Thanksgiving is a perfect time to not only count your blessings, but also to share them. This season, you can open the door to a legacy of generosity by turning five, research-based keys.
In my research with more than 30,000 families, I met parents who steward budgets large and small. No matter their financial situation, parents hope their kids will grasp their blessings and escape entitlement. My research unearthed five keys to unlocking giving and growing. (They’re called the Restorey™ Principles for Serving and Growing, and received Fuller Theological Seminary’s 2017 Leadership Award. Just email me at Naomi@overtons.org for a free copy.)
You probably use some of these, just as my family (by God’s grace) stumbled into a few. See if you can spot the five keys in my story:
When my kids were elementary aged and younger, I found a helpful book and prayerfully identified my personal mission statement: “to foster healthy development so Christ’s love radically blesses generations.” But how could I live this out when I had three young kids and my husband traveled for work? Fridays were easier than weeknights and I’d sometimes make dinner with our friends down the street. I thought, ‘Why not join these friends to share both food and hope with our community?’
Our two families gained our church’s support and started a weekly gathering called ‘Family Fridays in da’ Hood’. Come Friday, we’d meet in our neighborhood for dinner, Bible study, and friendship. Once a month we’d tackle a serving project. As we “did life” together, families shared their sorrows: One mom’s abusive boyfriend, another’s alcoholic spouse, and one dad’s intense loneliness. Together, we’d turn to the Bible and our church for guidance: finding a safe house, accessing recovery services, and touching base between formal meetings.
Soon the kids, themselves, tried their serving wings. One girl brought in an article about Darfur’s human rights violations. She and the others decided to raise funds by selling cold sodas on hot days at our nearby beach. While the kids pasted news articles and photos on a poster board and located charities that served Darfur, we parents lugged sodas from Costco and chaperoned the pop sales.
Raising funds for a place faraway showed the kids they could serve close by. One teen started tutoring a first grader whose parents spoke only Spanish. Another spent a gap year teaching K-3rd graders in an under resourced Chicago neighborhood. A third befriended Muslim foreign exchange students at her school.
Family Fridays wasn’t a silver bullet, but it did hold the five keys to unlocking faith-filled generosity. So what are they?
- Match your mission and realities – Give in a way that fits your situation.
- Share leadership with children – Start with kids under 14; seek and support their ideas.
- Serve with an intergenerational faith community – Serve even if you’re not a parent: Research shows kids with a lasting faith know five Jesus-following adults. Serving together can form those relationships.
- Celebrate stories of other, God and self – Read up on and pray for those you will serve, reflect on the Bible’s teaching about the poor, and provide both online and in-person forums for kids to talk about what they are learning.
- Serve one person—Get to know one person in a mutual, ongoing serving relationship. My research showed families often did this by sponsoring a child or serving at homeless programs, at-risk schools, or youth centers.
Why not unlock the joy of faith-filled serving this holiday season? By God at work among you, using these five tried-and-true keys, I pray your family walks into meaningful memories and Christ-like, generous character.
To learn more about unlocking a legacy of generosity in your family, read my article in World Vision’s news.