Teaching Children About Charity

This lesson is based on teachings from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.

You may want to share this quote from the book with older family members:

Charity is the ultimate attribute of godliness. It constitutes obtaining the divine nature of Christ through faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness and godliness with all humility and diligence (see D&C 4:6). This pure love of Christ is total, complete, enduring, and characteristic of the divine being. When one is possessed of this love, his or her desires are like unto our Savior’s—to bless and serve mankind.

Charity never fails. Christ did not fail his Father, nor did He fail us; His pure love motivated His great sacrifice—the eternal, infinite, vicarious Atonement. When we possess that love, we act in our lives according to the principles of the Atonement. When we possess this charity—this pure love of Christ, this love for all men, this desire to bless and serve—we then possess the qualities of charity, and we never fail. For in the strength of the Lord we can do all things, just as Ammon did (Alma 26:12). In the strength of charity, through the Atonement of Christ, we begin to acquire this unconditional godly love, this divine nature of Christ.

Mormon VisitingCharity is often described as the pure love of Christ. Just as Jesus Christ lived a life of charity, He commanded us to do the same. This family night lesson will help your children learn to serve others in a loving way.

Learn how to hold a family night.

A few days before this lesson, give each person in the family an envelope marked “Top Secret Mission.” Inside, list the name of another family member and instructions to secretly do something for that person, such as making the bed or

leaving a surprise on the pillow. Be sure each person receives a service. Remind them not to reveal their identity or get caught doing it. Follow up to be certain they completed their assignments and that they were appropriately done. Ask them to tell you what they did so you can record it for the lesson. Before Family Night, write each service done on a poster board or white board—the service and the recipient, but not the giver. Display it during the lesson.

Remind the givers not to reveal what he did. The source of the service must forever be a secret.

Also assign each family member a story of how Jesus served others and have them be prepared to tell it to the family.

When the lesson begins, have each person tell their stories of Jesus. Discuss the stories as they’re told. What type of person did Jesus help? Were they always good and worthy people?

Help the children realize Jesus helped all kinds of people, including sinners and people who might not have been worthy to receive help. When he protected the woman about to be stoned, He told her He refused to judge her, but did warn her not to sin again. However, He helped her before receiving a promise from her not to sin or before knowing anything about her except this one thing she’d done wrong. The reason is there are many reasons people sin. It’s not up to us to judge and decide who is worthy of help, because we don’t know their whole story. There may be more to their history than we are aware—but God knows the whole story. It’s only our place to serve, and God’s to pass judgment on worthiness or to decide if someone caused his own suffering.

Point out the service list. Discuss the services provided and be certain big services aren’t praised more than small ones. Help them see every act of charity is worthy of God’s approval, big or small. Sometimes the seemingly smallest service can change a life. We might never know how we have helped another person—how much someone needed our plate of cookies, or even our smile.

Write on a board: “When God needs something done, He usually sends a person to do it.” Ask your family what this means. Help them decide when they are serving others, they are on the Lord’s errand. Ask them if it’s okay to ask for a reward for service or to tell everyone about the service. Let them decide why quiet, unrecognized service is often the best kind. Ask them how they felt about serving someone in their family this week, even though they aren’t getting any praise for it.

Tell your family it’s often easy to figure out what kind of service is needed. For instance, if we learn someone has no food, clearly we need to provide food. But there are many people who need service and don’t tell anyone. Can they think of ways they can know what service others need? (Be observant; pray for inspiration, serve everyone you see.)

Service is easier when we practice looking for needs. Tell the following story to young children: “Joseph was sitting in Sunday School. He glanced over to the side of the room and noticed a teacher was standing in the corner. All the chairs were filled, but there were extra chairs in a stack on the far side of the room. He got up and brought her a chair.”

Tell this story to older children and teens. “Sophie’s school added a new program for deaf students. Some of the students came into certain classes with an interpreter. Sophie noticed they used sign language, and so they only spoke to each other. She thought they’d feel more welcome in their new school if someone who could hear would sign to them. She found a video and a book on sign language and started teaching herself to sign. She began greeting the students in her classes in sign language as soon as she knew a few signs. With the help of one of the interpreters, she was able to have a few conversations with one girl, who began sitting with her at lunch and teaching her more signs. They wrote notes when they wanted to have longer conversations, and also emailed each other. Sophie asked the school to start a sign language club where students could learn signs. A number of students joined and soon many of the hearing students were socializing with the deaf students.”

Regardless of which story you use, ask your children how Joseph or Sophie knew what needed to be done. (They were observant.) Did anyone organize their service or assign it? (No, they took the initiative.)

As a family, make a list of small services a person could perform for others. Or, make a list of people you know who could use some service. Help your children think beyond obvious needs. Make a plan to integrate service into your daily lives.

Remind children that charity is more than just doing good. It is something that happens deep in our heart, and it’s about love. We serve not to be rewarded, but because we love others.

Set up a small artificial tree or some other method of displaying paper hearts. Give each person a stack of hearts with string attached. Tell them for the next week, they’re to perform acts of service and then discreetly put their hearts on the tree, one for each service. They’re not to put their names on them or what they did. The service can be small—smiling at an elderly person, picking up an object someone drops, or playing with a younger sibling. The goal is to fill the tree with hearts by the end of the week, and to do it without anyone knowing who did how many acts of service. Put the tree in a place that allows people to access it privately, but bring it out each day so people can see how it’s growing. Encourage them to continue serving even after the week ends.

Spend the remainder of the evening doing a simple act of charity for others.

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