How to Teach Your Kids About Ownership: Raising Homemade Disciples

Hi Friends, sorry for being absent so long and HUGE apologies to my dad for flaking out on promoting his book.  In a subsequent post, I am going to explain where I’ve been (NEW JOB!), but without further ado, I want to share with you the 5th installment in the series from my dad’s book Raising Homemade Disciples.  

In previous blogs I’ve talked about God’s Six Purposes for the family. So far we’ve looked at two of the “biggies” – Authority and Discipline. The next one might be a bit of a surprise – I call it “Ownership”. When people talk about home ownership, they’re discussing buying instead of renting. Car ownership might mean the choice between paying cash and leasing. The ownership I’m talking about deals with your concept of who is the owner of your life, talents and abilities.

Like most principles, this one is taught as it is “caught.” That is, they are contagious to the extent they are modeled. My children learned the principle of Authority by watching the way I regarded police officers and how I spoke about my supervisor or my pastor. They learned the principle of Discipline by observing my responses to life’s setbacks. I know now the impact it made on them to find me reading God’s Word each morning when they awoke. They learned the principle of Ownership by seeing how I resisted the “accumulation mentality” all around me, and how we handled the “lean times” by focusing on what we did have.

My parents came from the Depression era when most folks didn’t have it so good. They were painfully frugal, and didn’t buy things they didn’t need. The idea of taking a day just to go window shopping would have been a foreign concept. These days we go shopping as recreation, pouring over magazines, catalogs and online sites to learn what we’ll need next. We don’t wait to replace; now we just have to upgrade.

Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof – the world and they that dwell in it.” It’s all His. He will see that it’s all used in ways that bring Him honor. To the extent that we cooperate and participate in that plan, we reap the benefit and joy of being partners with Him. But there’s a problem. We often slip into the trap of thinking that the earth and everything in it is ours—to use it any way we want for our pleasure—that it’s all about us.

This principle of Ownership is the understanding that everything I have belongs to someone else—God. More than that, I am entrusted as a temporary manager of my possessions for the sole benefit of the Owner. My gifts will never be mine, but I am free to choose how I use them. I can spend my time, my energies and resources on my own selfish pursuits and end my life with nothing, or I can invest them according to the purposes of the Owner and receive all the rich rewards He promises – even if they are invisible things that don’t buy groceries.

The rich farmer’s fertile fields in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12) yielded more crops than his barns could hold. His undoing was his mindset that asked, “What shall I do with all my crops?” Like most of us, he didn’t ask, “Who can I share all the extra with?” His needs were met, and the excess was for others. God replied to him, “You fool! This very night your life will end – then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” The obvious answer is “Somebody else!”

A little creativity and intentionality can help you instill this lesson in children of all ages. Younger ones readily identify with others in need and will usually be eager to share. They’ll do so without our adult consciousness of dollar signs attached to the gift, whether it’s a well-worn stuffed animal or a heartfelt response to a faraway missionary’s need.

We often hear that TIME is our most valuable commodity – one that children should learn to manage wisely. When our children were small, we decided to make a weekly visit after dinner with my guitar to sing and talk with the “grandmas” in a nearby rest home. The smiles and joy at our arrival made a lasting impression on our children, who eventually realized it was a worthwhile trip, even on weeks when they might have preferred a trip to Dairy Queen instead.

This principle of ownership also includes the awareness that our talents and abilities are resources that we control. Many parents inflate their children’s pride over musical or artistic talents, and encourage them to put a price on how they will use those abilities. Instead of allowing God to direct the use of these gifts for His purposes, the skills go to the highest bidder and are twisted or manipulated in ways that neglect the Giver.

We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but how do children learn what it really takes to earn enough for a fast food meal, a prom dress or a modest home? Our children learned to pitch in with the chores inherent in a home business long before they were old enough for a real job, but they all did food service and other nearby jobs throughout high school. A nice clean used car was awarded after their first year of college with good grades. The expectation of hard work came naturally from periodic discussions and an intentional plan.

I’m an entrepreneur by nature, with a fairly high risk tolerance. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to trust God and march into the unknown, but after many years we’ve become willing to go out on a limb. It wasn’t always easy for our three children, so we had to be discreet at times, leading them gently through the process of change. An adventure for one may be terrifying to another. Matthew 5 says, “Do not be anxious about your life – what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or what you will wear.” Did He really mean it?

In 1988 I announced to our three pre-teens my decision to re-enter the business world after six years as “faith missionaries.” We had trusted God to supply our needs each month through friends and supporting churches, an exciting if not nail-biting adventure! Imagine my surprise at Katrina’s tearful reaction: “Now we won’t have to trust God anymore!”

If you’ve ever started a home business, you understand the humor and the irony! Of course, the whole issue of helping children learn to handle money is a major aspect of Ownership. I believe the principle of giving the first tenth of our income is an essential starting point. Doing so establishes the foundation of a priority beyond my own wants and needs. Beyond giving ten percent from the top are the components of saving, sharing and spending the remainder.

There are many creative ways to teach children the practical skills of allocating money toward these goals. Dave Ramsey, author and founder of Financial Peace University seminars, explains that we either choose intentionally where our money will go, or we allow the many waiting creditors to take it from us. Helping your children learn to make those choices on a foundation of values and goals will guard them from a lifetime of waste and financial bondage. Be sure your system includes the four crucial components of Giving to God, Saving for the future, Spending for needs and Sharing with others beyond the tithe. (Some financial programs will need your “tweaking” so be sure to notice and strive for a good Biblical balance!)

The bottom line for children learning money management skills is to see them progress toward a point of independence in adulthood. When they leave home for college, marriage or whatever, they should be equipped with the ability to wisely earn and control their own money. This seems like a forgotten concept for many teens who still expect handouts for whims, entertainment and frills as well as for basic needs.

Obviously, personality differences in your children span a wide spectrum. For some these disciplines come natur­ally, while others will struggle with anything involving numbers and orderliness. Shane, now our financial planner, was born with a calculator in one hand and budget envelopes in the other. His sisters have wisely learned to be diligent managers of their home finances as well, for which we are proud and thankful.

The generation that survived World War II remembered the lean years and wanted to give generously to their children. Their children grew up with less grasp of what it took to earn a dollar. Many expected to match Dad and Mom’s lifestyle, but twenty years faster – straight out of college. Today’s parents who are committed to giving their children values instead of stuff will have to grab the pendulum and fight to resist the trends of Gen-X and Millennials.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 (NLT) “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

When today’s parents try to serve both, they find they can’t raise homemade disciples. Many double-income families or dads who are “workaholics” chase the fantasy of providing their children with a better life than they had. This is one of many lessons I learned the hard way. My mother helped me get a checking account after I had my first job and my first car, and continued to monitor it for me until I got married! YIKES! I decided to cut the cord sooner, letting my three manage their earnings and expenses while still in high school.

It makes little difference whether you use some kind of envelope system, jars, piggy banks or whatever else. The self-control developed by a conscientious habit of money management yields fruit for a lifetime. It will build a deep and lifelong awareness that all of God’s gifts are given for us to use at His direction so He is honored through them.

MY COMMITMENT         

I will help my children to recognize the many blessings we have, and our responsibility as good stewards to give, spend, save and share wisely from our time, talents and treasure with eternity in view.

MY PRAYER          

Lord Jesus, all I have is Yours – my abilities, my time, my resources all belong to You. I want to use them all in a way that honors and pleases You. Help me to reinforce this truth in the way I guide my children to understand Your love for them and Your plan to bless their lives and use them for Your glory. Amen!

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