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A Dad’s View on Generosity

A few days ago, I wrote a post titled Generosity Can’t Be Taught. It stimulated a great conversation on Facebook about whether generosity and sharing are the same thing. We teach a kid to share, right? So why can’t we teach them generosity?

My friend, Bill Zimmer, who I respect greatly as a dad and husband, shared these words:

We started teaching sharing, then we explain why that is important, then we point out to the kids the results when they do. Lots and lots of those moments over time lead to the generosity of sharing as an adult. My kids started tithing when they were four. It wasn’t much with their $1 a week allowance but they did it. My son had an odd look on his face and finally asked how God was going to get in the church to get his money. What a teaching moment. We talked about how he is helping support the church. Lots of those moments led to more saving and they now donate toys to the shelter, books to Monroe Circle Community Center, and we as a family save and sacrifice to save lives and support baby girls in India who would otherwise die because they were born female.

It was a process starting with sharing when they were two. At ten now they are coming to us with ideas of who they can help with their money. I wonder how many humans are born generous? I know in our house we were intentional with the process. We let the kids watch us serve and included them when we gave (time or money). We explained why it was important and let them see the results. I remember a couple of months ago me and daughter were at McDonalds on the west side. I noticed a man outside (very cold) going up to everybody leaving. I didn’t see him when we were ready to go but when we left, he was outside. My daughter stood behind me as I spoke to the man. He asked for food money. I spoke to him several minutes and found out he suffered from severe mental illness. I had choices to buy the food or give the money or walk away and do nothing. I gave him money even though I’m pretty sure he didn’t buy food. I chose to do so because my daughter was there. The dialog I had with my daughter the next several days was amazing. We talked about the dangers and risks, Biblical principles of giving, the compassion he needed, homelessness, mental illness, the possible results including that he might buy drugs, about how God blesses us and we need to share, etc. She still asks me questions about that night. For me, I was very intentional to build on years of teaching and even though there have been some surprises, the results have been awesome. The key for us is to show our kids the why. Once they understand why, once they understand the need, once they understand they can help, the rest starts to come easier and easier.

I love Bill’s heart and his example in modeling for his kids.

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Tim Stevens served as the executive pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, for twenty years before joining Vanderbloemen Search Group as the Director of the Executive Search Consultant Team where he helps churches and ministries around the world find their key staff. Tim has a passion for the local church and equipping leaders with practical advice and tools about church staffing and church leadership. He has co-authored three books with Tony Morgan, including Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and Simply Strategic Growth, and authored three books of his own, including Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace. Connect with Tim at LeadingSmart.com.