Cultivating Generosity in Your Kids
About the Guest
We worship a generous God. Shouldn't we also then, be generous givers? Brad Formsma, founder of I Like Giving, a ministry that inspires people around the world to live generously, tells how his grandfather, a bakery owner, modeled generosity to him by giving away loaves of bread to the needy each week. Brad shares how giving generously has become a lifestyle for him and his family.
Brad FormsmaBrad Formsma is the creator of ilikegiving.com, a website viewed in more than 165 countries, which inspires people to live generously through its short films as well as a platform for all to share their experiences in giving. Brad and his wife, Laura, have three children and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Brad shares how giving generously has become a lifestyle for him and his family.
Cultivating Generosity in Your Kids
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can we be more generous, and how can we raise children who embrace generosity as a virtue? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, I have a beef with most of the systematic theology books I’ve ever looked at. There’s a section in most of these books that talks about the attributes of God. They start by listing His communicable attributes and then His incommunicable attributes; okay?
Dennis: Okay. Now, do you want to explain what the difference between those is to our listeners?
Bob: Yes; the incommunicable attributes means that God has them and you never will. [Laughter]
Dennis: So back off!
Bob: It is things like: He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, and He is immutable.
Bob: That’s right—those kinds of things.
Dennis: Some parents would like to have—
Bob: Be omnipresent.
Dennis: They would!
Bob: Actually, I’m just thinking: “No, there are times I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to know.” You know?—alright.
Dennis: Yes, okay. Okay.
Bob: And, then, the communicable attributes are things that are true about God that can also be true about us; for example, God is loving. We can be loving, too. We can never be perfectly loving, as He is perfectly loving; but we can share in that attribute. You rarely see listed one of the attributes of God that, I think, is one of His chief attributes. It is His “givingness”. He’s a generous, giving God. You look at most of these books—they just leave that one completely out. Yet, when you think about the most well-known Bible verse in the world—the one that describes God—how does it start?
Dennis: “For God so loved the world that He gave….”
Bob: Right—love and giving are tied there, right next door.
Dennis: And we have a guest with us who believes what you’re talking about, Bob. In fact, this is a huge part of his life. Brad Formsma joins us on FamilyLife Today. Brad, welcome to the broadcast.
Brad: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Brad works for Generous Giving. He’s all over what you’re talking about, Bob.
Bob: And Generous Giving—our listeners are saying: “What is that? That’s a company you work for?”
Brad: Generous Giving is an organization that’s based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The big idea behind Generous Giving is to encourage people around the biblical message of generosity. Unique to it is that it’s privately-funded by a foundation. We’re able to just talk about the message of generosity without sliding that white envelope across the desk.
Bob: Without saying, “Hey, can you cough up?” So, here’s a generous guy, who says, “I want to encourage other people to be generous;” and he builds an organization to do that.
Brad: That’s right. What we realize is that our biggest influencers are our peers. When we bring people together to learn stories from each other, they’re inspired.
Dennis: You started a landscape design and construction company back in 1989. How much of a giver were you when you started that company?
Brad: I was on the journey.
I grew up with a very generous grandfather. I would spend Saturdays going with him to his bakery. He would make large production runs of baked goods throughout the week; but he had his own little private bakery, where he’d make these 16 loaves of bread. We had five kids in our family, and I was the oldest. I was looking for any good reason to get out of the house and the chaos. [Laughter]
So, I’d get in the back of my grandpa’s big car and we’d go to his bakery. We’d bake these loaves of bread, and then we would set out to bring them to other people. It could be a shut-in; but it would also, maybe, be a wealthy person. It would be a kind word. It might be a loaf of bread. It might be a financial gift—but I just saw it modeled for me.
One day, I was at his office. He pulled up a piece of paper that had all sorts of ministries on it.
He looked at me, across the desk, and he said: “Brad, giving is good. God would have you give. When you give, He’ll often bring it back—not so you can have a better lifestyle—but that you can keep it moving—keeping on doing for other people.”
Even though, when I started the business, I didn’t have a clear—as we would say, “walk with Jesus”—it was still in me, from that influencing, to give and to want to do for other people. We were using our business to give—whether it would be an older person who needed some landscape work at their home, whether it would be discounting a church or a camp work.
Bob: At what point did your giving philosophy begin to mature and start to shift?
Brad: When I was 28 years old, our first son, Danny, was born. At that moment in time, we had to go in for a baby dedication because my wife said, “We need to get the boy dedicated.”
I said, “I don’t want to stand in front of the church and say all these Christian things because we’re not living this way.” We’d come to the 12 o’clock service and be late; or we’d swing by the 12 o’clock service, grab the bulletin, and then go to my mom’s house for dinner; right? Because then, I could pull that out of the pocket and say: “Look! What a service.”
