Teaching Children to Give


Ok, so I’m a pretty dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist, which means I pretty much agree with all other Southern Baptists about two things:

  1. We will put you all the way under the water.
  2. We support the Cooperative Program.

I’m also a stewardship guy with kids. Miss E is about three years old now. I love that she’s really starting to get things. This has caused Mrs. J and I to have to kick up parenting a notch or two… thousand. Now is the time that I really have to start modeling behaviors that truly align with our values. You know, as opposed to before, right? And I’ve been thinking lately: how do I pass on lifestyle of stewardship to my kids?

My Stewardship Journey as a Child

As a child, my parents taught me by their actions and words this important truth (God owns it all). They also taught me to respond to this truth through giving.

When I was a child, our church would provide for each member of our family offering envelopes. We each had our box with our number on it (mine was 18 for what seemed like forever). Every Saturday my parents would give me a couple of quarters or a dollar bill to put in the envelope. This became such a consistent part of my childhood that I can still remember running up to Mom or Dad, saying “I need some quarters for my offering.”

That’s how I remember always calling it: my offering. Most every Sunday, as we left to go to church, one of them would ask us: “Do you have your Bible? Do you have your offering?” And most Sundays I would dutifully hand in my offering during Sunday School or put it in the plate as it passed.

We did this over and over again. This pattern is a deep grove in my childhood, the beginning of my stewardship.

So, I’ve been thinking: how do I pass it on?

Stewardship. Passing It On

Passing on stewardship habits across the generations has been one of the greatest struggles for the church and parents alike. I see the same problem in the nonprofits – parents struggle to pass on a legacy of giving. Why? We don’t teach our children to value what we value. While we may say that we value something, it’s only when we put action to our words that shows what we truly value.

The simplest starting point for passing on stewardship to children is to teach them to give offerings. Yes, you read that correctly – not just giving, but giving offerings. Our offerings are are not merely to the church, but are ultimately to the Lord. It’s time to put away the idea that we are only giving to an institution.

Teaching our kids to value stewardship and the worship we experience through giving offerings takes practice. Much like writing our ABCs, teaching children to give means that sometimes we take their hands in ours and help them put a dollar bill into an envelope. It means that when the plate is passed, we lower it for them to put their offering in. It means that we lift them up to where they can put an envelope into a benevolence box. It means every Sunday we ask them, “do you have your Bible and your offering?”

Stewardship has at its core an element of cultivation. It is our responsibility to show them how to make offerings to the Lord and provide them with opportunities.

Dusting Off The Envelopes

This is the simplest way I know how to teach kids to give offerings. It’s the way I learned:

  1. Gather up a stack of envelopes, some quarters or dollar bills, and some pen(cil)s.
  2. Sit down with your kids around the table.
  3. Have your kids write “Thank you, Jesus” on the envelopes.
  4. Give them their offering, and have them seal their offering in their envelope.
  5. Bring kids and offerings to church, and have them put it in the plate/basket/accepted-receptacle-of-choice at the appropriate time.
  6. Do it again.
  7. And again.
  8. And again until they remind you when you forget.

Your routine with your little ones may not look like this – that’s ok. What’s important is to pick a way, and stick with it until it becomes a rhythm in your worship patterns. As parents, it’s our job to show our children how to worship through offerings just as it is our job to teach them to sing praises, wash their hands, and write their ABCs. Someone is going to take our children’s hands into theirs and show them what to do with money. Let it be us, the parents.

Learning From A Tantruming Child

This is the Doctor. He's a 2,000 year old alien and goes gallivanting about through time and space. He's also got some major PTSD and knows a thing or two about a tantruming child.

This is the Doctor. He’s a 2,000 year old alien and goes gallivanting about through time and space. He’s also got some major PTSD and knows a thing or two about a tantruming child.

First of all, this is not a post about Miss E. Secondly, this isn’t a post about X number of steps to magically calm a tantrum (secret: there aren’t any). Third, if you haven’t seen this week’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Zygon Inversion”, you may be able to infer spoilers from this post even though I’m not really discussing the plot. Fourth, I do include some steps for dealing with a tantrum, but it may not be what you expect.

At one point, near the climax of the episode, the phrase “tantruming child” comes up. We’ve all seen it. A child doesn’t get their way and various displays of irrational behavior ensue, mostly of the anger variety. Which means, of course, that we’ve all seen plenty of ways and theories on how to deal with tantrums. I’m not going to lie: I’m still figuring out the whole tantruming child thing. And I don’t mean Miss E.

The Tantruming Child

At one point, the Doctor asks the “tantruming child” for what they want. Immediately, after getting an answer, he all but spits it back in their face and rather pointed states that “like every other tantruming child, you don’t know what you want.”

Is that true?

At first glance, that seems not entirely correct. Of course a tantruming child knows what they want. However, there might be a nugget of wisdom here. One of the first things we learned in Economics is that people don’t want a good or service for the sake of possessing it. We want what we want because of the benefits we think it will bring to us. Except, we don’t always know what those “benefits” will be.

In this respect, children aren’t any different. They see something they want. They think it will bring about a certain result, and then they pitch a fit when they don’t get it. Now replace the word “children” with “humans.” Read it again.

The Bible repeatedly refers to Christians as “children of God.” Not “adults of God” or “trustees of God” or “knights of God” or some other name. Children.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Jesus told us that we must have faith like a child. He told us that the Father cares for us as children. Paul and John referred to people they had discipled as children. There’s nothing wrong with child-likeness.

