child giving lesson


Encouraging Your Child to Give
Using Samaritan's Purse Christmas Gift Catalog
by Carl Caton

How many times have we heard the oft quoted phrase, "it is better to give than to receive"? And how many times have we quoted this to our kids during the season of giving?

I would like to take a little license here to change the phrase. My new version is: "it is better to watch your kids give... than to receive". It's been a long time since I've had something touch my heart so greatly as to see generosity grow in my kids hearts.

It all started with the Samaritan's Purse annual Christmas Gift Catalog. I applaud this ministry for creating such a wonderful way to give. In a nutshell, the catalog looks much like any of the hundreds of Christmas gift catalogs that currently fill your mailbox. The big difference is that the Samaritan's Purse catalog is filled with helpful ideas that you can use to select a gift for a needy stranger. You browse through the slick pages and learn of special giving opportunities - whether a dozen chickens, a blanket, a bicycle for an evangelist, or a community water well. It's easy to spend $6 or $6,000, depending upon your means. Best of all, it teaches kids how to give. And that's what I'm most thankful for.

When we first started using the catalog, my kids were six and ten. It was fun to watch the kids as they peruse the catalog and make their selection. It's been good for their critical thinking skills as well. My son is intensely practical. At six, he decided that chickens were the ticket. He reasoned that they produced eggs, meat, and could reproduce themselves. It was the "gift that keeps on giving"! On the other hand, my daughter is the perennial evangelist. She often chose things like bibles and training for evangelists. She was concerned about the soul. Both made me proud.

Our joy in all this has increased as each year passed. Commonly, the kids would show great thrill at receiving the catalog in the mail. Sometimes Dad would have to intervene and help negotiate the thorny issue of who got to see it first. But as the years passed, the generosity grew. I didn't think things would get much better than last year, when my daughter's giving took a leap upwards. She decided to give a wheelchair for the first time. And my son selected a grab-bag of items to give. But this year has brought yet another surprise. Both kids have taken a big step up - again. This year, my daughter is giving over a third of her annual babysitting money to the cause. She even bought another wheelchair in MY name to honor my birthday. I've shed more than a few tears of joy as I've shared their story.

As this process of giving has evolved, I've looked back to try to discover the key elements that created a legacy of giving in my kids. Here is my best guess at how our kids caught the "benefits of benevolence".

The Gift Was Understandable.
Samaritan's Purse did a masterful job in creating a catalog that clearly communicates a need. Too many churches and ministries ask people to give based on the biblical imperative to do so. So many day to day decisions of the ministry are never revealed to the lowly masses. As part of the ignorant mob, we miss much of the blessing of giving as we know little about where things go. I'm always amazed at how much money people put in the collection plate when a guest speaker shares the heart and soul of his ministry. There are tales of people, suffering, and changed lives. When givers catch the vision of the ministry, the money flows! Samaritan's Purse clearly communicates where need exists and how we can get involved to meet that need.

When Giving Becomes Their Own.
One of the greatest challenges in raising kids in a Christian home is to encourage your child to make the faith... their faith. We act surprised when a child from a good home goes astray. Often it is because the child saw the family's faith as just that... the family's faith. They may have never adopted that faith as their own. Their family was Christian, but they were never personally a Christian. This same concept applies to giving. When the child actually becomes the "giver", her response is different. Even kids have the desire to make a difference in the world. It is fun to watch your child as she realizes she has impacted a family in a country far, far away. Suddenly, this child has personally made a significant difference in the world. The joy of giving becomes her own. That's another reason why I ask them to give with their own money. Real pleasure comes when we deprive ourselves for the sake of others, not deprive Dad of some of his money for the sake of others. Strange but true.

Encouragement to Give.
As my kids giving increased every year, I wanted to do more than just say, "I'm proud of you". So I cut pictures of my kids gifts out of the catalog and put them in a prominent place in my office. When my kids came to my office, they saw a tribute to their giving with "all my important stuff". They realized that I greatly valued their giving spirit.

Giving for the Right Reason.
Kids love to please. And almost any kid would love to make a parent proud with what they do. It's for this reason that I'm very careful to encourage them to give for the right reason.... to glorify God. I don't want them to give to please me. I want them to give because it pleases God. I tell them how proud God is of them. And how proud He is of them for their obedience. If I miss the mark here, I could lead them into the trap of giving for the sake of recognition. And scripture clearly rebukes such behavior. Giving to get never brings joy.

A Reminder of Our Many Blessings.
Another benefit of the Samaritan's Purse catalog is that it reminds us all of how blessed we are. When we come to grips with the real poverty and suffering that exists in the world, we see our own provision as a bountiful blessing. No citizen in America is poor by the world's standard. Realizing your abundance creates a desire to share.

Developing Critical Thinking.
For almost two decades, I've hired homeless people to help with construction work. This may not be politically correct to say, but I assure you that many homeless people choose their lifestyle. Employers are begging for workers who will show up and give an honest day's work. I've been very honest with my kids when we see healthy men begging at busy intersections. Too many gullible givers ENABLE a drug addict to pay for his next "fix". That's not to say that all beggars are hucksters. But there will always be swindlers in the world of charitable giving. There a plenty of crooked evangelists and non-profit ministries who play the game, but with millions instead. God wants us to discern and follow his leading when we give, not to just lazily slap money in any hand that comes before us. Kids need to use critical thinking and plenty of prayer as they make decisions about where to direct God's resources.

So in this season of making merry, I hope that you would use the opportunity to teach a lesson on giving, whether to a child, grandchild, or neighbor. And may this joy of giving overflow your heart and draw you close to your family and your faith.

To receive your own copy of the Samaritan's Purse Christmas Gift Catalog, go to

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Samaritan's Purse

Samaritan's Purse Christmas Gift Catalog


Samaritan's Purse Christmas Gift Catalog