Today, I want to explore where we as parents can begin when cultivating a giving heart in our children. I write this for myself as much as for anyone else, since I know this is an area I need to grow in as a parent. So, I turned to some trusted resources.
Why Teach Our Kids to Give?
Jesus teaches that how we view our material possessions (for a child, these may be a special blanket, toys, money in a piggy bank) is a heart issue: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). It is an issue of who we worship: “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mt 6:24). It is an issue of where we ultimately find our security (Job 31:24) and contentment (Hebrews 13:5). Material possessions can either tear us apart from Jesus or be a way we learn to trust God and bring him glory.
Therefore, it is our responsibility to teach and model for our children that everything they have is from God and is to be used for his glory. It is our job to train them to give cheerfully, out of a heart of trust in God (not as some rule they have to follow.) This is part of our job because it has everything to do with a child’s relationship with Jesus.
How Can We Help Children Be Givers?
Pastor John Piper was asked the question here, “What have you done to teach your children the importance of giving tithes and offerings?” In addition to some helpful practical examples, he said the main point is to “…intentionally teach the children the bigger picture about money. This is God’s money. God should get the first fruits from it. And then the rest you spend for his glory.” So, a simple first step in teaching kids to give is explaining who God’s Word says the money is from and for.
This is God’s money. God should get the first fruits from it. And then the rest you spend for his glory.
– John Piper
Secondly, we need to look at our own lives and example we set. If you’re like me, you’re cringing a bit because you know your own shortfalls in this area. Randy Alcorn explains it this way: “The holy habit of giving is like the holy habits of Bible study and prayer and witnessing and hospitality. These things need to be integrated into our lifestyle. Those not raised in a home where they learn this are at a great disadvantage later trying to develop new habits as adults. Children raised in giving families would no sooner stop giving than brushing their teeth.” Here’s a brief practical article with more from Alcorn about how to teach your children about money.
Children raised in giving families would no sooner stop giving than brushing their teeth.
– Randy Alcorn
Although there is much more to say on this topic, I will leave you for a few examples of ways one family I know and trust cultivates a giving culture in their home. I’ve seen these parents’ hearts. They love to give and bless others. As a result, their kids are learning to love to give. My hope is that their example might spur your own ideas of ways to sow seeds of generosity in your kids’ lives.
- When our children get new shoes or clothes, we try to stop and pray for the kids who don’t have such things. Then I ask them to find a pair of shoes they’ve outgrown that we could take to someone in need.
- We’ve implemented the piggy banks with the 4 categories entitled, “save, spend, invest, donate” found here. When they are given money, we help them divide it in to the appropriate categories. Then when their “donate” sections are getting full, we have a conversation with them about where that money should go. Often, they just want to bring it to large group at church.
- We have always had them involved in the buying of Christmas gifts for those in need at our church. I don’t mean just picking out the name. I mean, taking them with me to do all the shopping. Even though it would always be easier on me to go alone, I think there is tremendous value in them seeing our money spent on others.
- I sometimes say yes to “donate a $1 to Children’s Miracle Network” and other such things that you’ll see at checkout locations in local stores. Again, it’s a tangible way of showing our kids that we want to bless others because God has so greatly blessed us.
- We also say yes to things at preschool – whatever fundraisers they are a part of. Last year it was St. Jude’s research hospital. I want my kids to recognize that we care about things outside of church, too.
- When we are together as a family, my husband will often buy a homeless person a meal. We go back and deliver it to the man/woman with the kids in the car. There have been a handful of times when my preschooler, specifically, will see someone and ask us to stop and get them some food. It’s really pretty fantastic!
One last necessary thing to add to this post: Let’s pray for ourselves and our children in this area. As with all the training and teaching we do as parents, we need God’s help and his grace. He alone is the one who changes hearts. Without Him, all our efforts are for naught.