“As far as their family goes, John and Sherri are still figuring out how to pass on a legacy of generosity and to more fully invite their children and grandchildren into it. ‘Maybe we weren’t ready to,’ [John said], ‘but if I look back at it, maybe we could have started [teaching generosity] earlier with our kids and done better. We did service projects together, gave them money to give away, and did some training on finances, but we certainly could have done more.’”
-Excerpt from The Generosity Bet
As 71-year-old John Kasdorf reflects on his generosity journey, the above statement is what he said about his family’s experience with teaching generosity to his children. His thoughts carry a tone familiar to many parents—a bit of wistfulness as they wonder if there was something more they could have done to train their children. It just goes to show that passing on a legacy of generosity is hard; it doesn’t have a clear path.
As children leave the home, virtually all parents wonder if they did enough. However, there are some practical things parents can do to encourage generosity in their children:
1) Giving Piggy Banks
When children are young and receiving allowances and/or special monetary gifts for birthdays and holidays, they can be taught early budgeting. They can use three piggy banks to divide their money into spending, saving, and giving categories. This teaches them to begin having a “giving” category for their possessions.
2) Family Giving Fund
Families can establish a giving fund, which is like a charitable bank account, with a local community foundation. Not only does this provide a central location for all the family’s giving, but it also provides an immediate tax deduction and one year-end receipt for all giving done. (One such community foundation is the National Christian Foundation). But most of all, it is a vehicle that allows families to make giving decisions together.
Many families have meetings to discuss what donation requests they have received or what needs they are aware of. The meeting frequency depends on the family—some meet once a year, others quarterly, and others monthly. Based on feedback from the meeting, families give away money from their fund. Some families even have formalized giving guidelines that direct what type of causes they fund. These guidelines may be especially important for multi-generational families.
3) Christmastime Money
Some families have opted to give their children and/or grandchildren a certain amount of money at Christmastime. This money is to be given to a ministry or individual of the child’s choice. Not only does the child get to experience the joy of giving, but he also begins to identify the causes and issues he cares about as he researches the ministries he wants to support.
4) Mission Trips
Some families not only support ministries, but also visit those same ministries. Many givers will tell you that it is important to see ministry work at the ground level. Seeing real life change and real life struggles within a ministry challenges one to get involved and engaged at a heart level.
These trips could be to the local homeless shelter or to a school in Africa. Jim Blankemeyer, a business owner in Ohio, has “grandkid trips” where they take their grandchildren overseas. Not only do they visit the seminaries and pastors they support, but they also go to jails and garbage dumps to understand how much of the world lives.
5) Stuff in Closets
Giving does not have to be money. (In fact, only about 9% of the world’s wealth is in checkbooks and bank accounts—the rest of our wealth is in our possessions.) Go through closets and your garage to find items to give away to Salvation Army or other donation pickup services. Consider donating cars or business interest. Encourage your children to also go through their possessions as they de-clutter and live simpler.
6) Model Generosity
Of course, one of the most important ways to teach generosity is to model it. Even if you choose not to disclose exactly how much you’re giving away, kids need to see how you live generosity daily. And many times, this generous lifestyle does not include money—it’s about taking international students to doctors’ appointments, shoveling neighbors’ sidewalks, visiting grandparents, sharing donuts, serving at church, etc.
These are just some ideas to get you started. Your family situation and story will look different from the next person. And there is nothing wrong with that. This post isn’t to make you feel guilty for the way you have or have not done things. You get to delight in and wrestle with your own unique story.
You do not need to be wealthy or even have any extra change in order to be generous. Generosity is a lifestyle, a frame of mind. It is about living and doing well with everything God has entrusted you—with your time, your talents, and your treasure.
The point of this is to challenge you to think about the values you want to leave to your children. And if indeed generosity is one of them, how will you pass that value on? It has to start somewhere. Where will you start?
In the end, we’re just called to be faithful to the task and path God has set before us. Even if we did a perfect job teaching and modeling generosity, children still have to choose for themselves how they are going to live. At some point, we have to trust that we did the best we could, but God ultimately has the power to shape and capture our children’s hearts.
For more ideas and encouragement for your own generosity journey, order “The Generosity Bet” today!