Turn them loose
As our children grow older, we relax the structure. We teach our children that 33% is not a biblical standard, and that the Bible teaches that each of us is responsible for setting our own standards. At a certain point, allow your children to determine their gift amounts. It’s healthy for them to wrestle with these decisions.
When Austin was 14, he made quite a haul shoveling driveways during an extraordinary snowstorm. With nearly $200 cash in his hands, he struggled with his giving formula. When he had much less and his purchasing ability was smaller, it was easier for him to give abundantly. But when he had more idle cash, and more things on his mind to buy, he found it more challenging to give increasingly so.
It was a great lesson for him – at a young age he learned about the same healthy tension that we wrestle with as adults. This tension mirrors the giving patterns of the world today. Statistics show that the wealthy give less, as a percentage of income, than the middle and lower class who depend on more limited incomes.
You can experiment with the right age for helping your children explore these financial freedoms. Keep in mind, there are no rules.
Encourage them to read about givers
Cade just turned 12 years old. Next summer I will offer him the book reading deal like I did with Austin several years ago. This is when I pay my children to read an assortment of books about various faith heroes – and legendary givers, too. I make the offer a lucrative one. They like to read, but an incentive helps. A little cash does wonders for their enthusiasm.
Among this list includes books such as The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, Stanley Tam’s Incredible Adventures with God by Stanley Tam, and The Autobiography of George Muller. These books can spark good conversation. More importantly, they get the juices flowing in their hearts as they begin to experience giving situations of their own.
I also recommend a classic, The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. Although not a faith-based message, it does present some timeless financial truths my children will learn later in life. This book also allows me to discuss with them the difference between the world’s perspective and God’s perspective of money. I explain to them that sometimes we may give at the expense of what the world calls financial security. I explain that when biblical wisdom runs counter to worldly wisdom, faith enters into the equation.
Engage them in your giving
Of course one of the best ways to teach your children to give is for them to see it played out in real life.
The doorbell rang one afternoon and Austin followed me to the door. He was 11 years old at the time. Greeting us at the door was a young lady in a motorized wheelchair, a quadriplegic. Her name was Melissa, and she was raising money for a mission trip to Germany. It was one of those unusual but divine encounters in which I sensed that we would do something.
After listening to her appeal (she needed $900), Austin and I stepped back inside. I shared with him the situation. I explained that we could do nothing… or that we could give all that she needed. I wanted him to understand the full scope of options.