Teach Your Children Generosity
By Pastor Tom Anderson
One of my heroines at Thrive Church is Grace Fitzgerald. Every year during Operation Christmas Child, she ups her game in generosity by filling and packing more than a hundred shoe boxes. These boxes in turn carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to places like Madagascar, Thailand and New Guinea. In the last five years, I’d estimate the total to be deep into the hundreds. One girl. One gospel. One ton of impact. Thank you, Grace, for inspiring me and sharing the joy and blessing of giving with us all. If anyone thinks they are too small to make much difference, you should consider Grace.
In too many households, generosity is an adults-only activity. Children don’t get to participate in giving and they often are completely unaware their parents even do it. Many adults assume children have nothing to give and they shouldn’t even be invited to practice generosity. But if giving is a source of blessing and joy to adults, why deny this to our children? Indeed, if they are not invited to participate in generosity as children, what makes us think they will practice it when they become adults?
Ernie Marlow died recently. At the funeral, his family showed to me the cards he received from a family in Thrive Church. The parents had sat down with their children and a list of our shut-ins. They made art and composed encouraging notes which were sent to all of our elderly. Ernie was on their list. Such a simple act of kindness touched the entire Marlow family. What a lesson in generosity for those children! What a creative way to open their hearts to relative strangers in need. Such a story inspires me in my own giving.
Dave Ramsay said this about teaching tithing (giving ten percent) to his own children:
God tells us to tithe, but it’s not a sin or salvation issue. It’s because it's good for us to learn to become givers. When you’re a giver, you are more Christ-like…as our kids grew up, we always had them give some, save some and spend some, but I never wanted them to do it as a rule. It’s to teach them the character and qualities of being a giver.
Many Christian parents give their children a Bible at a certain age, or they get one from Thrive Church! Why not start another tradition in your family? Pick an age where each child gets a bank with three compartments labeled clearly: Giving, Saving and Spending. Parents can guide children to decide what to put in each compartment. Since children don’t yet have abstract thinking, it’s best to use actual coins and bills with them so they can fully comprehend the amounts they have to give, save, and spend.
Recent studies have shown that charitable giving in the United States is greatly increasing each year. Then there's the bad news: giving to churches has shown consistent decline. Or to put it another way: giving to God is falling out of fashion. It’s at this point that I like to think of Grace Fitzgerald and her generosity to God. What a blessing! May her tribe increase!