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Questions on Raising Generous Children

Should children be expected to tithe from their allowance? Should I leave money to children who do not share my Christian convictions? Generous Giving is committed to answering stewardship-related FAQs thoughtfully, and we have arranged our answers according to topic. While our answers address the many finer points of stewardship, our position statements summarize our general views. Learn what qualifies Generous Giving to answer these questions.
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    Topic

  • Families and Giving
  • Children and Giving
  • Allowances and Jobs

  • Families and Giving
    1. Should my children know how much or to whom my spouse and I give?

    2. Should children participate in family discussions about where to give?

    3. How can we train our children up to carry on a tradition of family generosity?

    4. My children do not share my Christian convictions about giving. I am worried about leaving my money to them. What should I do?

    5. I would like to present the Bible’s teaching on generosity to my family. How might I go about doing this?
    Children and Giving
    1. Are children exempt from giving?

    2. Are teenagers exempt from giving?

    3. Are college students exempt from giving?

    4. At what age should children start learning about generosity?

    5. What opportunities are there for children to practice giving?

    6. When the offering plate comes around at church, should I give my children pocket change to put in it?

    7. How can children learn to give sacrificially?

    8. How can I encourage my children to talk with their friends about giving?

    9. How can I tell if my child has the spiritual gift of giving?

    10. Should my children participate in school fund-raisers?
    Allowances and Jobs
    1. Should children receive an allowance?

    2. Should children be expected to work for their allowance money?

    3. Should children tithe from their allowance?

    4. Should teenagers receive an allowance?

    5. Should teenagers tithe from their allowance?

    6. Should teenagers be expected to have after-school jobs?

    7. Should teenagers tithe from their after-school job income?

    8. Should college students tithe from their odd job or work-study income?

    9. Should college students tithe from their student loan money?

    Families and Giving
    1. Should my children know how much or to whom my spouse and I give?
      Probably so. The more exposure children have to Christian generosity in their youth, the more likely they will be to practice it in their adulthood. Obviously, there may be cause for special discretion in certain circumstances; parents must be sensitive about this. But in general, it is good for children to feel part of family giving decisions. Any opportunity parents get to model Christian virtues before their kids (and even better, to include them), they should do so (Deuteronomy 6:7). An added bonus is that, once they get involved, the children can help keep the parents generous. In short, wherever appropriate, parents should let children in on their giving practices. It is just one more chance to teach them the gospel.

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    2. Should children participate in family discussions about where to give?
      Whenever possible, yes. By involving children in the decision-making process, even at an early age, parents teach them to value generosity. With your own kids, you should look for opportunities to expose them to foreign missionaries, local ministries and people in need, allowing them increasing input in family giving decisions according to their age and maturity. While parents must of course sometimes override their opinions, it should be a priority to give as a family to some projects that excite the children. If children learn to love giving their parents’ money away, they will be more likely to love giving their own money away when they are adults (Proverbs 22:6). And even more importantly, every lesson about giving is a lesson about the gospel. Including the kids in family giving provides that much more opportunity to teach them about Jesus.

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    3. How can we train up our children to carry on family generosity?
      The single best thing parents can do is to practice Christian generosity in the sight of their children. Children learn by example, and parents are their foremost teachers (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Particularly if you have a tradition of family giving, you should take care to make the gospel of Jesus Christ the main thing, rather than the family legacy. Family legacy, while a good thing, cannot motivate true Christian generosity. Parents must teach their children to be committed first and foremost to Christ and his kingdom. Anything else, family included, must take second place (Luke 14:26). With that warning, there are certain steps parents can take to train up their children well: (1) Teach them to associate money with labor. (2) Teach them to save. (3) Give them opportunities to practice giving. (4) Take them with you to serve the poor. (5) Teach them some basic financial planning tools. (6) Teach them by example how to live simply. (7) Show them how family finances work. (8) Teach them that many things are more important than money.

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    4. My children do not share my Christian convictions about giving. I am worried about leaving my money to them. What should I do?
      Transfer of wealth to the next generation is a very complicated matter, and there is no one answer that applies equally well in all situations. Statistically, the overwhelming trend is for children and grandchildren to dissipate inherited wealth. Only 30 percent of all affluent families maintain their wealth into the second generation, and only 10 percent into the third. In short, the best way ahead is careful thinking and wise counsel. But having made that qualification, probably the best resources on this issue are from leading Christian financial advisor Ron Blue. In general, Blue advocates (1) giving all you can during your lifetime rather than by bequest, and (2) leaving a limited inheritance to your children, even if they do not share your convictions. The details will vary from situation to situation, but we would encourage you to follow this rule of thumb: Leave money to your children for their own use, as an act of parental love. (Who knows if the inheritance you leave to a wayward child may help lead him back to the Lord?) But do your charitable giving during your own lifetime, so that you can be sure that it goes to the Lord’s purposes. In Blue’s words, “Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going.” Of course, no amount of advice can eliminate all the tension involved in generational transfer of wealth. But if you follow these basic principles, you will be off to a good start. If you do not already know one, you might seek out a Christian financial advisor to steer you through the process.

