Will Our Children Be Generous?
At the Synod’s stewardship workshop I attended last weekend, we were asked to consider stewardship as the challenge of growing stewards in our congregations. To see our relationship with God in terms of stewarding what God has first given us means managing faithfully what we have first been given in a way that reflects God’s generosity toward us. So, what does it look like to live a generous lifestyle?
The saying goes, “If you want to learn something well, teach it!” That got me thinking about our responsibility to teach our children to be good stewards of the gifts God has given them. What sort of things should we be doing to set the example for our children / grandchildren / nieces / nephews (especially as they grow up in this world where they are inundated with messages geared toward getting them to spend money on themselves!)?
In one of the resources provided at the synod workshop there was an article written by an ELCA pastor, Kathy Haueisen, entitled “Will Our Children Be Generous?” In it, she asks, “Who will teach them that they are valued by God just the way they are, regardless of what they own or what they wear?” As I read her list of suggestions about influencing our children’s attitudes and actions so as to teach them the benefits of being generous people who share and save their money as well as spend it, I caught myself reflecting on my own stewardship practices. It was a useful exercise even as I began planning which ones we could implement for the children in our congregations.
Here are some of her ideas:
1) Model the behavior you want. Let your children see you giving donations to charitable causes and doing random acts of kindness. Talk about why you support the church and other organizations that you do and why you help others.
2) Teach and model the 10-10-80 concepts of financial living. Share a tenth, save a tenth, spend the rest wisely. Provide your children a method to set aside a tenth of their money for charity, a tenth for savings and a way to track how they spend the rest.
3) Take your children shopping for people they will never meet – and donate the items they select to appropriate local organizations. Talk about why these people need support.
4) Read and watch age-appropriate stories about generous people with your children. Then talk about the story together.
5) When you grocery shop for your family shop for your local food pantry, too. Explain why the items have to be canned or boxed and how the food will be distributed.
6) Give your children catalogs from nonprofit organizations or read about them on the internet. Then, let them pick out a project they’d like to know more about and support.
7) Along with regular presents for birthdays, Christmas, etc. give a “Share-check”. This is a check in which you fill out the amount and your signature, but the recipient selects a nonprofit cause to receive the check.
8) Teach children to write thank you notes (email and text messages count). Talk about how expressing gratitude helps us grow and thrive.
9) Help your children learn the difference between a need and a want. Do an inventory of what they have and what they would like to get some day. By each item put an “N” and “W’ to distinguish between “Needs” and “Wants”. Without a purchasing plan we all tend to mindlessly shop and splurge (often as a form of entertainment) which does to our spiritual health what grazing on snack food all day does to our physical health.
10) Take children with you to visit new neighbors, the homebound, or anyone who needs some extra TLC (Tender Loving Care), so they can learn the value of nurturing a wide variety of relationships as part of being faithful stewards.
11) Encourage your children to be involved in the life of your congregation in whatever ways are available to them. If those ways are limited, consider expanding them.
12) As you share family devotions look for ways to connect Bible readings to the practices of using the gifts God has given wisely and generously.
These are all good ideas for teaching our children and they aren’t bad exercises for us adults, too, as we seek to be the generous people of God.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600