Is Generosity a Life Skill? Should it be?

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As a homeschooling parent, I know you want your children to be well-educated. They should know the 3Rs, be able to think critically, have a clear understanding of their world and more.

At Sonlight, we add "learn to be generous" to that list. Is that a proper function of education?

I think it is.

Sonlight student with bread
Sonlight student Gracie L bakes bread to share

Jesus taught us to be extravagantly generous with the story of the widow who gave her last small coins to the Lord's service. (See Mark 12:42-43.)

Therefore, we partner with various mission agencies to train our children to give, and give joyfully. Sonlight families, children and friends recently raised $157,487.14 to share the Good News through radio broadcasts via the Phoenix Phaxx project. With the matching grant, the total amount comes to $314,974.28. I couldn't be more grateful for both the money raised and the heart attitude demonstrated.

A key reason we host these projects is to help children learn to be generous. Studies show that generous people are more joyful. But, generosity also helps prepare children to do whatever God calls them to do. How?

When we model cheerful giving, we show children that we don't "own" money. When we tithe at church, bring meals to a needy family, or support missionaries, we demonstrate that we are stewards of the resources God gives us, that we are responsible to God for how we use our money. When children are allowed to give of their own limited resources, those lessons get written on their hearts.

One way we've helped teach our children a right attitude for money is to use the "envelope system." When John and I would give our children an allowance (which didn't happen as regularly as it should have) we taught them to divide it up. We explained that 10% needed to go in the saving envelope, at least 10% in the giving one, and then they could spend the rest with joy.

I believe the concrete lesson of financial stewardship can extend outward to other areas. By showing our children that a portion belongs to God's work, our children see that their money does not belong to them, but to God. From there, you can teach that their time (a different kind of resource) also belongs to God. God has bigger plans for their time than just their own pleasure.

This foundation can support the lesson that our children's entire lives belong to God. God entrusts them with time, personality, talents and resources. He gives them a call to follow. And they are responsible for stewarding their life to live it fully for God.

For we were created to serve God. We find great joy and purpose when we do so. When we give children the chance to bless others with their money, we give them a chance to experience the great joy of living for something beyond themselves.

So I'm curious: How can we do this more effectively? How can parents better teach generosity? The almost-annual Sonlight giving projects such as Phoenix Phaxx and My Passport to India provide great opportunities, but what can parents do the rest of the year? Have you had success with anything? Should Sonlight do something year-round?

I'd really love to hear your thoughts.

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