Seven lessons to teach your kids about serving the poor

The lessons my wife, Jennica, and I have learned over the years by sponsoring children have been tremendous in teaching our six kids (ages 5 months to 10 years old) about serving the poor. For each one of our children, we’ve added a sponsored child from a different country. In connecting with children all over the world, we’ve learned so much.  Over the next seven days, we’re going to share some of our experiences teaching our kids and give you some great resources (and fun games!) to teach your children.

1. You can make a difference

Sometimes, when I hear that 1.4 billion people live in poverty around the world, I wonder… how can I make a difference?

The first lesson to teach your children is: you can make a difference! Sponsoring a child makes a positive impact on that child, her family, the community, the local church and your family. One of the most frequently asked questions about child sponsorship is: does the sponsorship money actually go to help the child you sponsor? The answer is yes – and more. The money from your child sponsorship not only helps the child with education, medical assistance, training, and more, but it also helps the family and the community.

Sponsoring a child will give your own child proof of the difference made. The sponsored child will write your family (and more often if you write back ) and you’ll be able to see the change in her life during the time of your sponsorship. We’ve seen two of our sponsored children “graduate” from child sponsorship – what a great feeling it is to know the change we had in someone’s life halfway around the world! Your children will be able to interact with a child from a different culture and see how she lives…expanding your child’s understanding about poverty.

2. A heart for giving

In his book Maximize, Nelson Searcy shares a great illustration of stewardship:

On a crisp spring day a few years ago, I took my nephew, who was about eight at the time, to a baseball game.  As the fourth inning wound down, he turned to me and said, “Uncle Nelson, can I have some Skittles?”  Well, I love my nephew, and I want to grant him the desires of his heart, so of course I said yes.  I pulled a couple of dollars out of my pocket, put them in his eager little hand, and watched as he walked the short distance to the concession stand.  A few minutes later he returned, already  digging hungrily into a bag of candy.

Watching him eat those Skittles brought out my sweet tooth.  So I asked him, “Can I have one of those?”

Without hesitating, he answered, “No, Uncle Nelson, they’re almost gone.”

Though I didn’t say it aloud, I have to admit my instinctive response was, “Look, kid, I gave you the money for those Skittles.  Not to mention I am a lot bigger than you are.  If I wanted to I could take the whole bag of Skittles away from you right now.”  Instead I let him continue eating his Skittles in silence.

God provides us our Skittles – how we choose to use them reflects our heart for giving. Tomorrow, we’ll explore how to nurture a heart for giving in your children.

3. What causes poverty?

The answer may surprise you. Poverty is breakdown of relationships. First, the relationship between man and God: when we do not see God as the solution to our problems, we cannot begin to solve them. Secondly, our social relationships: poverty emerges when we abandon our responsibilities to each other. Thirdly, our physical relationships: God gave us the task of being stewards of his physical creation, the Earth, and we must honor that task. Finally, our relationship with ourselves: we must see our own inherent worth and dignity as beings made in the image of God.

4. Clean water is life

Did you know that the human body is made up of about 60 percent water? Clean water is one of the most important things for life to exist, and yet nearly one billion people around the world do not have access to clean and safe water in their communities. When we are not good stewards of the Earth that God created, water sources can easily become contaminated.

5. Bugs, worms and other yucky things

Dangerous worms (like intestinal) are often found in communities that lack clean water, good quality soaps and cleaning supplies, among others. These worms, which can enter the body through contaminated food or water, can often lead to a number of health problems. There are a few different ways that we can help communities dealing with worms.

6. God can supply our needs

In the Bible’s story about the loaves and the fishes, we learn about how God can provide for us even when we have only a  little.  When a group of five thousand people followed Jesus to be healed, only five loaves of bread and two fish could be found for a meal– clearly not enough food for thousands of followers. But Jesus took the bread and fish, gave thanks to God for His bounty, and gave each person present as much food as they wanted for dinner. In the end, there was even food left over!

7. Praying for the people of the world

In this final lesson, we’ll learn about being generous with your giving through prayer. In praying, you open your heart to God to receive the compassion that He has for us, so that you can become a cheerful giver. You can pray to Jesus for the strength to make sacrifices large and small, so that you can happily contribute your own resources to the people who may not have the same privileges that you do.

Today’s lesson: You can make a difference

Materials needed for today’s lesson:

  • Mustard seeds
  • An apple
  • Paper plane
    (printed, enough copies for your family and for your sponsored children)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

- Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl

Mustard Tree © lrargerich, Flickr. Licensed Creative Commons.

Verse of the day: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

Have you ever seen a mustard seed? They are so small, if I only held one in my hand, you likely wouldn’t see it. Yet this little seed – one of the smallest seeds – grows into a big mustard tree, spreading mustard seeds around it, providing shelter and spaces for birds to make a nest. In this parable, Jesus is telling people that even something small can make a big difference.

I’ve cut an apple open here for you to see the seeds inside. Do you see the five seeds inside this apple? If you plant these seeds, they will grow into five apple trees. How many apples do you think those apple trees will produce? Hundreds? Thousands? One little apple can produce trees that will grow thousands of other apples!

These seeds show us that doing something small can make a big impact in someone’s life. As we make a donation to the food bank, provide a coat to someone who is cold this winter or sponsor a child, we are making an impact in someone’s life that will be felt by others around them.

Today’s activity: Today, we’re creating a paper airplane to send to your sponsored child. What’s neat about a paper airplane is with just a little effort, you can make it fly a long distance.

  1. Download the paper airplane template.
  2. Print copies for each member of your family and your sponsored children.
  3. Cut out the sides and fold the airplane per the instructions on the download.
  4. Create one for your sponsored child and send it to them! (Read My Sponsorship for mailing instructions).
  5. Have a paper airplane throwing contest.

Isn’t it amazing how just a little effort makes the airplane fly a long way? Your support of that child works in the same way – your monthly support makes a far reaching impact into that child’s life and generations to come.

There’s a common saying, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, with the grace of God, I will do.” Though you are just one family, your family can make a difference in a child’s life. Sponsoring a child will change his family and his community and help him receive an education, get the medical and preventative care he needs, and provide for other basic needs.

Today’s prayer: God, I am only one person, but I’m one person who wants to make an impact for your kingdom. Please use me to help feed the hungry, provide drinks for the thirsty, and teach others about Jesus.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore how we can nurture a giving heart.

Related posts:

  1. Child sponsorship lets kids be kids
  2. Devotional Day 5: Serving Others (#fhblogger)
  3. Devotional Day 2: Generosity and Kids (#fhbloggers)
  4. After nine years without clean, running water, “my kids can’t wait to take a shower”
  5. What’s better than building a classroom for kids who desperately need it?

About Jeremy Reis

Jeremy Reis is the Director of Digital Marketing for Food for the Hungry. He is the husband to Jennica and father of 6. Jeremy writes about how to disciple children into a loving and compassionate world view.

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