10 Ideas to Teach Your Kids {& You!} Generosity

Do you ever find yourself seeking excessive earthly treasures?

Sometimes we spend money on things we don’t need instead of giving to feed the poor or reaching out to people with the good news of Christ.

Clothes, out-on-the-town outings, or money spent on luxuries for ourselves can fill our home and heart. I’m not only talking about really expensive items or trips. It can be as simple as a pair of sandals on sale.

Even though three pairs of sandals sit in my closet that are in good condition, I can justify spending $15 on new ones. They’re cute, match my favorite blue shirt and are half price! And I sure do want to get to the store early so my size is still there.

Do I really need them? No. Do I want them? Yes. And here’s where I have to do some soul searching and re-read the Bible story of the greedy farmer from Luke 12:15. In it, we’re warned, “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'”

Am I hoarding my money for an abundance of possessions? Could I limit myself by setting a budget for splurges (like those sandals) and spend the money I save on needful things?

While there is merit in saving for a rainy day, we should also share that which God has given us, and teach our children to do the same.

Here are 10 ideas:

1. Tell stories. Hearing stories from the past help to paint a picture of the joy and the results of giving. We often tell our children of the times, when we were first married and having kids, that our money was so tight we often didn’t know how we were going to cover bills. Then, it never failed that someone left us groceries anonymously on our porch or we were sent a check in the mail from someone who said we were on their mind. Telling these stories to our kids helps them to catch a vision for being generous too.

2. Record the stories. {This makes number one easier!} During those early years we kept an “I Spy” journal–as in “I Spy The Lord Providing For Us”. When our kids were old enough to read for themselves, they could pick it up and be reminded of God’s goodness and the generosity of others.

3. Send them on a listening mission. Have them be on the lookout at church, school, in the neighborhood, etc… for who might benefit from a little cash. It never fails that they will hear that a parent lost their job or that a kids wants to go to the football camp but can’t afford it. Have them report back to you to see if there is a way your family can help.

4. Be all sneaky -like. Brainstorm with your kids ways to help others while remaining anonymous. We’ve colored pictures and mailed them along with gift cards to grocery or department stores to families in need. We’ve paid for registration for camps and seminars and then sent a note telling the families so {without telling them who!}. Being both generous and sneaky is a blast!

5. Give them money to give away. Sometimes give your kids ten dollars {or a hundred if you are able!} with the one stipulation that they must give the money away. No, not to their friend to spend on an X-box game they’ll play with them. Have them pray about who might need the money more than them. Then, let them give it to them!

6. Serve.  As a family, serve at a local charity. We take our kids sometimes to a shelter for battered women. We help prepare and then serve them their evening meal. Then, while the moms are having an after-dinner Bible study, we watch their sweet kiddos. {WARNING! This one results in your kids wanting to smuggle home other sweet kids to be a part of your family. Gently remind them that the kids there are not to take home!} We’ve also served Thanksgiving meals at a homeless shelter before returning home to eat our own. And for emphasis, we made the kids skip breakfast so they were extra hungry while serving. It helped to drive home the lesson that day. They were hungry while others got to eat. That is exactly how those homeless folks feel most days! (Note: our kids have no medical conditions that make skipping a meal a concern)

7. Send them away. Do what it takes to have your kids go on a missions trip. They will never be the same! I went on my first trip in college to Mexico. I used to feel very “less than” when it came to my family’s financial status. I shopped at Kmart for the blue light specials. Many of my friends shopped at much classier places. They also drove nicer cars and had newer and bigger homes. When I spent three weeks working to build a church for a poor congregation in Mexico, I saw for the first time what “poor” actually is! I came home feeling like a queen shopping at Kmart. Our own kids have all been on trips. Our daughter on too many to mention. Our 18 year-old son just went with his dad and a group from our church with Samaritans Purse to help clean up from hurricane Sandy. Our 15-year-old son went on an inner-city missions trip with youth group to Milwaukee. (He was then one who wanted to smuggle home an adorable toddler named Ollie!)

8. Roam the streets.  Take your kids on an afternoon of performing random acts of kindness for strangers. Pay for someone’s order behind you in the drive-thru line. Take some flavored iced tea in cans and hand them out to the crossing guard at the corner, a department store worker out gathering carts in the parking lot on a steamy hot day, or the road commission workers on the highway during construction (Hey–you’ll be driving super slow during that construction zone anyway. Just have your kids hand them out the window! It helps you to smile rather than get all grumpy because of the construction zone slow-down!) In the winter, buy hot cocoas from a drive thru and give them away to all of the Salvation Army bell-ringers you can find standing out in the cold.

