Cheerful giving can start in childhood

Tags: Missionary Care, Story, US Office

By Anna McShane, SEND Communications — Back in the dark ages, when both my husband and I were very, very young, there was a family ritual that we found out later we shared. We each were given ten pennies a week for allowance. Those ten pennies were laid out in a row, and there was typically a little ritual lecture that came with them, “One of these pennies belongs to the Lord, one goes in your savings bank, and you can do whatever you like with the other eight.”

Ten pennies was a ticket to some very fun items – for me it was usually a new Matchbox car to add to my collection. But if one penny went to the Lord and one to savings, I had to wait two weeks to get that car. Clutching my dime, I’d leave my mom in the supermarket and trot next door to the hardware and make my selection. Some weeks it might be something other than a little car, but whatever – 8 cents a week was mine, but 1 cent was the Lord’s and the other 1 cent went into the bank.

Yeah. Things were CHEAP.

But interestingly, the principle remained deeply imbedded in both our minds: 10 percent goes out first to the Lord, 10 percent to savings. In our years of marriage, the 10 percent has often been more, but I don’t think it’s ever been less. (By the way: We aren’t as remarkable as the older couple we knew who started at 10 percent their first year of marriage, and then added another percentage each year of marriage. They were married more than 60 years; at the end, they were giving more than 60 percent of their income to the Lord.)

Times have changed

But it seems to me that things have changed. Last week, I took shoes to church for a shoe drive, money to go to missions. In the lobby was a jewelry sale, money to missions. Neither of these activities are wrong; in fact, they are great. Many of us have too many shoes, and if the sale of them can raise money AND put shoes on someone with none, that’s positively biblical. I like Go Fund Me and crowd-raising and car washes — but one-time fund-raisers shouldn’t replace habitual, consistent, generous giving to the Lord.

The loss of a giving mentality causes global missions to suffer. Ask younger global workers who their strongest financial supporters are – and they will probably list their parents’ friends or their grandparents’ friends. People who still look at 10 pennies and put one aside for the Lord and one into savings. People who commit to 10 percent and then up the ante each year till they hit 60 percent.

Funny thing. Those people never seem to feel deprived. They just love giving.

Ideas for developing cheerful giving in your children

Anna’s parents taught her to tithe when she was a wee child. Here are some ideas that other SEND families have used to develop generosity in their children.

Make it easy to set some aside: Anna’s parents could have given her a shiny dime each week — but a dime’s hard to split into 10 parts! If your child gets $5 a week, go with four dollar bills and four quarters. (Bonus: Kids get a little math lesson with their generosity lesson.) If you don’t want to worry about carting two quarters to church every week, consider investing in a piggy bank like this one or save your own pennies by grabbing a few used jars and making your own. The important thing is that the child can see her gift growing. When the jar’s full, let her trade in her quarters and drop her own bills into the offering.  

Pay enough that the child can both give and spend: Matchbox cars don’t cost 10 cents anymore. Hardly anything costs 10 cents anymore! Make sure that your child’s allowance (or payment for chores, or however you end up getting money into your kids' hands) isn’t so small that they develop a scarcity mentality. A 10-year-old can practice self-control and save up over the course of weeks or months for a hotly desired toy, but that would be tough going for a 4-year-old — so they might feel tempted to dip into their tithe.

Model giving: Children notice what their parents do. Of course, we don’t advocate bragging about your tithing, but is it OK for your children to know that you give to the Lord, too. Let them drop the check in the offering plate. As you teach your children about money, mention that you base your weekly budget on what’s left after your own giving and savings. If you give to individual missionaries or ministries, let the kids know that, too.

Sponsor a child: Seeing your sponsored child’s photo on the fridge every day emphasizes the importance of following through on your financial promises. Talk with your own children about how your sponsored child relies on your consistent giving.

Pray for the missionaries you support: “In my family growing up, we had breakfast together every day. My parents would pull out a newsletter, and then we would pray for the missionary,” says SEND’s Amy Walters. “It’s easier to give to a missionary when you feel connected, and prayer connects us.” 

Encouraging note: Young children might not understand the idea of money just yet, but most of them understand the joy of giving away their own artwork! Older children can write notes or emails. (Bonus: Kids get a little writing lesson with their generosity lesson.) This is another way to connect children with global workers — and it’s easier to consistently give when you feel connected.