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    5. I would like to present the Bible’s teaching on generosity to my family. How might I go about doing this?
      There are a number of ways in which this simple teaching might be presented: (1) You could present it under the five headings in Generous Giving’s message overview. (2) You could organize it according to the six keys of Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle. For this arrangement, see our collection of key verses. (3) For a more formal approach you could use The Treasure Principle Workshop. This handy video kit was designed for anybody, not necessarily a gifted teacher or speaker, to present the message of biblical generosity, whether in a one-hour session, a weekend workshop, or multiple meetings. (4) In more informal settings, you could easily share your personal giving testimony with help from our brief tutorial. (5) Finally, it may be that the best course of action is for you to arrange the material creatively for your own situation. Pick, choose and arrange resources according to the needs of your audience. In the end, you must decide what format best suits your audience. Whatever the case, we hope that your efforts to share the biblical teaching on generosity are fruitful and honoring to Christ.

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    Children and Giving
    1. Are children exempt from giving?
      No. We might think about it by asking: Are children exempt from Christianity? (Giving, we know, is simply part of Jesus’ “everything I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20.) The answer to that question is clearly no. In fact, Jesus says, the kingdom of God belongs to children in particular (Luke 18:16). And if children can be Christians, then children can certainly give to the Lord. The Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income, because all have been changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus. Of course, the details are more complicated with children than with adults, but children are by no means excluded from Christian giving.

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    2. Are teenagers exempt from giving?
      No. We might think about it by asking: Are teenagers exempt from Christianity? (Giving, we know, is simply part of Jesus’ “everything I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20.) The answer to that question is clearly no. In fact, statistically, a very large number of people come to Christian faith during their teenage years. And if teenagers can be Christians, then they can certainly give to the Lord. The Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income, because all have been changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). Granted, most American teenagers occupy a strange position between financial childhood and adulthood, owning very little but spending a great deal, so the details may be a bit complicated. But teenagers are by no means excluded from the grace of Christian giving. Indeed, when given the opportunity, many are eager to give to the Lord.

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    3. Are college students exempt from giving?
      No. We might think about it by asking: Are college students exempt from Christianity? (Giving, we know, is simply part of Jesus’ “everything I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20.) The answer to that question is clearly no. In fact, many people either come to faith or grow by leaps and bounds (or both) during their college years. And if college students can be Christians, then they can certainly give to the Lord. The Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income, because all have been changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). Granted, college is a difficult financial time for students and their families, as many students are almost completely dependent on loans, earning no income but acquiring large debts. But even so, college students are by no means excluded from the grace of Christian giving. Christian college students should take what little income they have and begin to give to the Lord from that.

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    4. At what age should children start learning about generosity?
      As early as they can understand. Of course, just when this time comes may not be entirely clear to parents. But the words of Moses to the people of Israel are relevant in this regard: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). By the things parents say and do in the home, day in and day out, they teach their children how to live. Of course, different measures will be appropriate to different ages. Toddlers may watch you put money in the offering plate. School-age children may give out of their allowance. Adolescents may give out of their own babysitting income. But whatever their ages, you have a chance to teach your children about generosity—and God’s generosity in particular—by the things you say and do in their presence today.

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    5. What opportunities are there for children to practice giving?
      The desire to give children practice at giving is commendable, and opportunities are abundant. We can suggest a few to get you started: First, children of all ages can be involved in the family giving process. Do your children know to whom you give? If you involve them in the decision-making process, you can teach them both about giving and about the gospel. Second, children of all ages can give their time and energy in acts of service. Consider taking your kids with you to deliver a meal to a needy family, visit a nursing home, or rake leaves for an invalid. In this way, they can learn to give even before they have money of their own. Third, when children are old enough to have money of their own (whether from allowance or employment), parents can train them to give regularly and generously to the church. Fourth, above and beyond church giving, it is good to give children chances to give voluntarily to projects that excite them. Parents should look for opportunities to expose them to foreign missionaries, local ministries and people in need, explaining that they are free to give where the Lord leads them. In this regard, there is one opportunity in particular that has just become available. Because the Generous Giving Marketplace (an online forum for givers and ministries) enables payments through PayPal, parents can open a PayPal account for their children, put some money in that account, and let them explore and give to one of the hundreds of ministries posting on the Marketplace. The opportunities for children to practice giving are abundant; you must determine which ones suit your children best.

