Barry’s family visited India to expose them to giving, but it didn’t work.
Barry is a giver in the UK. He took his family to the developing world. He made his wealth in the tech industry and has a vision to disciple his children in generosity. Here’s how Barry (not his real name) describes his situation when he travel with his children, ages 16 down to 8:
We have brought the kids – the main things we do are exposing them to people in need. We want them to realize that we have more than we need, and we need to share. I want them to develop some compassion.
But they have not yet stepped up to thinking that strategically around giving.
We took them to India last year. We said, “Whatever we spend on this trip, we’re also going to give the same amount to the charities we visit in India. So everywhere we go, think about where you want to give.”
But at the end, without a lot of thought or reflection, they just said, “Let’s just give it to the school we saw.” I’m struggling to figure it out.
What does Scripture say about modeling generosity for kids?
Be as personal in generosity as you reasonably can be.
Barry’s heart for giving shows that he wants to be present, and he’s attentive to needs around the world. Barry wants to give “presence” and not just “presents.”
In Matthew 25, Jesus famously talks about the sheep and the goats. The “sheep” include those who don’t just give to the needy, but personally give them “something to eat,… something to drink” (Mt. 25:35, NIV) and who “invited me in,…clothed me,… visited me.” (Mt. 25:36, NIV).
There is power in being personal—in giving your person as you give your purse.
Of course, there are needs all over the world that you cannot personally visit.
2. Mentor your children in generosity systemically, not episodically.
Barry wants to cast vision for his children, discipling them in generosity.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says…
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Generosity is one of God’s glorious commandments. Following this example from Deuteronomy, families can “impress” generosity on our children and cast vision for it by:
- talking about our giving at various times;
- carrying little reminders about our giving;
- posting visible reminders of our generosity around the house.
Barry notes that he had not been as consistent in teaching about generosity as he could have been. He may be a late, but God has a way of making “late” into “right on time.”
Five steps to expose your family to overseas ministries in healthy ways.
1. Model generosity at home.
This seems so obvious, but–in the age of digital giving–it’s harder than we think.
Model generosity with your time and treasure. A couple from Georgia told me this week that they used to take “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” too literally. They didn’t even tell their kids about the ministries they were supporting.
When your children see you giving your time freely to others—out of love for God—they catch a vision for a generous life.
We have a long way to go on our own generosity journey, but we do try to give our time away in ways the kids can see. Last night, Carolyn and I hosted an engagement party for a young couple that we’ve been mentoring. Recently, we babysat as a family so that single moms could go to their Life Group at church. College students join us for dinner to catch a glimpse of what a Christian family is. Our kids see us giving our time.
The new head of Leadership Network, Ron Edmondson, wrote a great piece on this. He concludes, “The greatest thing a parent can do to help children be generous people is to help them desire the things of God more than the things of this world.”
2. Pray passionately—as a family—for those you support.
Ministry leaders will tell you that, even more than money, they desperately need prayer. Prayer for God’s provision and protection; prayer against persecution; prayer that the seeds they scatter find good soil.
One easy way to model generosity is to pray, as a family, to the ministries and leaders that you support. It’s wonderful to have their pictures on your fridge; but even better to periodically pause to ask the Father to care for these ministries.
3. Involve the whole family in conversations with ministry leaders.
You may have chances to Skype with missionaries or leaders of ministries. There may be development officers who visit your home or call you. Include your kids in the conversation! Let them get to know people who are pouring their lives out around the world.
Before the call or visit, encourage them to develop good questions about the work that the ministry is doing. If you’re not in touch with on-the-ground workers in a ministry, figure out if there’s a way to be introduced. Most healthy ministries love introducing givers to the amazing people working in the field.
When ministry newsletters or reports come, read them at dinner time. Let the kids see your passion.
4. Talk about your family’s giving.
A couple years ago, we wanted to make Christmas more about what we give than what we get. So when we get out the Advent calendars, we also get out a map and put markers on it to show where God’s allowed us to invest His money during the year. The kids love it. Sometimes there are ministries that we haven’t really talked about as a family; or we get to remind them about some project that we get to support.
It has become our favorite night of the year.
The level of conversation will vary with their ages. Rachael Boyer shared some good age-appropriate suggestions, but summarizes: “Do it yourself. Talk about it. Encourage it.”
5. Involve them in picking where and how to visit.
Planning an overseas trip is hard work. As you become aware of places or ministries you could visit, ask the kids which seem most interesting. When they prayed, three of our four kids sensed God putting India on their hearts. They’ll be much more interested and engaged when we go.
Have them help make travel arrangements from one to the next. Involve them in the Skype calls in which you tell the ministry what you hope to see and do.
Sometimes our kids have collect toys or clothes that bless the ministry. (Check with the ministry first about their needs.) Once a ministry we were visiting needed computers; you can involve your kids in picking out the computers to bring along.
It’s awesome that you’re choosing to be generous and want to raise generous kids. I pray that, as you continue your journey, generosity becomes more and more part of your family’s legacy, and that you experience joy giving.
To bring more joy to your giving, each post at joygiving.org takes a giver’s question (Situation), offers biblical guidance (Scripture), and, based on our thousands of interactions with Christian givers around the world, offers action items (Steps).