Passing on Generosity for Generations
By Amanda DeWitt
No matter who you are or where you live, you can leave a legacy of faith
“Give me!” It seems to be one of the first phrases young children learn. And it tempts us even into adulthood. “Give it to me now” is a motto many people live by well into their young adult lives.
Generosity goes against our nature. But when we understand God’s heart in it and learn to express it to others, we discover the paradoxical blessing of it — it is better to give than receive.
Here are five ways you can pass on generosity and impact generations to come:
1. Model Generous, Joyful Giving
Generosity is caught as well as taught. Even before you can have in-depth conversations with your young children about generosity, you can model it for them.
Let your children, no matter their age, see you meeting the tangible needs of others. Keep it simple and genuine. Tithe to your local church each month. Donate basic supplies to your local food bank or shelter. Pay a bill for a struggling family.
When you see a need that you can meet, do it joyfully. Avoid complaining or talking about how you could use the money elsewhere. Instead let your children see that you trust God to meet your needs and find joy in helping others.
2. Answer the “Why” Questions
Our children need to see us practicing generosity. But they also need to understand the principles behind why we give.
Explain how giving reflects God’s character (John 3:16; Luke 6:34-35). We give because He gave everything to us. We see His generosity revealed in Jesus’ life and sacrifice. And we experience His kindness daily as He meets our needs. Out of a grateful heart for all He has done, we give to others so they too may know His goodness.
Teach trust (Philippians 4:10-21). Generosity is an expression of gratitude rooted in trust. If we want to freely give to others with a joyful heart, we must first trust God to meet our needs. Start small, like with tithing. As you experience God’s faithfulness, your trust to give more grows. Over time you learn that even when you give sacrificially, He will always provide.
Talk about stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30). When we understand that God owns everything and has entrusted certain things to us, it loosens our grip on what we possess. We give not what we worked hard to earn, but what God has graciously entrusted to us. Out of His abundant kindness, we give to others so their needs are also met.
Giving is not easy for any of us, especially when we are just starting out. But when you model generosity and teach your children the principles behind it, it becomes easier for them to trust God to meet their needs even as they play a role in meeting the needs of others.
3. Teach Financial Stewardship
Young children learn best through experience. So look for tangible ways to teach your children about giving to others.
Early on, teach children to tithe their allowance — encourage them to take 10 percent of what they earn and give it away. During back-to-school or Christmas time, pack a backpack or shoebox for a child in need. Go through a gift catalog and pick out items you would like to give as a family Christmas gift. Be sure to let you children purchase an item or contribute a few coins from their piggy bank.
Keep going as your children get older. When they get their first job, take them to open a bank account. Talk about practical ways they can save and give. A good starting point is to encourage them to give 10 percent, save 10 percent, and utilize the rest for their wants and needs. As they grow let them slowly take over expenses like car insurance, car payments, or their cell phone bill.
4. Be a Sounding Board for Financial Decisions
You are never done being a parent, grandparent, or teacher. Even adults need sound financial counsel. They also need a safe space to receive it.
Once your children are grown, lead with listening. Let them come to you with questions. Do not give easy answers, but help them think through their choices and come to their own conclusions. After you have listened and discussed, then offer counsel or suggestions if they are open to it.
5. Give Together
Why not making giving a family tradition? It is never too late to start giving together, even if your children are grown.
One Unto® partner recently shared how they make giving a big part of their family’s Thanksgiving celebration. While everyone is gathered together, they decide — with their adult children — what ministry they will support for the year. The parents’ goal is to train their children to make wise giving choices while they are still around to guide them. What a beautiful picture of how giving can grow with your family and be passed on and handed down.
Whether you are leading young children, teens, or adults, your influence lasts a lifetime. With time and intentionality you can teach the ones you love to live out their faith by practicing generosity — impacting generations to come.
You can ensure ministry continues for years to come!
What if you could maximize the impact of your giving by sustaining ministry efforts that relieve suffering, restore dignity, and reveal hope in the toughest places on earth?
Unto hosted the “Legacy Giving: How to Make a Gift Today That Can Outlive You” webinar October 27, 2020. Watch the replay to learn how you can leave a legacy of kindness by investing in the Maximum Impact Endowment Fund.
Published October 16, 2020
Amanda is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Gift for Leadership, Kindred Spirit, and Christianity Today publications. She holds a M.A. in Media and Communication from Dallas Theological Seminary.