A generous spirit is the linkup topic this week on Live Free Thursday. It’s a topic near to my heart, and one I’ve written on often. So here, just in time for thinking about being generous during the holiday season. Or any time.
Raising Generous Kids
When we took our three kids on a mission trip twelve years ago, I didn’t expect to become an expert on raising kids who serve generously. Seriously—at that point I was concentrating on raising kids who survived our family’s particular brand of insanity.
Through the wonder of watching our kids’ compassion and courage blossom while holding the hand of an abandoned orphan 6500 miles from our home, I learned. Raising generous kids—generous with both time and resources—is a goal most Christian parents have. But it’s an art whose technique not many understand.
Art is complex—but here are three ways, mindsets really, that will help parents in their goal.
You don’t have to travel to China right away. (But hey, if you like a challenge, go for it. You won’t be sorry.) You don’t have to commit to one thing for the next five years. Dip the toes in the water. Find a couple small things you can manage quickly. Let the adrenaline from that move you toward bigger ideas. There are websites that offer suggestions for small projects you can even do at home. Through that, you may find something that releases a passion in your family, and you’ll want to find a bigger project. Don’t let the idea that you have to tackle world hunger overwhelm you and keep you from finding one thing you can do, right now.
Empower Your Kids
Currently, at least 75 percent of young people will leave the church when they leave home. One of the major reasons for this heartbreaking attrition is their feeling that church is irrelevant to and out of touch with their daily lives. As well, young people cite a feeling that older generations prefer to condescend to them and refuse them meaningful service until they’re “ready.” For a generation bent on making a difference, this is understandably frustrating.
What would happen if, instead, we taught kids from the time they could walk that they were the hands and feet to make the church relevant? That the ends of the earth weren’t as far away or impossible to impact as they thought?
I’ve not yet read the Scripture that said children had to wait and watch until they’re old enough to “handle” using their gifts. In fact, several passages relate how God did use children who had been trained to listen to Him.
Find a cause your family can all get exited about and pursue that mission together. Trust them with meaningful work, not busyness to keep them occupied. Let them decide what you’re going to do together. Let them own the work, and give them credit. Take their lead. You will be joyfully surprised.
Be What You Want To See
Parents get kids who resemble them—in more ways than hair and eye color. If you want generous kids, be a generous person. Bottom line. Dropping kids off at a service project for children’s church or a mission trip for the youth group will not magically convert them to eager servers. Kids willingly go along with programs, but they watch, and imitate, you.
If you model a lifestyle that is too busy to volunteer at that community event, go with them on that mission trip, or visit a lonely person, your kids will compartmentalize service as “something adults do when they have time. Which is never.”
Model a way of life where generosity and service happen as a natural part of who you are. Make it something you’ll stop everything to do. Let them see you willing to do without something so you can give to someone else. Talk about that choice.
As my daughter recently said, “You never taught us that serving was a “thing” you had to do as Christians. You showed us it was a way of thinking and observing the world, 24/7.”
Be the generous person you want to see in your kids.
Websites to try:
Books to read:
When More Is not Enough: How to Stop Giving Your Kids What They Want and Give Them What They Need
Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short-Term Missions for Your Whole Family
Teach Me to Serve: 99 Ways Preschoolers can learn to serve and bless others, Kristen Summers
Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor, Margot Starbuck
Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places, Susie Larson
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker