Nurturing Generous Hearts

From fun activities to leading by example, these three families are instilling faith and generosity in their children.

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By Jessica Brodie • Photos by Courtney Swift-Copeland

Ben and Cassie Buchanan already were involved at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, teaching kids the importance of giving, but they wanted a way to help their son Cole, 3, understand, too.

When their church began its year-end offering series for outreach and expansion, the Buchanans saw their opportunity. With the help of Cole’s share, save and spend piggy bank, which has separate compartments for each, they began instilling their values: First give to God, then save some, then spend some.

“This is the first year Cole started to grasp the broad concepts,” Ben says. “The fun is pouring the coins out and counting the money—he just loves to count!”

Not only can Cole see—in the form of a piggy bank—the three areas where his money goes, but he also gets to see it in action. When he collected $40 in “spend” money, he went to the store to shop for a toy, and later, his parents helped him bring his “share” money into church. Even though his concept of God is still forming, the message is sticking.

“He definitely knows what we’re giving toward and connecting the dots,” Ben says.

Try it: Make your own version of a Share, Save, Spend piggy bank using clean recycled glass jars. Make labels that say “share” or “give,” “save” and “spend” and put one label on each jar. Decorate and make them colorful with construction paper or glitter, or decoupage with tissue paper.

Saving for a purpose

When Brandon Sahr’s three kids found out their parents were planning another mission trip to Haiti, they didn’t want to stay behind.

“They said, ’How come we can’t ever go?’ and we explained it costs about a thousand dollars to take one person,” says Sahr, a Thrivent Financial professional in Frost, Minnesota.

The Sahr kids had heard their parents’ stories about the people they’d helped on their trips—the medical clinic they worked with in the heart of the country, giving out prenatal vitamins and medicine; their partnership with a Haitian church; and the repairs they did for a local school.

Their hearts were stirred. They wanted to raise the money to go and help others, too.

So under the guidance of their mom, Jasmin, who makes and sells essential-oil lotions at craft fairs, the siblings learned to make soap. Brandon led a Thrivent Action Team with Jasmin and their kids to raise money for the mission trip. They made their own scented soaps, added labels and started selling them. Seed money was used to purchase supplies. To date they’ve made more than $2,000 from craft fairs and other fundraising efforts and still have about a year until the 2020 trip.

“It’s been really cool to see the kids encourage one another and divide out the work,” Sahr says. “They really have fun with it.”

While each of his kids help make, label and sell the soaps, they each have a favorite aspect of the process. Their oldest, Ariel, 10, loves making the soaps, especially picking the scents and colors. Sawyer, 9, enjoys the sales, while Lucy, 6, likes table setup and inventory.

“We try to leave it in their court as much as possible,” Sahr says, not only to teach responsibility and money lessons, but to foster a personal passion in their kids for the Gospel work they will be doing in Haiti. 

And knowing his kids are embracing faith right along with the fun means it’s a win for the whole family.

That sense of fun is key for many families trying to help their kids and grandkids learn about faith and generosity. Across the nation—whether it’s preparing for mission trips like the Sahr family or coming up with new, fresh ways to serve others—families are learning they can find fun opportunities in everyday life.

Try it: It’s simple to make homemade soaps with kids. Buy premade melt-and-pour glycerine soap, found at craft stores or online. Melt a small cube in a glass measuring cup for 30 seconds in the microwave, then add a few drops of soap dye and a few drops of fragrance, such as essential oils. Mix with a wooden stick, and pour into a small plastic cup or mold that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Let cool for a few hours, then turn it over and pop out the soap.

In their hands

For Dan and Deb Austin in Windsor, Colorado, seeing the lessons they teach hit home has been rewarding.

Their five grandkids, ages 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10, have started saving year-round toward charitable causes, from purchasing chickens or goats for families in need to funding distribution of Bibles and medication for those without. The Austins started their grandkids on that path by using a giving catalog at Christmas and allowing them each to pick two causes they wanted their grandparents to support. Now, their hearts soar to see the children take the next step: using their own money to give to others. 

Letting their grandkids make individual choices about their gifts has been key, Austin says. Not only has it made the gift-giving exercise more enjoyable, but it has also helped pique their interest in helping others.

“It’s turned out to be exactly what we had hoped for,” Austin says.

Try it: Help your kids save year-round toward a charitable cause. When your child earns allowance from household chores, help them place a percentage of that allowance into a giving envelope, bank or jar. At the end of the month or year, help your child select a cause and share their money.

Life is ministry

The Buchanans say the biggest thing they’ve learned about combining faith, fun and family is that most everything starts with being intentional about the way they live their values in front of Cole; the rest just falls into place.

“Life itself is kind of a ministry. Now we just think about what we can do to help as a family.”
—Brandon Sahr

They have table-time thankfulness, where they go around the table at dinnertime and say what they are thankful for that day. In the car, they have impromptu “praise parties” where they sing along to worship music.

“It’s amazing how many songs a 3-year-old can remember,” Buchanan says.

Sahr says their family tries to do the same, whether that’s chatting casually about what they learned from the sermon at church to helping a classmate whose family is struggling.

“Life itself is kind of a ministry,” Sahr says. “Now we just think about what we can do to help as a family.”

Share-Save-Spend

A three-compartment money system can be an easy way to help kids learn financial values.

  • Purchase a piggy bank with share-save-spend compartments, or use three separate jars or envelopes.
  • Allow your child to earn money for household chores.
  • For every dollar your child receives, a percentage goes to “share,” a percentage goes to “save” and the rest goes to “spend.”
  • Periodically, have your child dump out the money, count it and put it in action.
  • “Share” money can be taken to church or another location and given to the cause by the child. It can be especially meaningful if you find a way for your child to see or experience the activity of helping others.
  • “Save” money can be deposited into a bank account if desired.
  • “Spend” money can be taken directly to a store, where your child can find an item he or she wishes to purchase. Your child should hand the funds for the purchase directly to the cashier (don’t forget to calculate tax!).

Get Crafty

These low-cost activities help foster faith in your family.

  • Table-time thankfulness: Go around the table at mealtime and say what you are thankful for that day or pray for someone.
  • Car praise parties: Sing along to worship music as you drive.
  • Bible trivia: Create your own trivia questions based on recent church sermons or Sunday School lessons.
  • Gratitude detective: Be on the lookout for the things that make you feel thankful, and take turns sharing those with each other.
  • Kindness cards: Write kind thoughts or Bible verses on sticky notes and leave them in unexpected public places.
  • Financial thermometers: Whether your family is saving for a mission trip or another special faith-focused goal, track your progress with a thermometer chart hung on the refrigerator. Have every family member take turns coloring it in as you progress.