Today, tomorrow, and every day, children will be exposed to over five thousand messages geared to get them to spend their money on themselves. These messages try to convince children they are worth what they possess. Who will send them the messages about the benefits of being generous people who share and save their money as well as spend it? Who will teach them that they are valued by God just the way they are, regardless of what they own or what they wear?
There are no guarantees that generous parents will raise generous children. Even parents who intentionally practice and teach faithful stewardship habits cannot be assured that their children will be equally motivated to be good stewards in their adult years. However, there are things parents can do to influence their children’s attitudes and actions as co-stewards of the family household.
Model the behavior you want. Let your children see you giving donations to charitable causes and doing random acts of kindness for others. Talk about why you support the organizations you do and why you help others. Talk about why you try to conserve natural resources and why you care about how the food and products you purchase were made.
Teach and model the 10 – 10 – 80 concepts: Share a tenth, save a tenth, spend the rest wisely. Provide your children a method to set aside a tenth for charity; a tenth for savings; and a way to track how they spend the rest. Use envelopes or separate jars or separate places to separate their allowance, gift, and earned income. Give them a notebook in which to record what they do with the money that passes through their hands.
Take your children shopping for people they will never meet—other children, new mothers, elderly people, people who have special needs. Donate the items they select to local organizations that serve that special population. Talk with your children about why these people may need additional support.
Read or watch age-appropriate stories about generous people with your children. Then talk about the story together. For example, Zach Bonner, age seven at the time, founded the Little Red Wagon Foundation in 2005 with the help of his mother. When asked about why he wanted to spend so much effort helping children living in poverty he said, “These kids don’t have a home, they don’t have a safe place to sleep at night. They’re out on the streets not because they want to be, but because it’s out of their control.” He started by pulling his own little red wagon through his Florida neighborhood to collect items to help people who’d suffered from the hurricanes that plagued Florida in 2004.
When you grocery shop for your family shop for your local food pantry too. Let your children pick out food items they like to share with others who are hungry. Explain why the items have to be canned or boxed and how the food will be distributed.
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.
Along with regular presents for birthdays, Christmas, or other gift-giving occasions, 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.
Teach children how to write thank you notes. (Email and text messaging notes count.) Talk about how expressing gratitude helps us grow and thrive.
Help your children learn the difference between a need and a want. Help them do an inventory of what they already have and things they’d like to get some day. By each item put an “N” or “W” to distinguish between “Needs” and “Wants.”
Without a purchasing plan we all tend to mindlessly shop and splurge, which does to our spiritual health what grazing on snack food all day does to our physical health.
Teach them to make a list of what they want when they go shopping and talk about learning to resist randomly buying things as a form of entertainment.
Take children with you to visit new neighbors, residents of special care facilities, or those from your faith community who may need some extra TLC for some reason (after asking if this is a welcome visit of course) so they can learn the
value of nurturing a wide variety of relationships as part of being faithful stewards.
Encourage your children to be involved in the life of your congregation in whatever ways are available. Perhaps you and other parents could initiate new ways for children to practice being stewards of your congregation’s well-being. For example, children can help with mailings, count loose change, set up and clean up at congregational events, and help watch younger children under the supervision of an adult.
As you read family devotions together, look for ways to connect Bible readings to teachings about stewardship.
About the author: Kathy Haueisen is the former Stewardship Key Leader and former pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This article comes from the Giving:Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine volume 15, which includes a timeline, articles, and other resources to create a stewardship campaign with the "Found Faithful" theme based on 1 Corinthians 4:1-2. Use the magazine, corresponding theme materials, and the Found Faithful Companion Resource to create your "Found Faithful" emphasis. All are available in the ESC Web Store.