Raising the Next Generation of Diligent Workers

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24

I once heard the late Habitat for Humanity ministry founder Millard Fuller tell a moving story about former president Jimmy Carter. After leaving office, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, spent countless hours volunteering with the ministry, helping build houses for needy families. At one such house, Fuller asked a little boy who was part of the family who lived there if he knew who built his house. Expecting him to credit President Carter, the little boy happily surprised him by exclaiming, “Jesus built my house!” 

Doesn’t that paint a great picture of the work of a Christian? Whether it’s the job we do for a living or the work we do as a volunteer, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world caught a glimpse of Jesus in the way we work? And wouldn’t it be great if we could instill such habits, attitudes, and motivations in our children? 

Everyone Works 

In the first parenting class my wife, Jude, and I participated in, led by Keith, the associate pastor at our church at that time, and his wife, “Cag” (Caroline), they explained that they gave each of their four kids jobs to do around the house just as soon as they were physically able to work. “We wanted to instill in them the idea that we have to pull together as a team,” Cag said. “You have to do your part and serve others in the family.” At first, that meant helping with the laundry, pairing up socks of the same pattern or color. Soon enough, they were setting the table and helping with the dishes. 

If you’re not sure what work a child could do, Focus on the Family offers a helpful list of chores kids can handle at various ages. For example, children ages two or three are capable of taking their dirty clothes to the laundry basket. Somewhere between ages eight and eleven, they can learn to use the washer and dryer on their own. 

Chores are not just essential in managing all the work of a household—they are essential to a child’s development. A University of Minnesota study found a clear connection between a child’s early work habits and how their lives will turn out. According to the study’s authors, a child “who does chores has a greater chance of success in life” and the most successful people began doing chores at three to four years of age. 

The work our kids do around the house can be a great way to cultivate the traits of a good work ethic, such as owning the work, which can be learned when they have some ongoing responsibility, such as cleaning a bathroom weekly; doing the work well (because there’s a difference between completing a job and completing it with excellence); doing the work without grumbling about it (“In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing . . .”; Philippians 2:14, TLB), and completing what they start. 

Finish the Work 

Extracurricular activities can also be a good training ground for building a strong work ethic and more. In fact, Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, says, “There are countless research studies showing that kids who are more involved in extracurriculars fare better on just about every conceivable metric—they earn better grades, have higher self- esteem, are less likely to get in trouble, and so forth.” 

When our kids express an interest in a particular activity, if we help instill in them the discipline to stay with it, it will be a foundational learning opportunity for them.

That’s what Zach experienced. Now an adult, he vividly remembers the summer after his sixth-grade year when, having never played football, he joined his middle school team at the encouragement of a friend. From the start, things did not go well. One night after telling his parents he wanted to quit, they told him warmly but firmly, “We finish what we start.” The next morning, as he reluctantly prepared for practice, Zach found this note from his dad on the breakfast table. 

Zach, Read the following Scriptures this morning: Philippians 4:13 (strength); 1 Peter 4:10-11 (strength); 1 Peter 1:6-7 (perseverance); 2 Samuel 22:33 (strength); Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 11:32-34 . We are proud of you, and I am very confident you can see this through. Have a great practice. Love, Dad 

With that encouragement, Zach finished out the season. Married now and with a young child of his own, Zach has kept his dad’s note all these years. It’s a life lesson he has leaned on several times since that summer after sixth grade, and he’s intent on passing it down to his son when he gets older. 

Work away from Home 

There is much value to having our kids work outside the home as well. In Grit, Angela Duckworth tells the story of a girl who was late to school “almost every day.” Then one summer, the girl got a job at a clothing retailer. On her first day, the store manager said, “Oh, by the way, the first time you’re late, you’re fired.” The girl was stunned. No second chances? All her life, there had been patience, understanding, and second chances. 

So what happened? Duckworth reports that the girl’s father was amazed by the change she made. “Quite literally, it was the most immediate behavior change I’ve ever seen her make,” he said. Suddenly his daughter was setting two alarms to make sure she was on time, or early, to a job where being late was simply not tolerated.

As our kids work, whether in our homes or for others, keep connecting their work to God’s Word. Remind them to work “as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24), that through their work they can be a blessing to their community (Jeremiah 29:7), and that in the way they do their work, they can even show others who God is (1 Corinthians 12:7, MSG). 

Just part of the story

You’ve been reading an excerpt from my new book, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management. If you’ve already purchased a copy, thank you. You helped it launch as the number one new release in Christian stewardship. To keep the momentum going, I’d be grateful if you took a few minutes to post a review on Amazon. If you haven’t purchased a copy, please let me encourage you to do so—either for your own family if you have kids at home or for someone else’s family.

There are two reasons why I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to ask you directly to buy a copy of the book and to tell others about it—two reasons why I feel such a strong sense of mission with this book. First, if we don’t teach our kids about money, it isn’t that they won’t learn. They will learn, but the consumer culture will be their teacher, with its destructive messages, “You don’t have enough” and “You’re not enough.”

And second, there’s so much potential here. The exponential returns God could generate through kids who get on a good, God-honoring path with money early in life are impossible to quantify. Doing so will positively impact their relationship with Christ, contribute mightily to the quality and joy of their future marriage, and free them to make the difference with their lives they were designed to make. I would love to see that happen for as many kids as possible!

Thank you for your partnership!

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