Our congregations are committed to the spiritual development of children and youth, and we partner with families to inculcate values of compassion and justice. But I wonder how often we take time to actually examine how are we “forming” generous human beings?
Do we talk openly about money and connect giving to mission? Do we engage all ages in the exercise of sharing resources? Hampered by Covid precautions, when many churches are not passing a plate from hand to hand, do we set aside our time of offering in worship as a sacred and faithful act of generosity? Our call is to nurture disciples who care for the needs of others. As faith formation leaders, we seek to help children and youth develop skills of discipleship. When children witness generosity in action, they are more likely to internalize the value of selflessness.
Just like prayer, service, and worship, generosity is a spiritual discipline. It is a practice that can be modeled and taught, it is a habit that, with intention, can be developed over time. And, in addition to impacting those on the receiving end, it can be a doorway to a deeper spirituality for the giver. In a society that focuses on wealth accumulation as a means to happiness, we would do well to celebrate the counter-cultural promise in Isaiah 58: If you share your bread with the hungry… your light shall break forth like the dawn, your bones shall be made strong, and you shall be like a watered garden.”
Heather Price, coauthor of American Generosity: Who Gives and Why? (Oxford: 2016) comments on the importance of modeling:
In her article Tending Treasure in the Five-and-Under Set Dawn Rundman, Pd.D. urges us to examine how we model generosity and stewardship in the home and in the church with several concrete suggestions.
“Another huge predictor of giving is exposure to generosity as a child. Nothing really beats giving alongside others and talking about it. Indeed, one of the few relatively trustworthy predictors of not giving is not seeing it happen in one’s family when young… Most people who participate in giving as kids, especially as volunteers, continue that habit as adults. It becomes part of their mental makeup in a powerful way.”
And what about youth? You who are youth leaders have seen the lightbulb of transformation go on when teens have participated in mission or service-learning trips. These immersion experiences help youth to expand their awareness of hunger, poverty, and oppression. Many youth groups have returned from trips with inspiration to generate local campaigns to address economic injustice.
Wayne Green writes about intentional efforts for youth philanthropy in the Jewish tradition in his article Connecting Jewish Youth to Their Faith Through Giving. He concludes with questions that are helpful for us to explore:
- In what ways does your faith tradition engage teens to give of their time or resources?
- Does your organization provide resources to parents to talk with their children and teens about giving back?
Register now and plan to join the conversation via zoom Thursday, October 21 at 4:00 to 4:45 PM.
Debby Kirk is the Faith Formation Team Leader of the Southern New England Conference. She serves on the Faith Formation Team and oversees the Youth and Young Adult Ministries programs of the Conference. She organizes leadership development programs ...