“Mine.” I didn’t have to teach my children this word. It entered their vocabulary and their hearts on its own. And I didn’t have to teach my children to be selfish. Their tight-fisted nature was already there. As a parent, you’ve likely had an identical experience.
We serve an incredibly generous God. In the well-referenced verse, John 3:16, we read “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (CSB).” This act showcases the unfathomable generosity of our God.
As believers, we want to see this generosity reflected in the lives of our children because we know Proverbs 22:6—"Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it (CSB).” But how do we do this? The goal often seems daunting and complex, one more item on our parenting “to-do” list.
Encouraging generosity in your kids doesn’t need to be daunting and complex. Sometimes, it is a simple as pointing out the demonstrations of generosity occurring right in front of you, talking about them, and then connecting them to the generosity of our God. These demonstrations of generosity can come from you, those around you, or even your children. So here are three easy ways to encourage generosity in your kids:
1. Point out and talk about when you give
No, we are not talking about bragging here. We are talking about leveraging your own experience and God-given influence to impact your child’s understanding of generosity. You are likely the most influential figure in your child’s life right now. They are constantly watching what you say and do. Everything you do communicates something to them.
When I watch my children, for better or worse, imitate by words and actions, it’s a humbling, and sometimes frightening sight. We teach even when we’re not trying to teach.
Because of online giving, children are no longer watching their parents give. It is becoming increasingly rare for children to witness their parents place a check or cash in a church’s offering plate. Your child likely cannot distinguish between you posting a picture on Instagram and giving online to your local church. So when you do give online, point it out to your kids, not to brag but to teach.
Let them know that you are giving. And tell them why. Tell them why generosity is important for you and other Christians. Connect your giving back to the generosity of our God. Lead them by giving. Lead them by talking about your giving. And lead them by pointing them to the unfathomable generosity of our God.
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2. Point out and talk about when others give
My 5-year old is going through a phase where he is constantly looking for coins on the floors of restaurants, grocery stores, and parking lots. Wherever he goes, he is looking for long lost and forgotten money. I guess you can say he’s a treasure hunter.
One day, my wife and kids were in a checkout line at a store, and my 5-year old was on the floor searching for coins. My wife told him to get off the floor, which prompted my son to explain his reasoning for being on the floor—looking for change. Apparently, the man in front of my wife and kids overheard his mission. So, before leaving, he placed $0.38 on the ground. As he left, my 5-year old spotted the haul. He was thrilled. My wife quickly realized what happened, and told the man thank you. The man simply smiled at her as he walked out of the store.
My wife and I have talked about that man’s simple generosity to our kids, how it doesn’t take millions of dollars to live and give generously. How it just takes open eyes and a willing heart. Sometimes, it simply takes placing $0.38 on the ground so a kid can “discover” a treasure.
When you see someone else demonstrating generosity, point it out to your kids. Talk to them about the act you and they witness. What did they do? Why did they do it? And how does that act of generosity remind you of God’s generosity? Leverage another’s generosity to encourage your kids to be generous themselves.
3. Point out and talk about when your kids give
We received a message from one of our son’s teachers at church. While many times such messages raise concern for parents, this one did quite the opposite. We knew that our son would take his change and give it to our church, but we didn’t know the whole story. When he entered the classroom, he would remove the change from his pockets and distribute the money among his classmates who had no money to give. That way, everyone could participate in the offering time. It was a surprising act of generosity.
Now, we are far from being perfect parents. This generous act was more a demonstration of God’s grace and mercy on us as parents than flawless parenting. But we jumped on the opportunity to point out and talk about generosity. We celebrated his generosity and how it reflected God’s generosity.
When you “catch” your child in an act of generosity, leverage that moment. When he or she holds the door open for someone, when your child shares their cookie or toy, or when your child gives to your church, leverage that moment. Celebrate it. Talk about the act. And point them to the generosity of our God.
Encouraging generosity in our kids doesn’t have to be overly complex or burdensome. Simply point every day, real life acts of generosity. Point out your generosity. Point out another’s generosity. And point out your kids’ generosity. Then, talk about it. Tell your child how those acts of generosity reflect God’s generosity. Encourage generosity in your kids by leveraging the demonstrations of generosity that God is placing right in front of you and your children.
Art Rainer is a vice president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. He writes widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge and the recently released Secret Slide Money Club series for kids.
Originally published Friday, 16 August 2019.