10 Ways to Help Children Grow in Faith and Generosity

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

How can parents shape a generous spirit in their children? Ken Sloane outlines ten practical ways families can focus more intentionally on giving and gratitude, compassion, and service so that their children grow in faith and generosity.

Who doesn’t want to see our children grow up knowing how to manage money wisely and generously — acknowledging that all blessings come from a generous God who wants our lives to be abundant and full of love and compassion? Unless we are intentional about teaching them, they have only what they will hear from the media and marketers about what gives life joy. Here are ten ways to make our homes places where children will learn about a generous spirit.

Giving a Saturday of service will go a long way toward reinforcing the idea that we can practice generosity by giving time and talent as well as money.

1. Rotate giving stories into your bedtime story rotation.
The experience of reading stories together creates powerful memories for both parents and children. Click here for a starting place to look for some ideas.

2. Add a “give and a save” element into children’s allowances.
This implies that parents are giving an allowance and, of course, that family finances can support an allowance. The benefit of an allowance is that it helps children learn about money management. How much more could children learn about money and life if their allowance were increased from, say, ten dollars to twelve dollars, and one dollar was designated for saving and one dollar was designated for giving away?

3. Once a week, ask every family member to list a kindness someone did for you and a kindness you did for someone else.
Family schedules can be crazy these days (soccer, gymnastics, band, ballet), and many are finding that a family dinner — everyone present, not racing to make it to the next practice — is rare. If you can pull off one family dinner a week (maybe on the weekend), use a simple question to get your family focused on how they have extended generosity and how generosity has been extended to them.

4. Compile a list of movies that highlights generous acts and include those movies in family viewing. Spend a few minutes discussing them when the movies are over.
In those dark days before there were Netflix, DVDs, VHS, or even cable, I grew up in a world of only three to six channels on TV. Thanks to the pandemic and our hunkering down, I’m hopeful that the movie night tradition has made a resurgence. Add to your lists some films that teach about the power of giving and the joy it can bring.

5. Find a local charitable nonprofit that allows families to volunteer together.
A family day of service can make a lasting impression on children and teens. I continually meet adults involved in ministry or some form of career of service and caring who will cite a family experience of mission that set their trajectory. Older children can help side by side with their parents in serving meals to people who are homeless or on the margins.

6. Adopt a family mission project with a measurable, attainable goal.
A family mission project does not necessarily have to take you away from home. It’s especially exciting when there’s a goal that you can aim for and achieve: a box of groceries for a family of four to have for their Thanksgiving dinner; weekend “backpack food” for a child in the local elementary school. Partner with an agency that knows the needs and the sensitivities. Another great example is United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) relief supplies.

7. Plan a garage/yard sale and make a family decision about where to donate the proceeds.
A family garage/yard sale is a great way to unclutter your lives a bit, and it can also be a great chance to make a significant donation to an organization that does good work in helping where there is a great need. Two simple suggestions to optimize the impact of this event: (1) Each family member should be in on the decision about what cause (or causes) will receive the donation, and (2) Each should be free to decide what he or she wants to make available for the sale! These will help everyone feel ownership of the act of helping through their donations.

8. Replace or supplement birthday and holiday gifts with a donation to a nonprofit that is specially aligned with the recipient, or offer an act of service.
Remembering that not all family members are children and youth provides the opportunity to note that not all gifts have to be “things.” A contribution to a cause near and dear to the heart of the recipient. The donation might also be service.

9. Brainstorm as a family some random acts of kindness you can do without anyone knowing or getting any recognition.
This can be a fun way to drive home the idea that the joy of generosity is often at its best when it is done in secret (as Jesus reminded us in Matthew 6:3). Whether it is secretly picking up someone else’s check when you are out for lunch, paying for the order for someone behind you in the fast-food drive-up window line, raking an elderly neighbor’s yard or shoveling their walk, the joy of random acts of kindness can open our eyes to new ways of looking at how we invest our lives.

10. If it’s within your means, consider endowing a gift.
An endowment is gift that, when invested, can produce income for a cause year after year after year. Some endowments do require a large initial gift, but not all. A partial scholarship for a week of church camp for a child whose family is struggling might be accomplished with an endowment of $1,000 — less than $100 a month set aside over a year. If that same amount continued to be set aside and invested for another year, a full scholarship (or partial for two children) could open the door to a life-changing experience for a young person.

excerpt from a story by Ken Sloane, Director of Stewardship & Connectional Ministries for the Discipleship Ministries.

United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.

This article was originally published by Discipleship Ministries. Used by permission.