9. Stay home and bless your servants. Think you don’t have any servants? Yes you do! How about the mail carrier, the UPS guy (or gal), the garbage collector or power-line workers out in front of your house? They serve you so you can live life. How about a plate of homemade brownies for those garbage collectors? Give your UPS worker a cold can of soda. Hang a bag of homemade granola trail mix on the mailbox with a note thanking your mail carrier for serving you all year. Be sure to get your kids in on the act. Our son Mitchell LOVED doing this when he was little. He enjoyed watching men working using their “busy machines” (the power-line workers on their cherry-pickers). He knew if he took them out treats, they’d let him sit and watch them work. (From a safe distance of course.) HINT: Keep frozen balls of homemade cookie dough in your fridge so you can whip up a fresh-baked treat at the drop of a hat.

10. Teach your kids whose money it is anyway.  All our belongings belong to God. All our money does too! Teach them by example to tithe (the Bible’s practice of giving 10% of your money for the work of the Lord) and even to give beyond. It has been a joy to see our grown daughter giving money off the top of her paycheck from her salon to missionaries she supports. I spied a sticky note our 18-year old had on his desk the other day listing out what he was doing with his paychecks. It included his car payment, cash in the savings, “Fun” money and also his tithe. More is caught than taught. Don’t just tell your kids to be generous. Show them by example that all we have belongs to God. The LEAST we can do is give Him back 10%!

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  1. What a great post and great ideas! All of them!!! I can only choose one?! ;) Well, I must say the last three resonate the most with me, first and foremost tithing. I was raised and taught to tithe and continue to do so and pray that my children will learn by example, just as I did… and some Q&A! But I also really like staying home and baking cookies and other goodies for those serving us, and taking hot drinks to the Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas time. My children are still young so mission trips seem a long way away. And my husband just recently went back to school so we are on a tight budget and I cannot imagine giving money “away”. I definitely can give of my time though!! Thank you again Karen for the great ideas!!

  2. I love the m&m activity! I am always looking for ways to relate what is in the Bible to real life situations….and so I did this with my kids. They both ended up empty handed and most unhappy – but really seemed to get it when I read from the Bible and explained. This resonated with my husband and myself as well. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Thank you for the great ideas on being generous. The older I get the more I look for ways each day to give to others. Life is short. Even with small means there is always something to give.

  4. I love the “be sneaky-like” suggestion! There are a million ways that you can use that tip, and it’s great fun for both kids and adults. Some times when I’m having a bad day, I’ll use that one myself to cheer myself up and randomly do something kind. It gets my mind off of myself, and it spreads love and kindness to someone who may really need it that day. Even if it’s something small like leaving a flower for someone, a random note, candy or small gift card – that little bit of kindness can go a long way toward showing people that someone cares.

  5. This post is right in line with the heart of my husband & me as a couple – we LOVE giving gifts to others, especially anonymously. And I really love your idea of getting the kids involved in the process. God has really been working on my heart in the area of contentment – we’ve just recently decided to take our house off the market because we really don’t need/can’t afford a bigger house, and if our money is tied up in our housing we don’t have the funds to help others like we want. THANK YOU!!

  6. I loved the devotion and plan to use the M&M game with my kids soon. I also really love the idea of the “I Spy” journal. We have so many stories of God’s provision and I would love for our kids to have these reminders as well as the opportunity to add to the journal over the years. Lastly, I really appreciate the reminder to bless our ‘servants’. I can remember my grandmother baking for her mail carrier and her hair dresser at Christmas time. I’m already looking forward to finding ways we can bless those around us. Thank you! Blessings!

  7. I really enjoyed the devotion I read of your M&M game and plan to use that when I have to sub at my boys school or when doing children’s church…although I will have to remember to go get some M&M’s and hid them from my family :)…. also your other ideas of getting your kids to give more to others, we will be using those ideas. Sad to say that I have had people kind to pay for my meal in the drive thru and have not done the same. I am inspired to do random acts of kindness more for others I don’t know rather then for those I do.

