We are stewards of all that God has given every day. Here are five important things parents can do to teach kids about giving and stewardship.
1. Pray for a generous heart and opportunities to give as a family
Selfless human nature does not come naturally. Generous giving should challenge us to love God and people more than possessions and things. That’s sacrifice, and sacrifice is painful. Without a doubt, prayer is a necessary first step.
- Pray for a generous heart and spirit for you, your spouse, and your children.
- Ask God for open eyes in your family to see opportunities he places in your lives.
- Pray for courage to respond to those opportunities.
2. Model generosity and stewardship for your kids
Parents who are not joyful givers rarely have children who are. Home is the number one place children will learn to be, or not be, generous. The best way a mom or dad can teach giving is through their own actions and words. Children imitate what they see parents celebrate.
- As a parent, be giving of your time, patience, and resources.
- Know what God’s Word says about giving. Here are just a few places we can seek God’s guidance in how we are to give:
- regularly (1 Corinthians 16:2)
- secretly (Matthew 6:1-2)
- with God’s priorities in mind (Matthew 6:19-21)
- sacrificially (Luke 21:1-4)
- purposefully (1 Corinthians 9:7)
- cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7)
- generously (Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6)
3. Communicate the importance of stewardship to your children
What children see is important, but what’s even more important is understanding what they see. “Because Mom told me to” isn’t a seed that develops strong roots. Just as children need to be able to communicate faith in their words, they need to develop and voice their own “theology of stewardship.”
- Define generosity. Point to Jesus freely giving up his life so that we could have eternal life. Explain how God wants us to give to others out of love, knowing the love that he first gives us. When we give to others, we are also giving back to God. Here are two easy object lessons to help start the conversation.
- Talk about what you do and why you do it. The goal is not to boast about your kindness, but to help children understand generosity. Inspire children by telling stories of generous people in your community.
- Embrace questions and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Those three words are a gift because they serve as an invitation for parent and child to search for answers and learn together.
- Ask questions. Prompting children to wonder “how do you think it feels for people not to have a bed?” or “what are some ways we can take care of God’s creation?” allows them to develop their own feelings about others, giving, and faith. It also brings them into our next area: involve.
4. Practice generosity in ways that allow your kids to get involved
Most often, our acts of generosity are too vague for children to understand. When our tithe gets placed in the offering plate or we drop off old toys and clothes at the door of a local charity, children might have a hard time grasping who this actually helps, or that it makes any difference at all. It’s difficult for children (and most adults as well) to empathize with beneficiary groups who are unseen, no matter how fervently the needs are presented. If you truly want your children to blossom in generosity, bring them face to face with individuals who need help—in a safe manner, of course.
- Don’t shy away from a person in need. Look for ways to interact with those you are helping. Talk to the individual and get to know their story. This changes an abstract concept, such as homelessness, to a real person with real experiences. Here’s a family project for helping those experiencing homelessness. (While it’s written for Advent, consider keeping a kit in your car year-round or working through the booklet for “Christmas in July.”)
- Invite your children to name ways that they have been blessed by God with more than they need. Have them suggest how they can share that abundance with others. For example, are you blessed with summer vacation from school? Give time by helping around your neighborhood or volunteering at a summer ministry.
- Teach the “spend, save, share” model. Have your child separate their money into three jars. Invite them to choose how they share the money in their share or spend jars each week or month.
- Keep a list of practical ideas to give and decide together where and how you will give each day, week, month, and year. Here’s a list to get you started.
5. Make stewardship a habit in your family, not a special event
Consistency is key with children, so make stewardship a habit in your household. Giving was never intended to be a one-time interaction or only for desperate needs.
- Make a plan. A plan gives us three key things to help us become habitual givers: a goal, guidance, and accountability.
- Stewardship is so much more than giving money or things. Be intentional to model giving regularly when it comes to time, skills, belongings, money, energy, and relationships.
As always, it’s God who brings growth. No plan, formula, or checklist guarantees our children will become joyful givers. When in doubt, simply go back and repeat step one!
Shelley Henning has been involved in children’s and family ministry for over two decades. She is the co-founder and CEO of Grow Family (growfamilyministry.com) and has written a book, numerous articles, and curriculum related to children and family ministry.