Raising generous kids is one of the most significant things parents can do. But it doesn’t happen by accident. Parents need a strategy for teaching kids to be givers.
Here are five simple ways you can encourage generosity in children. Whether you’re a parent yourself, a Sunday school teacher, or just feel called to set a good example for future generations, take a minute to think about them.
1. Demonstrate financial generosity
If you’re reading this post, you probably take church and charitable giving seriously. One of the best ways to teach kids to be generous is by showing them what it looks like. They need to see people they look up to demonstrate that generosity is important. Help parents find ways to include kids in the process of giving—even if they use a digital giving solution and have recurring giving set up, running in the background.
Encourage parents to talk to their children about why giving is important to God (and them). Help them find ways to talk to their kids about their giving philosophy and how much they give, and see them giving money to those in need.
2. Model the right relationship with possessions
The youngest children struggle with the idea of personal ownership. One of the first words they learn to say with any feeling is “Mine!” They need to see that Christian adults don’t have an idolatrous relationship with their belongings.
There’s a big difference between demonstrating how to care for your belongings and considering them overly precious. When things around the classroom or house get broken (and they will), try not to lose it. How you respond can help teach kids that “stuff” should not be considered overly valuable to them.
Remember, when Jesus said, “You can’t serve both God and mammon,” he was talking about more than cash.
3. Celebrate their generosity
When kids demonstrate acts of generosity, praise them. Tell them how proud you are of them. Take them out for ice-cream. Find ways to show them that you notice and appreciate when they’re unselfish.
This is a tricky one to get right because you want them to be legitimately generous. If you reward them every time they’re not stingy, they’ll start linking generosity with praise. And you don’t want to raise someone who has to tell everyone every time they do a good deed. So it’s OK to be a little inconsistent with this one.
4. Point out generous characters in movies and stories
Another way to positively reinforce generosity is to point it out in stories. Point out how nice it was for that little boy to offer his lunch so Jesus could feed the 5,000. When you’re talking about the crucifixion, point out the kindness of Joseph of Arimathea when he lay Jesus in his expensive tomb. Get overly excited about Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart in A Christmas Carol. Say, “Wow. Did Snow White just clean the dwarves cabin just to be kind?! THAT’S AMAZING!”
This teaches them to look for the givers, but it also reinforces how important it is to you.
5. Teach them to follow through on compassionate impulses
Inevitably, children will see a homeless person and make a comment, or they’ll tell you about a need someone has at school. Any time they express empathy, ask them, “What should we do about that?” If their idea is doable, then help them accomplish it. If it’s over the top, find a compromise.
It’s too easy for all of us to feel bad about something and think feeling terrible is doing something. It’s not. We need to encourage follow through so that when God moves our kids with compassion, they respond.
There’s no question that the world needs more generous adults, and it starts with investing in generous kids. Use class time to reinforce the significance of being unselfish. Give parents tips for fortifying the teachings at home. When churches and families work together, everyone wins.
If you’re looking for a way to get more parents involved at church, download a free copy of our ebook The Practical Guide to Recruiting and Retaining Kidmin Volunteers. You’ll find some smart ideas for getting (and keeping) help all year ‘round.