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Learning to give back

April 17th, 2008 / 3 Comments

A 20-something year old girl at church said something to me on Sunday that was incredibly mature.

“I decided to stay at this church because when I was growing up at this church, a lot of people here contributed to my growth. Now I want to give back and help other people grow at this church.”

I hear people talk about giving back to the environment, but I don’t hear much about people willing to give back to other people in a personal way.

More often I hear young people saying, “I’m leaving the church because I’m not getting anything out of it.” That’s another way of saying, “What’s in it for me?”

In a culture of MEism, we easily slide into being selfish and think only of what we want. So how do we teach our children to go against that kind of mindset? How do we teach our children to give, and especially to give back to those who has helped them?

Here are just a few ways to start:

1. Cultivate a heart of thankfulness. Being grateful is the first step in giving. When we are not obsessing about what we want and what we don’t have, we have an open heart to help others. I’ve talked about how I’ve approached this with my children in my post An Attitude of Gratitude.

2. Involve your children together in some volunteer work. Christmas is always a prime time to help those in need. But the best is a commitment to some kind of ongoing ministry, whether it is at your church, in the community, or at the school. This way, our children learn to be committed to a cause and see long term results. We’ve been at the same church for 17 years. It’s a place we’ve invested into the lives of other people.

3. Be generous in giving to those who helped you. Every year, we give gifts to my children’s teachers on special occasions. I make sure the kids write a personal note to thank them specifically for something they’ve learned. We also give gifts to the secretary and other support personnel who has helped us.

4. Go back to help those who helped you. Our children will not remember who had positively influenced them. We can remind them and have them offer their help. My son in college went back to his third grade teacher to help her with her computer.

I know these take intentional effort. However, the alternative is to allow the culture’s values carry our children along, I don’t think I want that to happen.

What other ideas do you have for teaching children to give back?

Photo by popofatticus

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  1. I couldn’t agree more! My favorite thing about my daughter’s (Catholic) school, is the level of compassion and giving they expect from the students.

  2. Momo: glad to hear the school is teaching that.

  3. Ditto. #1-#3 are talked about quite often in this monster house. But #4 is a new one – I love that!! I actually still keep in touch with my favorite teacher from grade school – and your post reminds me that Teacher Appreciation Day is coming up…

    Thanks for these great tips!


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