Nothing can get people more animated than beginning a discussion about money. Or poverty. Or God’s views on the two. Yet scripture after scripture talks about how God wants His people to care for the poor. Whatever your personal interpretation, I believe kids benefit from understanding the realities of poverty. The scriptures also make it clear God expects us to be good stewards of the blessings He gives us. The money your kids will be given and earn during their lifetimes is one of those blessings. Teaching stewardship should also begin early.
The average full time worker making minimum wage in the U.S. takes home about $300 a week. Let’s be generous and raise that up to $500 a week. Let’s pretend she’s a single mom with two kids and like 2/3 of single moms, receives no financial help from the children’s dad. You can make the rest of the activity simple or difficult depending upon the age of your kids and how much time and money you have to spend.
Here are some of the things you can do to help your kids “become” this fictional mom to better understand God’s views on stewardship and our responsibility to help others.
- Give the mom a deeper backstory. Research or have your kids research a typical scenario. Maybe she was a foster child growing up and moving from home to home, meaning she received a sub-standard education. Perhaps her husband died and left her with unpaid bills and no insurance. Maybe she came from poverty herself and was never taught how to get a good job, budget her money or other skills that would have helped improve her situation. If you have time, you can examine the issue from multiple angles. The reality is that poverty isn’t one story or problem easily addressed. Each person in poverty has a slightly different story and issues with which they need help.
- Give the kids an idea of all the items your family has to pay for in a particular month. Then given their fictional person’s finances and situation, have them research how to meet those “needs” and wants on the amount of money she brings home each month. This is also a great way to begin teaching your kids about budgeting.
- Give your kids your grocery list from an average week. Have them search ads and look for coupons, then take them grocery shopping. Can they beat the amount you normally spend? Obviously someone who is poor has a lot less money to spend on food. How could they make changes in what they did and still serve healthy, filling meals to their fictional family?
- Make it real. Give them the reduced amount you estimate someone on the poverty income level (not eligible for food stamps) has to spend on food. Challenge them to buy as much healthy food as they can that will feed their fictional family well. Then take their purchases and donate them to a church or shelter who provides food to those who are struggling. With older children, you can also discuss the concept of the non-poverty poor. These are families who may have better jobs, but because of medical expenses, job loss, car trouble and other problems are still struggling to feed, clothe and care for their families. These families often receive little if any help from any social justice groups. Your family may choose a family like that whom you know and leave anonymous gifts of items like food, cleaning supplies, school supplies, etc. for them over the course of several weeks or months.
- Find all of the scriptures in the Bible about caring for the poor. Read stories of people like Boaz who did what they could to help those around them who were struggling. What do your kids think God wants us to do after we read all of these verses and stories in the Bible? What are some practical ways your family can continue helping others on a regular basis?
As the Bible says, we will always have poor people in this world. It doesn’t say we can ignore them though. It also makes it clear it’s important we teach our kids how to be good stewards of their own money and generous with their assistance to others less fortunate. So have some fun teaching those important biblical concepts to your kids. It’s a lesson they won’t soon forget.