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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  • I really like the idea of taking my kids out to roam the streets and perform some random act of kindness. What a great way to show generosity. I just happened to look at this site because, as a school counselor, I use words of the month for lessons in a public school and was looking for activities for our next word generous.. I found this and thought what a great thing to do with my own children.

  • Wonderful post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Bless you!

  • My husband forwarded me your wonderful advice at 9 last night when I was in tears over what I deemed as very ungrateful behavior by my eldest of three. I thought I was doing a good job of showing generosity but I realized that most of what I do probably doesn’t register with my little ones (6, 3 and 5 months) . The first tip I’m going to use is giving my daughter money to give away! This is going to be very hard for her as she will want it . She will cry and probably take weeks to do it but I’m going to persist! She is a sweet girl and very generous with helping and our money but feels if it is her money then it’s a very difficult thing for her to do. Thank you. This couldn’t be better advise. I need to slow down a bit and focus on this important stuff$!)
    God Bless you:)

  • I love the idea of giving the UPS carrier a cold beverage. My son worked at UPS for a short time and I’m sure he would have appreciated it!

  • I like the idea of volunteering to serve meals to the homeless. One year we served Thanksgiving dinner at the Mission before coming home to our own meal. We had soooo much fun! There were too many servers, so we volunteered to help with the dishes. The gentleman was doing the dishes all by himself and expressed incredulousness that we wanted to help.

  • I am all about making things happen for others anonymously. What a joy it is! My children are grown and I see them passing this on to their children. How happy that makes me. Pay it forward any time that you are able. God bless!

  • All of these ideas are such fun things to do. Our kids are grown up and have kids of their own. Hoping to share some with my grand kids. One of the things that we have done for the last several years is based on a book called the Christmas Jar. Each January we decorate a jar ( a good size one) with Christmas stickers. Starting January 1st we start putting our loose change in the jar. We do this all year and around November, we start asking the Lord for someone to give it to. Just before Christmas, about the first week or so of December, we find a way to leave this jar for this particular family with a copy of the book, Christmas Jar. It has been so much fun to “sneak around” and get the jar to others. We have helped a family who’s father was not having steady work, a friend who had been in a car accident and out of work. It is such a joy around that time of year, to be able to give with no strings attached and let God minister to that person or family. Thanks for the new ideas.

  • We bless others with meals when a baby is born or when someone is sick or hospitalized, but I love the idea about being aware of people’s needs and blessing them anonymously! I think that had really touched my heart the most – listening or observing and key ring God guide us as to who we should bless! I’d love to win this and try a new way to bless others as a family!
    Thank you and may God continue to allow us to serve Him by blessing His people!
    Michelle

  • I loved the “serving our servants” tip as I so often focus solely on sending aid to people far off and truly our mission field is ALL around us-thanks for the reminder!! Blessings & thanks for the book giveaway!!

  • Hey Karen!!! This is my first time reading your blog. I stumbled on it by way of Rachel Woknarowski’s blog, which I stumbled on by way of a search in google. The google search brought up a post on Rachel’s blog that was completely unrelated to what I was searching for, but the title of what it brought up caught my eye :) Then what she said about your book about Letting go, caught my eye. Which brought me to your page. (Total “GodStop” moment) Needless to say I loved your post!!!! I especially loved the hands on bible study lesson. Brilliant!!!! I am super excited to try it with our kiddos. One of my favorite generosity tips was your I -spy journal, I love journaling because it reinforces the things I am already learning. Just as I was reading your posts a friend stopped by with a bag of handme down clothes and her sons old acoustic guitar. I went right upstairs and entered the very first I-spy journal entry. Thanks for sharing.
    – Laurie

  • Thank you for the wonderful devotional idea! We began serving at a homeless shelter for women and children this year and it has been life changing for our family. We have been trying to come up with other ideas of how to get our family to put others before ourselves and you have given us several to think about. A lesson is great but when you can apply it with prayer and God’s help is when it changes our hearts and actions. I think we will combine the listening and roam the streets idea. Together we will listen and look for those we can bless whether at the store, church or neighborhood and they can then come up with a plan on how to carry out the action. I love the idea of always being on the lookout for people to bless. It is a change in a heart attitude and focus. Always looking out for others not yourself. Thank you.

  • I like the “listening” one – this will be good for all of us. Our 15-year old needs to become more aware of the needs around him – as do we! Looking forward to trying some of these great ideas! Thank you.

  • I love all the ideas and would like to implement them all! I think for our family devotional, we can read through them, pick one we’d like to start with, come up with a plan, and put it into action.

  • Definitely, GIVE AWAY MONEY!

    I have generous kids. They get it that they are blessed. It brings them joy to pay for the car behind them or help a person in need.

    I like that!