How to Help Kids Learn to Love Giving
Article by Jason Marsh (2010)
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What is the Science?

Research suggests that generosity can be demonstrably cultivated in children from an early age. In his article, Jason Marsh offers five science-based strategies for helping adolescents and children conceptualize and enjoy giving. Marsh suggests that adults can develop the virtue of generosity in children by:

  1. Being a role model—and explaining to children why you do what you do.
  2. Helping children understand the need or problem addressed by their generosity.  
  3. Helping children to see the impact of their giving.
  4. Allowing generosity to become a part of the child’s identity by making giving personal.
  5. Giving children a choice in how (or even if) they give.

“Research suggests that [children] have a deeply rooted instinct to share and to help others, from the time they’re very young…kids, it seems, have a strong, natural drive to be kind and generous.” -Jason Marsh

What is the Theology?

In the Bible, giving is a command (Leviticus 25:35–37), an expectation (2 Corinthians 8:12–15; 1 Timothy 6:17–19), and a blessing (Psalm 41:1–3; Proverbs 11:24–25). Yet, because giving is not always intuitive or easy, the virtue of generosity must be cultivated and practiced, even from an early age (Proverbs 22:6). Parents, and indeed Christian communities, might therefore do well to be intentional about including children in their practices of giving in ways that are theologically and scientifically informed.

What to Consider

  • In what ways can you model and explain generosity to the young persons in your church?
  • Research suggests that young children have a deeply rooted instinct to share and to help others, from very young ages. What influences might complicate that instinct as children grow up?
  • How can your church encourage kids and help them to consider the history and experiences behind those in need of generosity?

How to go Deeper

  • Make space for adolescents to serve alongside adults in local service projects such as volunteering in soup kitchens, visiting nursing homes, or cleaning up local parks.
  • Ask the young people in your church how they would like to practice generosity, and then empower them to do so.
  • If there are children in your congregation, invite them to go deeper by addressing them directly in your sermons on money, giving, and generosity.
  • Share with your community the ways in which giving can become not only an act of generosity but of self-care.

Relevant Scripture

All references in parenthesis refer to Lectionary readings. For more information on what the Lectionary is, please click here. For additional Lectionary resources click here.

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By | 2019-04-30T23:53:34+00:00 April 14th, 2017|Giving, Research|9 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Wiltshire serves as an assistant pastor at Rose City Church in Pasadena, CA. He holds an M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary (2016) and a B.S. from Cornerstone University, double majoring in Biblical Studies and Youth Ministry. While studying at Fuller Theological Seminary, he co-led the Fuller Faith and Science student group and worked in residential community. Michael is passionate about pastoral care, and is dedicated to exploring how preaching, practical theology, and organizational systems can empower churches to care well. A Michigander at heart, Michael enjoys cloudy weather and the NBA.


  1. aidenkang April 17, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    “We’re all interconnected with each other,” she said. “And giving is just a reminder of our human connection to others: Not only are the recipients not alone, because we’re thinking of them, but we are not alone” – No man is an island.

  2. aidenkang April 17, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    How to Help Kids Learn to Love Giving – “Imitate me as I imitate XT” & “It’s more blessed to give than to receive”.

  3. Weabz May 5, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    I figure pointing em to Scriptural truth helps. In a culture that says money and materialistic stuff is valued, then giving it away is more difficult. So by teaching them that those things don’t matter and by we ourselves not holding onto such things, helps set the foundation.

  4. May 15, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    #1, “being a role model,” is so true in my experience. It reminds me of Paul’s frequent injunctions for his church communities to imitate him as he imitates Christ

    • AustinF July 1, 2017 at 6:36 am

      Your comment reminds me of an article I read recently that amounted to the fact that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and maybe should be implemented more) to tell those we are trying to disciple, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Not that I am an apostle or even close to perfect, but hopefully we are living Gospel-oriented enough to be able to be an example. Thanks for jogging that memory, Matt

  5. AustinF May 18, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    It helps to teach children that God is providential, that we should be laying up treasure in heaven, that our generosity has to be rooted in our desire to make way for the Gospel, and that our love for people stems from God’s love for us. Science can show us that it feels good to give, etc., but we need to filter that science through the Bible.

  6. August 10, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I really appreciate the intentionality of this article. Giving generously is often to counter to my own desires, but it is a biblical mandate and a place where great joy and rich relationship is found. I think it is definitely an important character trait to develop in young children and in ourselves!

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