One of the basic tenants of Christianity is doing good works. The New Testament Christians weren’t know for just donating a portion of their excess to the poor and others….they shared everything they had – generously. That attitude is easier to have if you were raised in such a way that generosity is part of your identity.
Teaching your kids Bible stories like the Good Samaritan and the Widow’s Mite as well as the many scriptures about giving and serving will give them a strong foundation. There are some habits you can establish as a family that will also encourage your kids to have a generous heart and think of others before themselves.
- Seasonal clothing. Kids grow overnight it seems. Often families have a habit of sorting through clothing at the end of every season. Get in the habit of donating the outgrown clothing to others. Have your children help launder and repair items so they are in top condition. Let them choose the ministry or charity to whom they donate. Want to up your game? Work together to earn the money to buy a couple of brand new seasonal items to donate as well.
- Toys. Our family for several generations has had the rule that when new toys come into the home on birthdays and Christmas, old ones had to leave. Once again, have your children clean and repair toys. Let them choose the ministry or charity to which they donate the items (Check first as some only take new items.). I’m not a fan of making kids give up all of their birthday presents for charity, as I think it can backfire and cause resentment. There are always one or two gifts that are received that aren’t particularly popular with the recipient. Or they may get too many items. It can be one way to introduce the concept of tithing – giving a percentage of everything received back to God. Choosing one or two new items to donate from their birthday or Christmas “haul” may be a great way to encourage giving while not asking them to sacrifice every single present.
- Food. If you’ve ever asked children to participate in a canned food drive, you are well aware you get boxes filled with canned beets and other unpopular foods! Why not encourage food sharing by letting your kids grow food and donate some or all of it? Many places that provide groceries to those who are food insecure don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Even a little will be welcomed. If you don’t have a yard, look into container gardening. You can grow quite a bit of produce in pots.
- Time. It is a rare family that intentionally sets aside a certain number of hours that is the minimum time they will spend serving others each week. Doing so, however, can help your kids learn to be observant of the needs of others and encourage them to create margin in their schedules so they have the time to help those who need it. Find different ways to use that service time….sometimes serving your church and other times, the community or on a mission trip. Encourage your kids to suggest ways to use your service time each week….they may just surprise you!
- Talents. Your kids may just be discovering and developing the gifts God gave them to serve others. They can still use them now in service – even if it is only helping someone with a similar gift work on a project. If you and your spouse don’t have a similar gift, find an adult in your church who would welcome the extra help and be willing to mentor your child who is similarly gifted by God.
Making these five things family habits that are repeated year after year for your kids’ entire childhood, will make them firmly engrained habits. They will become as much a part of their identity as their last name or your other family traditions. And what better family traditions and legacy to have?!