an adventurous life!

Why is important for children to learn the principles of stewardship?

Stewardship principles can help our children and young people resist the allure and seduction of self-centredness and consumerism and materialism, empowering them to make choices that have far better consequences. When they incorporate the stewardship principles of honesty, faithfulness, gratitude and responsibility, they will be successful in life. Their lives can be satisfying with meaning and mission, as well as hope and assurance of heaven for the future.

However, stewardship can seem irrelevant to young people. The challenge is to come up with ways to present these principles in an appealing way. This is where Stewardship Jack fits into the picture. As Christ used nature to represent truths, perhaps I can use an affectionate, good-natured pooch to attract attention to stewardship.

Do you have a favourite among the books you have published?

They were all fun to write and photograph. Jack Gives Back is the first book, which is always special and it was fun to portray such an important basic principle of stewardship. Jack’s Hats was where it all started with his hats and posing. Happy Jack is on the topic that really motivated me to teach these principles to children, because materialism and selfishness have caused much physical, emotional and spiritual harm to kids. And Jack and the 10 Rules—what a fun challenge to show commandment keeping using a dog. I guess it is hard to decide which is my favourite.

Tell us about the newest in the series, Jack, Jake, Jacque and Jodie

Book 5 deals with stewardship of relationships—and basic kindness. Jodie is a next-door neighbour, Jake and Jacque dogs of relatives. They were all so different and it was just a coincidence that their names all start with a J. Genuine Christians are known by their love. Our churches and communities will be happy places in which to prepare for heaven, as we learn to simply be kind to others, whether they are like us or whether they are different. This is another way that good stewardship positively affects lives.

Available from Adventist Book Centres:

  • Jack Gives Back (Stewardship Jack Book 1)
  • Jack and the 10 Rules (Stewardship Jack Book 2)
  • Jack’s Hats (Stewardship Jack Book 3)
  • Happy Jack (Stewardship Jack Book 4)
  • Jack, Jake, Jacque and Jody (Stewardship Jack Book 5)
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