  8. I love the idea of giving the kids some money to pray over and give away. As a family, we look for ways to be a blessing and help others, but I love how this becomes an individual thing for them to do. It makes the point that you don’t have to be an adult to be generous!

  9. I too liked the one about getting the children to listen for someone who needed help. By them hearing about others needs then allowing them to help the needy is seeing God work thru each child. Great idea! I think we will do that this weekend! Thanks for sharing all these wonderful ideas.

  10. I love recording the ways God has provided for you. It would be a great way to see God’s hand on your life and how He used others to provide. It would show your kids how God can use them to bless others.

  11. All of these are excellent ideas. The one that spoke to me most was sending them away. We just returned home from a mission trip to Tijuana with our 13 year old grandson. It was such an eye opener for him! We brought home a much more caring (he wanted to bring home a couple of little kid), kind, generous kid. He was a great kid before and a greater kid after. He can’t wait to go again!

  12. The youth at Garden Valley Church in Garden City, KS do “Random Acts of Kindness”. They go to laundry mats and put quarters in the machines, add laundry soap to the washers and dryer sheets to the dryers. The youth used their own quarters, which made more of an impact on their giving.
    They have also gone to Walmart, Target or the grocery stores and pushed carts into the store.

  13. We are trying right now to find some fresh ideas for our youth group! We have an extremely small church in rural Iowa and in the past we have struggled to get our high school kids to stay active. Right now we have six middle school age kids and one high schooler. Would love to take them on a mission trip but some of their parents are not willing to let their kids go because they don’t feel it is safe. Then others don’t want to go. It is tough. Thank you for some great ideas that we can use there and I can use with my own young kids!

  14. I love the idea of giving them money to give away. Gets their minds thinking all the time about who and how they can serve someone. Thanks for the ideas!!!!

  15. I think all your ideas are wonderful! I especially like the idea of sending your kids out on listening missions. I think that would teach them to really listen to others and to have a servants heart!

  16. Today was a rough day for me so I prayed and asked God for some encouragement. The M&M game and this list of giving and serving others was a great pick me up. I love being able to help others, especially when they do not expect it. The two that really stood out to me were serving as a family and giving the tithe. As a family we can glorify God and show others His love. Giving our 10% is a way of thanking God for all that He has done…and I want to pass on to my children that the best way to give is to WANT to give it cheerfully!

  17. I loved suggestions 4 & 5 – my girls love being sneaky and they’d feel so big to bless others where they see a need. Thank you so much for all your creative ideas!

  18. I love the idea of listening for needs. This puts into practice in James where it tells us to be quick to listen and then putting some action into what we just heard by serving or filling a need.

  19. I like the one where you give out drinks to people starving and for the mail carriers Ect. Another idea is to use your house to serve by hosting an exchange student. I have done that for the past two years and have really enjoyed that. It’s always been a passion for me.

  20. Super ideas! My mission field is work. I place $ 1.50 in the soda machine with a note saying Thank you and blessings for doing a great job. I also randomly stick $5.00 starbucks giftcards to desks, walls, doors with a tiny card stating They are appreciated. I love the idea of giving envelopes of money and asking others to use it in unique ways to bless others! I will make this a Christmas project for my children. Thank you.

  21. All of these are such great ideas! I like the one about giving them money to give away. And also teaching them whose money it is in the first place. I often need to be reminded that its God’s money!

  22. Oooh! I love the bless the servants idea. Perhaps the kids and I will work on that this week. It never struck me how much generosity was a learned trait, until I had children! Thanks for sharing. I love this post.

  23. I especially like the idea of giving the kids a bit of money for them to bless another with. I think that will be exciting to see what they chose to do and in what way they bless another.

  24. Love all your wonderful ideas! I especially liked one I have never done – the anonymous giving. I want to try doing that. The only time I’ve ever done that was with giving Christmas gifts to names on Angel Trees or to a local group collecting Christmas toys or food and money to a local food pantry, but everyone else was giving anonymously too. I like your idea for searching out a specific private need.
    One other idea is to teach children and grandchildren about the hunger that exists in the world and in their own community and then do something about it. For example, I did that with my oldest granddaughter and she and I have raised funds and walked together in our local CROP Walk for many years. Twenty-five percent of what we raised went to our local food pantry and the rest went to the poorest of poor around the world and to refugee and natural disaster relief.

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