Mission Minded

As the holidays are quickly approaching, I’ve set out to help my children become more mission-minded.  My daughter, in particular, has a case of the “I-wants.”  Like many kids her age (who are also immersed in a material-driven society), she’s fascinated with having stuff.

Now as her mom, I’m partly to blame.  Aside from the grandparents, I’m the guilty party who is primarily responsible for buying my kids stuff.  So it’s important that I also take responsibility for being part of the solution.  It’s important to me to raise kids who value people over things.  Kids who give back.  Kids who are mission-minded.

My husband and I have always tried to give when we can.  Depending on our ability and availability, over the years we’ve given our time, our money, and our resources.  Sometimes all we had to give was time.  But as we’ve learned, it’s not what you give, or where you give it.  What’s important is: you do what you can, when you can, to help someone who is less fortunate.  And we sincerely hope our kids heed this principle.

Why Teach Children about Giving?

To raise future generations of philanthropists, we must teach our children how to give to and serve others.  Research shows that service learning occurs when a child witnesses a primary caregiver or other influential adult modeling voluntary behavior that is intended to help others (Bjorhovde, 2002, p. 9).  More specifically,  this learning is strengthened when the adult helps the child understand the cause and effect of philanthropic behavior and when children are given the opportunity to engage in giving and serving activities.

Ways Children Can Practice Philanthropy

There are countless ways to teach children to care for, serve, and give to others.  Children begin to learn compassion from birth as they connect with their primary caregivers.  As children grow, parents and teachers can be mindful to treat others respectfully and lovingly.  Together with your child, practical ways to give include: volunteering your time in community missions such as food banks, hospitals, nursing homes, or shelters; giving money or other donations such as assisting in charitable fundraising efforts through non-profit organizations, or even canned food drives; or donating resources such as giving outgrown shoes, clothes, and toys to those in need.

Thought for today:

In what ways are you teaching your kids to be mission-minded?

Practicing What I Preach:  This holiday season my kids and I decided to organize a larger-scale packing effort to benefit Operation Christmas Child.  We raised money from family members to sponsor international shoeboxes, we hosted a packing party with school friends, and we helped organize a children’s shoebox project at our church.  To date, we have collectively packed 51 shoeboxes!  This year I wanted to show my kids that while philanthropy begins at home, it doesn’t end there.  I wanted to help them see that when you work together for a cause that’s important to you, great things can happen.

(A huge THANK YOU to the family, school friends, and church members who helped support our effort to make Christmas a bit brighter for these children!)

Reference: Bjorhovde, P. O. (2002). Teaching philanthropy to children: Why, how, and what. New Directions For Philanthropic Fundraising, 36, 7-20.

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