The Stages of Giving | Teaching Children About Giving (Adults too)

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In life, we often go through stages to get where we’re going.

Kindergarten – elementary school – high school – college – masters degree – PhD. 

Roll over – crawl – walk – run.

Usually you can’t do the last step until you try, experience, or even master the previous steps.

As I try to teach my young kids about giving, I’ve noticed that there are also stages we go through as we learn to be generous givers.

Stage #1 – Give Because You Are Told To

I have two kids (3 and 5) who give money every Sunday at church.  We gave them both a job.  The younger one turns on the security lights at night.  The older one feeds the dogs.  In exchange for their labor, they each get one coin a day.  On a three day rotation, the kids put a coin in one of three jars – give, save, and spend.  On the 7th day, they get to choose any one of the three jars.

Don’t get me wrong – my kids love to give.  They feel so grown up dropping their coins into the basket at church.

However, I think they give because they are told to (by mean old daddy and beautiful young mommy).  I wondered if I was doing a disservice to them.  Should I tell them to give what they want on Sunday?

Ultimately, I decided that it is not bad for young kids to be in a stage where they give because they are told to.

Stage #2 – Give Because You Should | Continuing a Giving Habit

I entered this stage somewhere between 12-15.  I had a newspaper route and made money from that job.  Even as a teenager, I remember giving money to the church.  If I remember correctly, my parents were no longer telling me to give.  I’d developed a giving habit, and I gave because I believed it was what I should be doing.

If someone asked me, “Craig, what are the underlying theological reasons for giving?” I’d have no idea. 

But I gave because I thought I should.

Stage #3 – Give Because You Want To | Giving is Fun

In this stage, you don’t need anyone to pressure you or make you feel guilty in order to motivate you to give. 

Because you’ve seen and experienced the giving process in stages 1 and 2, you’ve tasted the joys associated with giving.  God has opened your eyes to the good things that are being done and you want to join in that work.  You want to help people with what you have.

Stage #4 – Give in Response to Your Relationship with God

Perhaps this really isn’t the last stage.

There is more to giving than stage #3, because stage three is about giving because it is fun.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s not bad to have fun giving, but if your own psyche or emotional joy is your motive for giving, there might be another stage yet to come. 

Eventually, we may get to a place where we give because we love our God who is a giver.  He gave his only son. For our sakes he became poor. When that message sinks deep, I think we’ll respond by giving because we’re being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. 

In this stage, we give because it is what God does. 

Thus, for now I’m content with the fact that my kids give because they have to.  I just hope they aren’t there in 25 years.  That’s why I’m also willing to wait patiently for those who give because they have to.  It’s hard to get to the fourth stage until you experience giving in the first stage.

Do you think there is another giving stage that should be included on this list?


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