As a homeschooling father of six, I spend a lot of time (actually, make that all my time) teaching my kids various lessons — and not just academically. I’m constantly teaching table manners, how to behave in public, how to be a good sport, the importance of hard work—the list is, quite literally, endless. Luckily, I’m not the first person to have to do this. There are a few billion other parents out there, and a ton of resources they’ve shared online to help me know how to teach my children these important life lessons.
When it comes to money, especially, there are all kinds of opinions, blogs, videos, and programs designed around teaching kids how to be financially responsible and the importance of saving. But, as a pastor and tithes-practicing Christian, I’ve been able to find relatively little about teaching children how to give.
In Western culture particularly, there’s a much greater emphasis on keeping and acquiring than on giving and releasing. So we’ve compiled a few practical tips and thoughts to help you foster a spirit and attitude of giving in the youngest members of your congregation.
Church Giving Is More Than Money
First, it’s important that we teach our children that church giving is more than dropping a few bucks in an offering plate or handing over our spare change to the bell-ringing Santas outside the mall. Giving is attitude followed by action.
To that end, when you’re involved in acts of service in your family, community, or church, be sure to include your children. Is there a coat drive for the homeless? Task them with canvassing the neighborhood to let neighbors know. Cooking for a family in need? Have them strap on an apron and stir the sauce, roll out the dough, or put cookie sheets in the oven. It’s much easier to teach financial giving when they already have the habit of giving of their time and other resources.
Managing What You’ve Been Entrusted With
Many of our financial problems—our country is drowning in debt, in part, because individuals and families are drowning in consumer debt—stem from the wrong attitude about money. “It’s mine. I earned it. I’ll spend it however I want.” That attitude may feel good in the moment, but is ultimately unhealthy because it comes from a belief that what we’ve been given comes from within ourselves.
In other words, we tend to forget whose resources we’re managing (James 1:17). Whether we’re talking about our talents, skills, time, or money, we’re best served when we recognize that these things have been entrusted to us—loaned to us—to share and do good with.
I’ll often give one of my children a small amount of money and ask them, “Can I trust you to do something good with this? To find a way to bless someone with it?” Every time they hand that $5 or $10 to a missionary, or buy lunch for a less-fortunate friend, it reinforces that money is a pass-through item—given to our hands to be transferred in the right way, to the right people.
Lead by Example
The best way to teach children to give is also the most obvious and least complicated—show them. While you may not want to share details about your finances, don’t be so secretive that your children never know that you give. Let them carry the offering envelope or hit the big green “give” button on the Givelify church giving app. Talk about the kind of support you’re offering to missionaries and show them pictures that inspired your decision to give. Ask them, “How did it make you feel to give?”
Your children are always watching. Whether we realize it or not, watching means learning. Make sure you’re showing them how to give, and you’ll have a giver on your hands before you know it.