The Lord Jesus himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

A Christmas tradition in our family is for each of our children to give a gift to a family that lives in poverty. Sometimes our kids pool their money, as they did several years ago to help fund a well to provide clean drinking water to a community in Haiti. Last year they gave separately, each choosing to give a farm animal to a family in need.

We have fun with this activity — and we all learn about creative and smart ways to give. My wife and I also trust that we're helping our children develop hearts of mercy and compassion.

The first step toward including your children in your family giving is to help them understand that generous giving is a core spiritual discipline. It is essential to growing in grace, trusting God, and becoming more Christlike.

The Bible, of course, emphasizes caring for the poor. So explain that millions of people around the world live in almost unimaginable poverty — and often these people have little opportunity to improve their circumstances because of corrupt political, economic, and legal systems.

The next step is to help your kids find giving opportunities they can get excited about. Depending on their age, allow them to make as many giving decisions as possible from the opportunities you explore together.

Here, for example, are a few ideas your children are sure to find interesting (you can learn more about some of the specific ministries mentioned — and research many other stewardship opportunities — at ServantMatch):

Sponsoring a child. Share your love, prayers, and financial support with a boy or girl who lives in poverty. One of the great things about sponsoring a child is that your child will get a photo and brief biography of the sponsored child. This makes giving personal and real.

Sponsorship, in most cases, provides a child with clean water, nutritious meals, and the opportunity to attend a Christian school. Two of the most well-known sponsorship organizations are Compassion International and World Vision.

Giving a milk-producing animal. A cow or goat that provides a poor family with milk each day is a gift that helps improve nutrition. Additionally, the owner may sell excess milk and milk products, such as cheese, for cash that can be used for other basic needs.

Heifer International goes one step further by requiring recipients to share the first female offspring of their animal with others in need. This empowers each recipient to eventually become a partner in the fight against poverty.

Funding a small business. "There is basic human dignity that comes from people being involved in the market and solving problems and making a living from being useful rather than receiving charity," says African business owner and consultant, June Arunga. You can help fund a small business by lending money to a hard-working and skilled individual through a micro-lending website such as EndPoverty.org. The business owner is thus empowered to grow a business and provide for the basic needs of his or her family, including food, shelter, and health care.

Building a well. Clean water is a basic need that many communities lack. Too often in the poorest countries, human and animal waste contaminates the drinking water. Waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery are common, leading to serious illness and even death. Helping to fund a well (or another clean-water project) will benefit not only one family but hundreds of people in a community — and they will continue to benefit for years to come.

Supporting your local church. Don't overlook giving to or through your local church. Explain that Scripture emphasizes giving in the context of the local church. Make sure your children understand God's deep affection for the church — the bride of Christ.

As Paul notes in Ephesians 5, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Can we do any less? Explain that the church is precious in Jesus' sight, so we should generously invest our time, talent, and treasure to support the church's work of being a redeeming and reforming influence in our world and in our communities.

Talk with your kids about the work your church is engaged in and discuss how the church equips people to think and love like Jesus. Perhaps your church supports missionaries, church-planting projects, orphanages, or medical clinics in poor parts of the world (or even locally). Your children can give to these causes and encourage others to do the same. Or maybe there's a poor family (or elderly member) in your congregation that your children can bless with a financial gift or a gift of labor.

Take one or two of these ideas and try them with your children. Discover together that ministry to the poor is both a fitting and fulfilling way to celebrate the Christmas season.  

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

Matt Alexander is a Certified Financial Planner with Stewardship Wealth Management in Overland Park, Kansas. He is a member of Kingdom Advisors.

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