Updated: Jan 9
We have this offering container in the PreK-K area of our Early Childhood Ministries at Grace Point Church. Sometimes, I see parents on the way into the room, reaching into wallets for change to give their children to put inside. Sometimes, children come in clutching coins in their little hands asking where to put it. Mostly, it isn't talked about much.
It got me thinking about how we taught our own children to be generous. And I kept coming back to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
When we got married our children ("his" and "mine") were 3, 4, and 5 years old. A common theme in our home from the very beginning was how everything we have is a gift from God. We emphasized that everything from our family relationships to our home, our work to our clothes, our food to our books and toys and even just the beauty all around us are ALL gifts from God because He is SO GENEROUS! In spite of our sin and failures, God still lavishes grace upon grace on us (Ephesians 1:7-9).
When we give money or time or anything else to others, it is from a place of gratefulness of all God has first given us! After all, "We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
In order to help our children tangibly understand that everything belongs to God and He loves us so much He gives us exactly what we need when we need it, we started by telling them we were going to help them learn about one of God's gifts: GIVING. They weren't so sure about that! We took them to the local craft store and got decorating supplies and each of them three identical containers in their favorite colors (Our daughter was always pink, one of our boys was always blue and the other was always green). We took it all home and designed one each for:
Back to GOD
SAVING for later
SPENDING for now
We gave them each three $1 dollar bills every couple weeks (we had a 50/50 custody thing going on back then so it was a bit hard to be consistent with the "pay days") and they put one dollar in each of their containers. Some families we know did something similar, but gave their children one dollar bill and four quarters each week. Then, their children put .25 in God's, .25 in Savings, and $1.50 in Spending. We absolutely believe that the actual "amount" is a personal decision and we are called to simply "give generously" (See 2 Corinthians 8 - 9) and so that is how we try to do it!
Some more details:
We made sure to say we were "giving BACK" to God - to emphasize that all we have is because God has allowed us to have it, so we can generously give out of the gratefulness of all He has first given us.
Before leaving the house for church on Sundays, we'd ask them if they had their Bibles and their offering. As they grew, it was their responsibility to remember to bring both!
We never gave our children money from our pockets to give to the offering at church - so they could have the satisfaction (or maybe a bit of angst to work through?) of it being a personal gift from them back to God.
We shut down conversations between siblings like, "How much did YOU give back to God this week?" as giving is to simply between that person and God (Matthew 6:4).
We've been married over 10 years now and we continue to share with our children how our generous God continues to provide for our every need. They see we can give to those who ask of us (Matthew 5:42) without worrying that we won't have enough! We can show them that while it is wise to save money (Proverbs 22:3), we know that money in the bank doesn't provide our security - GOD does!
Our two boys are 13 and 14 years old now and are growing in their generosity. They still get a bi-monthly commission to teach them to appropriately manage money: They schedule, ride their bikes to, and pay for their own hair cuts; they use their own money to buy gifts for friends when going to a birthday party; if they want something special for themselves or others, they save up for it to buy with their own money.
In addition to their commission, they both look for opportunities to help others in our neighborhood and church family (and earn money). They have both done babysitting, and our younger son has cut grass, pulled weeds, sold things on Ebay, and recently has been collecting "scrap metal" to take to the junkyard for cash (and I am not even kidding)! Every time either of them earn money, we make sure to praise them for their hard work, thanking God that He gave them the strength and character to care for their future families in such a way, and ask how much they'd like to put into their savings accounts. We don't have to remind them to bring their offerings to church anymore, they just do it.
I do have a confession to make though: From time to time I check our church's record of "Family Giving" and the boys ARE giving generously - even though they don't always remember every week. I am super encouraged by the work our God is doing in their lives and would love to hear about how it's going in your family life! Leave me a comment to let me know!