'Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.'
2 Corinthians 9:7
This well-known verse shows that generosity starts with the heart: the deeper our understanding of God’s generous character, the deeper we will feel called and moved to share our time, talents, and resources with others. If we want to teach our children about giving, first and foremost we can help them to recognise God’s generosity in sending Jesus to die for us. Once they have grasped God’s wholehearted love and mercy, we can nurture them in developing a true and selfless desire to show generosity to others.
'Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.'
Children learn by observing the actions of those around them, so as parents, carers and youth leaders we try to model sacrificial giving of the talents and blessings God has given us.
The tradition of the collection plate made financial giving to churches visible and tangible and for me, it impressed an understanding that giving money to the local church was an important part of our weekly worship. As a child I recall watching with fascination as the large wooden dish glided perfectly from pew to pew, with stewards providing a helping hand to negotiate a row change. I would observe how the church family placed their offering envelopes on the plate, whilst children and visitors dropped an assortment of coins and perhaps the odd note, as their turn came to make their offering. We would then thank God that we were able to give as a church and prayerfully request that God use the money to grow his Kingdom.
Fast forward 30 years and collection plates are, in many churches, a thing of the past, and in churches where they still had a place, the pandemic has put an abrupt end to their use. For good reasons we are now encouraged to give online: it allows better planning, there are tax benefits and it’s more efficient. So how, in an age of online giving, do we model generosity and teach our kids to be good and generous stewards of what they have?
Here are a few practical suggestions that may help us to think about how we tackle this issue:
- Regularly set aside time to look at our own giving, making sure we are giving in a responsible and prayerful way.
- Share details and thoughts about our financial giving with the children in our care. Taking time to explain who we give to and why have we chosen to support them.
- Help children to engage with those we support. If your church supports other local churches or overseas missionaries, try to connect with them on a personal level. Encourage children to send cards and letters to mission partners, put up photos in your home or around your church to serve as a reminder of who you give to.
- Youth leaders could consider the possibility of reintroducing a collection plate in youth groups, providing an opportunity for weekly teaching on giving.
- Start discussions about the different ways we can be generous to others. Use mealtimes, prayer and bedtimes to speak about how God has been abundantly generous in his provision.
- Read and discuss specific Bible passages with children that speak on generosity, such as:
- The Widow’s Offering – Luke 21:1-4
- The Rich and the Kingdom of God – Matthew 19:16-30
- The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
- Elijah and the Widow – 1 Kings 17:7-16
As we seek to model generosity, we always remember that it is seen supremely at the cross, where Jesus willingly gave his life so that sinners like us can have forgiveness, reconciliation and the certainty of eternal life with our Father. We can be praying that our children’s acceptance of this truth is what spurs them on to a lifetime of generous giving.