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    6. When the offering plate comes around at church, should I give my children pocket change to put in it?
      Giving children spare change to put in the offering plate is certainly OK, but there may be other and perhaps better ways to teach them about giving to the Lord. For example, depending on their age, parents might want to pay their kids in return for small chores around the house, and then teach them to give an offering from their own income. Or again, parents might want to take them along to bring a meal to a needy family, so that they see more concretely where their offerings go. Giving children spare change for the offering plate is fine, but it is good to consider other teaching opportunities as well. Parents should use creative means to teach their children about God’s generosity and our response.

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    7. How can children learn to give sacrificially?
      Happily, sacrificial giving tends to come easier to children than it does to adults. This is because children are “poorer” than adults, generally speaking. Whereas wealth tends to make people more independent and self-protective (Luke 18:24), children have a greater sense of immediate dependence on God (Luke 18:16). Consequently, they tend to be more willing to give at great cost to themselves. Parents should encourage this willingness wherever possible. How? First, let your children observe and participate while you give sacrificially; never underestimate the power of parental example. Second, if your child volunteers to give something special of his own to help someone else, by all means, let him do so. Third, if your child does not initiate, suggest ways in which he might give sacrificially. But let him make the choice to do so. These are just a few practical suggestions. The bottom line is that children of parents who encourage sacrificial giving are more likely to carry that value into adulthood (Proverbs 22:6).

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    8. How can I encourage my children to talk with their friends about giving?
      There are several things parents can do. First and most importantly, they can talk about and model generosity, so that their children learn it by example (Deuteronomy 6:7). If kids learn at home that giving is important, they will naturally talk about it outside the home. Second, if it is very important to you, you may want to simply suggest to your children that they talk about giving with their friends. Sometimes the obvious idea can be the best. Third and finally, parents should probably not worry about this issue. Given their stage of life, the most important thing is that your children learn generosity from parental example, not that they advocate it among their friends. They need to understand God’s gift to them before they can talk meaningfully about giving with their friends.

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    9. How can I tell if my child has the spiritual gift of giving?
      There are basically two ways to identify spiritual gifts: (1) take a written test, and/or (2) have someone observe your behavior. In general, it is good to make use of both approaches, if possible. Most written spiritual gift inventories include the gift of giving (Romans 12:6-8) among their possibilities. If your child is old enough to understand and answer a written inventory, that may help point in the right direction. But the real test of a spiritual gift is its evidence in a person’s life. What does your child’s behavior tell you? Does she give gifts unsolicited? Does she give more than she is asked to, or more than other kids her age do? Does she look for chances to give? Does she take a special interest in church projects or in the work of visiting missionaries? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions (it is worth asking other people who know your child to add to your objectivity), then your child may be exhibiting evidence of the spiritual gift of giving. Learn more by having your child take Generous Giving’s diagnostic test for the gift of giving. Once she knows what her gifts are, she can begin using them to worship the Lord Jesus and serve his church, even at an early age.

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    10. Should my children participate in school fund-raisers?
      In most cases, this is OK. Unless the money is going to fund purposes contrary to the Scriptures (which is possible but rare), school fund-raisers are probably a worthwhile educational experience for children. They learn about the way many organizations rely on charitable donations for their operating expenses, and they gain firsthand experience with marketing and sales. In short, there is nothing objectionable about school fund-raisers in themselves. However, parents should take the opportunity to teach their children about priorities in charitable giving. That is, while acknowledging the similarities between giving to the school and giving to God, parents should also explain the important differences—in particular, the supreme priority of the kingdom of God over all other allegiances (Matthew 6:33).

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    Allowances and Jobs
    1. Should children receive an allowance?
      Under the right circumstances, yes. The parents’ specific decision on this issue will depend largely on the child’s situation and degree of maturity. Some children are too young for an allowance—they are not ready to manage money of their own yet. Other children are too old for an allowance—they should be gainfully employed (Proverbs 14:23) rather than being supplied by their parents. A good rule of thumb is: If a child is old enough to practice managing money of her own, but not yet old enough to hold down a regular job outside of the home, then an allowance may be a good idea. Allowances are simply tools for good parenting. Parents should use them to the degree that they help them get biblical truths across to their kids (Deuteronomy 6:7); they should not feel enslaved by them. If giving an allowance helps you teach your children about who God is and how to handle his money, then you should feel free to use it. But if it doesn’t serve this end, then consider putting an end to it.

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    2. Should children be expected to work for their allowance money?
      Generally speaking, yes. Here too, a lot depends on the ages and circumstances of the children. Obviously, with very young children, parents provide for them without expecting labor in return. But as children get older, we naturally (and rightly) expect increased responsibility from them. One manifestation of this responsibility is the institution of chores—jobs done to contribute to the common life of the family. When children are old enough to receive an allowance, they are probably old enough to do chores as well. And one good parenting tool can be to connect allowance with chores—wages with labor. It is good in general to teach children to associate money with labor, as this is a basic biblical principle (Proverbs 14:23). But parents need not do it in exactly this way. Allowances and chores are simply tools for good parenting. We should use them to the degree that they help us get biblical truths across to our kids (Deuteronomy 6:7); we should not feel enslaved by them. But having said so, expecting children to work for their allowance money can be one good way to accomplish this parental goal.

