Capturing the Hearts and Imaginations of our Children

Five-year-old Josiah Duncan of Prattville, Alabama was recently taken aback when he saw a homeless man come into the local Waffle House.  Naturally, he did what five-year-old kids do…stare and start asking his mom questions. 

All of us who have children have been in similar situations.  We tell them not to stare, because it’s rude.  We ask them to speak quietly, because their questions might be offensive (or embarrassing to us).  And that’susually where these encounters come to a close.  We walk away with out children … still staring … and quietly wondering about human suffering. 

But, Josiah wouldn’t let his mom walk away so easily.  He asked if they could buy the man a meal.  And when his mom obliged, he jumped into action.  Josiah approached the man and made sure he had a menu.  As the food arrived and 11 other patrons looked on, he sang a blessing over the food; “God our Father, God our Father, we thank you.  We thank you, for our many blessings, for our many blessings.  Amen.  Amen.”

The homeless man and others sat wiping away the tears.

I tell that story because of a new trend we are seeing at GenerousChurch.  Recently, we updated our church assessment that plots where congregations stand on the Generosity Ladder.  As part of that update, we included one potential answer that has received significant attention.  Over and over again, congregations are telling us that one of their biggest concerns is teaching their children “the basics” about the relationship between faith and generosity.

So, how do we capture the hearts and imaginations of our children on this subject…especially when they all seem to enter the world with a bent toward selfishness?

Ironically, at almost the same time that Josiah’s story was hitting the national news, another story about
children was being penned.  Christian author Ann Voskamp had spent some time in Iraq and had literally looked evil in the face.  As a result, she wrote about the lives of the young girls and mothers who were being brutalized by ISIS.  She says,

You can walk into any mall and buy a pair of NIKE running shoes for what they are buying a Christian or Yezidi girl from 1-9 years of age — $172 dollars. And she’s yours. For whatever you want, for as long as you want, to make do whatever you want. Sit with that. Yeah, we’re all done living in a world where a pair of shoes can last longer, have more worth, be treated with more value, than a fondled, raped and discarded 9 year-old-girl.

The United Nations reports this week that at least one young girl’s been “married” over 20 times — and forced at the end of each violation to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.

So it could be ripped open and destroyed by the next highest bidder.

In times like these, those of us who are parents … parents of children who enjoy freedom, safety and relative luxury … should be more determined than ever to teach our children the basics of the relationship between faith and generosity.  Children across the globe are dependent on us getting this right.

Kindness, grace and generosity are the markers of a child of God according to Jesus.  It’s how we imitate the character of God.  So, our children desperately need to know about giving.

Our children deserve opportunities to embrace the ways of God.  They deserve something better than being told not to stare and walking away in silence.

So, how do we teach them about generosity?  Here are 3 quick suggestions:

1. Teach them that our goal is to imitate God.  It’s not enough to encourage them to be “good boys and girls.”  They need a greater purpose for their actions.  “Being good” rarely captures anyone’s heart and imagination.  “Loving and being loved,” on the other hand, is the subject of most of our world’s novels, songs, paintings and artistic pursuits.

2. Demonstrate generosity toward them and then ask them to do the same for someone else.  “God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God started our discipleship process by demonstrating generosity toward us (even before the cross).  Then, He called us to do the same for our wives, our husbands, our neighbors, our friends and even our enemies.  Therefore, we should move along the same path with our children.  First we extend generosity to them.  Then, we call them to extend it to others.

3.  Build generosity into daily life: Make it more than a special occasion event.  Teach generosity of words, generosity of forgiveness, generosity of time and generosity of possessions.  Make it holistic.  Make it a true imitation of God’s generosity…who is generous toward us with way more than just material possessions.

Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”