But even as adults, we still struggle with that inner tantruming child. Think about it. What do we do when we don’t get our way? Complain about God. Complain about each other. We get jealous. We pout (which is just a quiet tantrum, really). We sabotage. We try to get what we want some other way — with all of its unintended consequences and heartache. We’re just a bit more subtle than throwing ourselves on the floor.

Watching the Doctor talk down a “tantruming child” made me think about my own trigger points. What causes me to sulk? What causes me to act bitter? What is my reaction to God withholding something from me? Ultimately, they all come down to a lack of faith. The whole “waiting on God” thing grates against my desire for instant gratification. And the anger? Well, it just clouds my vision and generally prevents me from making any semblance of a good choice.

So What Do I Do When I Feel It Coming On?

  1. Breathe.
  2. Allow myself to feel the anger, disappointment, etc.
  3. Pinpoint what exactly angered/disappointed me.
  4. Don’t allow myself to feel the anger, disappointment, etc. indefinitely.
  5. Pray (With an attitude of “Not my will, but Yours be done” and a view of God’s sovereignty).
    1. Repent often and as needed (My anger is most often my fault).
  6. Forgive (Even if they didn’t do anything wrong or don’t need to be forgiven).

And I think to myself quite often: If I can keep doing this myself, maybe I can teach Miss E and her (hopefully someday) future siblings the same.

Man, this self-control thing is hard.


Our 4 Rules For Posting Family Pictures

IMG_20151025_152607I love taking pictures of my family. I love sharing pictures of my family. My cellphone has become a proverbial wallet with the flowing picture stack. Often my first instinct is to post some cute thing that Miss E has done. But 99% of the time, I don’t actually do it. Unlike a wallet, a digital post is instantly accessible by the myriad of people who can see my different social media accounts which isn’t just the people I’m connected with online, but also the employees of the different services that I use. Unlike a wallet, multiple digital versions of a photo instantly come into existence the nanosecond I upload that photo. Unlike a wallet, uploaded photos are nigh-impossible to destroy completely.

The Digital Wild

The digital world is wild and filled with trolls which unfortunately do not turn into stone during the day. Be that as it may, we cannot keep our children out of the world, digital or otherwise, and expect them to know how to deal with the dangers lurking in the shadows of the mountains.

Here’s the reality of the digital wild:

  1. Memes can quite suddenly come from anywhere. When something goes viral, there’s no taking that back. Even though memes fade, a person will be connected to it for a very long time (kind of like a one-hit wonder).
  2. There are people who take publicly accessible photos and manipulate them into some pretty heinous garbage. To be frank, I don’t want my kids image to be exploited, especially by pornographers.
  3. We want our kids to be able to grow up with as little digital baggage as possible. We understand that our children will be among the most quantified and digitized generation that has ever existed. In the interest of what little privacy our children will have, we want to make sure that they don’t have the burden of having every success, failure, happiness, tantrum, sick day, sadness, and other intimate moments follow them throughout their lives in HDR detail for every employer, potential spouse, friends, and enemies to see.

Mrs. Jones and I know that we can’t keep our kids out of the digital world. Barring some fantastical series of events that send us back to the 19th century, the digital world is here to stay.

So, Here’s Our 4 Rules For Posting Family Pictures

  1. Our children must always be dressed.
  2. Our children must always have an adult in the photo with them.
  3. The photo should be in as public of a space as possible.
  4. We ask parents of other kids who may be in our photos with us if it’s alright to post, and we really, really appreciate it when you ask us the same.

We decided these rules before Miss E was born. They work for us because we often struggle to catch up to our various social media providers ever-changing privacy policies. Instead of trying to create a complicated curation system based on who can see what and where, we thought about it more from the perspective of “would this be ok to post on a bulletin board.”

I’m not saying you should do what we do for your family. I just thought you might would like to see why we do it.

Adventures in Fatherhood #2 | Snow Day

Ice and sleet in north Texas equals Snow Day! Of course a snow day with an almost toddler is a bit different than what I remember before I had a family. But that’s OK. Those days of lazy days off were fun, but these days are far better (even if more tiring). Taking a cue from my post “Why Vacations Are Important,” I decided to use my Snow Day as mini-vacation time to rest, reflect, and realign. These are my conclusions as the dad of an almost toddler: [Read more…]

Adventures in Fatherhood #1 | It’s Never Just a Cold

I saw this poor horse as we were walking through our apartment complex. It perfectly describes our week: "Well... that's not what I meant to happen."

I saw this poor horse as we were walking through our apartment complex. It perfectly describes our week: “Well… that’s not what I meant to happen.”

It was bound to happen sooner or later: Miss E finally caught something fun. Hers and mine allergies seemed to be synced, so we’re familiar with the odd restless night and 4am dance party. But this time things were different: I felt fine, and she did not.

First off, let me say that this post is not a ploy for pity, but just a bit of a reflection on true love. I say true love because things became gross… and viscous. If you know me, you know that I while I can handle clutter, I don’t do gooey… or sticky… or bodily fluids.

So, yeah… it’s never just a cold. I’ll spare you the specifics.

But I’ll be the first one to admit that if babies weren’t so cute, I would be concerned for our survival as a species. Thankfully, they are cute. Because cuteness, like love, covers a multitude of sins… and stains. [Read more…]