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    3. Should children tithe from their allowance?
      Yes. An important prior question is whether your children are old enough to have an allowance, i.e., to manage money of their own. If they are, then they should be expected to do everything that comes with that responsibility, including (for Christian kids) giving to God. After all, the Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income, because all have been changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). Children are fully capable of giving to the Lord; in fact, it is often surprising how eager they are to do so. In short, if your children are old enough to receive an allowance, then they are probably old enough to give to the Lord from that allowance.

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    4. Should teenagers receive an allowance?
      Perhaps. The parents’ specific decision on this issue will depend largely on the teenager’s situation and degree of maturity. In general, teenagers should be weaned off parental supply (Proverbs 14:23). They will have to face financial independence as soon as they move away from home, so it is wise to give them some practice in advance. When teenagers are old enough to work, other things being equal, it is a good idea to expect them to do so, whether after school, on weekends, or during the summer. (Of course, other things are sometimes not equal—some teenagers have special needs such that this expectation is unreasonable.) Allowances are nothing more than a tool for good parenting. We should use them to the degree that they help us get biblical truths across to our kids (Deuteronomy 6:7). But we should not let them become a permanent institution that encumbers. If your child is old enough that handouts from Mom and Dad are no longer healthy for him, you should probably put an end to them, for his own good.

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    5. Should teenagers tithe from their allowance?
      If they receive an allowance, then yes, teenagers should give from it. An important prior question is whether your teenager should be receiving an allowance at all, or pursuing some gainful employment (see above). But whether wages or allowance, it is right for Christian teenagers to give from their income. Whatever money they have, they should be expected to do everything that comes with that responsibility, including giving to God. After all, the Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income, because all have been changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). Teenagers are fully capable of giving to the Lord; in fact, it is often surprising how eager they are to do so. In short, if a Christian teenager is of suitable age to receive an allowance, then she should give to the Lord from that allowance.

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    6. Should teenagers be expected to have after-school jobs?
      Perhaps. Parents’ specific decision on this issue will depend largely on the teenager’s situation and degree of maturity. In general, teenagers should be weaned off parental supply (Proverbs 14:23). They will have to face financial independence as soon as they move away from home, so it is wise to give them some practice in advance. When teenagers are old enough to work, other things being equal, it is a good idea to expect them to do so, whether after school, on weekends, or during the summer. (Of course, other things are sometimes not equal—some teenagers have special needs such that this expectation is unreasonable.) But an after-school job, like an allowance, is nothing more than a tool for good parenting. We should use it to the degree that it helps us get biblical truths across to our kids (Deuteronomy 6:7). But we should not let it become a permanent institution that enslaves the teenager. If an after-school job does harm to your teenager’s spiritual life, family life, schoolwork, etc., you should reconsider whether it is a good idea. There are other ways of teaching the same biblical truths.

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    7. Should teenagers tithe from their after-school job income?
      Yes. Granted, American teenagers occupy a strange position between financial childhood and adulthood, owning very little but spending a great deal. But the Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income, because all have been changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus. It is good, therefore, for Christian teenagers to give to the Lord from what little part-time income they have. As the apostle Paul writes about the poor Macedonian Christians, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12). This holds true for Christian teenagers, as well.

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    8. Should college students tithe from their odd job or work-study income?
      Yes. College is a notoriously difficult financial time for students and their families, but the Bible teaches that giving is the privilege and responsibility of all God’s people, regardless of age or income. In fact, ironically, many biblical examples of generous givers are people who have next to nothing (Luke 21:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2), simply because these people were changed by God’s gospel of redemption in Jesus. Granted it may be difficult, but if you are a Christian college student, you should make giving to the Lord a priority in your life. Do you work odd jobs or a work-study position? Take what little income you have, and begin to give to the Lord from that. Although it sounds hard to believe, God says that giving is the most financially secure move you can make (2 Corinthians 9:8), because he himself will provide for your needs in the meanwhile.

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    9. Should college students tithe from their student loan money?
      No. Tithing or giving from loan money, regardless of good intentions, is not in accord with the intent of a loan. There is an important difference between earned money and borrowed money. It is appropriate to give from one’s earned income, because the money is (so to speak) one’s own. But school loan money does not really belong to the student; it is borrowed for a limited time and a specific purpose. The student is obligated to use the loan money for the purpose for which it was granted, i.e., educational expenses. Respect for the lender’s intent is the operating principle here. This principle excludes not only self-indulgent spending but also unauthorized giving. Christian college students who want to give to their Lord should work part time on the side in order to have some money of their own to give.

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