I wasn’t exactly the best role model. So, we had a little private dedication. In that private dedication, with our family and a pastor, he asked me to share. Keep in mind, when I went in to do the pre-counseling for the dedication, I said, “You do all the talking.” So, he talked for a minute; and then said, “Brad’s going to talk.” I thought, “Boy, this is exactly why I was wishing I was paying this guy because now I wouldn’t be paying this guy!” [Laughter]
Bob: You’d fire him; yes!
Brad: I walked out of that dedication and really felt a strong conviction.
I didn’t know what it was at the time. Now, I know it was the Holy Spirit convicting me—saying: “You can’t just say it. You either have to accept it or reject it.” That became a fast-paced journey of just being broken and surrendering my heart to the Lord.
It was, maybe, four or five months later, that I was in Chicago—on a little weekend getaway with my wife—where she said, “I shared my testimony with a few friends.” I said: “Really! I’d like to hear your testimony.” She said: “Well, it’s you! I knew there was no way in the world that you could be changed without something supernatural outside. You’re just a different person. I came to know the Lord through the transformation in your life.”
Dennis: In those five months!
Brad: In those five months.
Dennis: You literally had become a follower of Jesus Christ; and in the words of Jesus, you’d been born again, at that point?
Brad: That’s right.
Dennis: And changed so much that your wife had also made a commitment to Christ?
Brad: That’s right. We always say we were the best make-believers that we knew.
Dennis: So, you were faking it.
Brad: Oh, our wedding was so spiritual that we regularly would have people come up to us and say, “What a wonderful...”; “What a blessing...”; “What a phenomenal service that was!” I actually went back to the pastor that married us, years later, and said: “Man, we really faked you out. We’re really sorry!”
Dennis: Did you both admit to one another that you were faking or was this just kind of an implied assumption in your marriage?
Brad: I think it’s a scary reality in our culture that we think we’re all set and—
Dennis: “We’ve been to church, gone to Sunday school, know a few verses in the Bible, and know even where a few books are located in the Bible.”
Dennis: But that doesn’t make you a believer in Jesus Christ.
Bob: Yes, the idea that that should have anything to do with how you’re living or the choices you’re making.
That’s where you began to see the hypocrisy in your life and say: “Okay, I know this stuff; but this isn’t really core to my existence. This is kind of on the periphery, and I could take it or leave it.”
Brad: Exactly; and, Bob, for me, I observed hypocrisy in the church. That just further cemented what I believed the whole system was—“It was kind of a sham.”
Bob: Yes; “I’m not going to be one of those hypocrites.”
Dennis: But your grandfather wasn’t a sham.
Brad: No, he wasn’t.
Dennis: He was a true follower of Christ; wasn’t he?
Brad: I believe it; absolutely.
Dennis: So, you had seen him demonstrate a generous spirit in giving to people.
Dennis: So, when you became a true follower of Christ, you kind of hit the ground running?
Brad: He clearly influenced me much more by his actions than by his words.
Bob: So, did your giving patterns change as a Christian or was that a part of the journey?
Brad: Yes; as our company grew—so did our giving.
What’s interesting about our situation is that Laura will often say, “I didn’t have a lot of conversation or influencing in my life, growing up, around giving,”—which created some issues because—I tell the story—one day, there was a letter: “Thank you for your gift.” It was a fairly sizable gift. She was standing in the kitchen, with this letter—with that, “What’s this all about?”-face.
Dennis: In other words, you hadn’t talked to her about it?
Brad: No; I just sent a check from the office. [Laughter]
Dennis: So you hadn’t been to the Weekend to Remember®where we talk about marital oneness. [Laughter]
Dennis: You hadn’t been to the conference; had you?
Brad: I needed to go to the woodshed first.
Dennis: Oh, that’s where Laura took you.
Brad: In the kitchen, she—
Dennis: We’re laughing about this, but explain to our listeners why a husband and a wife ought to be singing off the same song sheet when it comes to giving.
Brad: Well, the word “intimacy” comes to mind for me. I’ve heard it said that if there isn’t transparency in the financial side of a marriage, you’re not exhibiting the fullness of intimacy.
I wouldn’t say just sexual intimacy. I would say an overall, relational intimacy. You see, what happened for me was that I had to slow down. I had to get over my own agenda and making things happen. What I learned was I was able to learn her heart. So, when she would come to me and say, “I have a heart for these mercy kinds of organizations,” I would be more of a guy that would say, “Build a bridge and get over it.”
That’s just not a good thing, but that’s where I was. What I found—as we gave, together, into those mercy organizations, my heart went there. So, my heart changed. I became more compassionate.
I have a long way to go, but I’m definitely seeing where my treasure and my heart connection are and how that all works.
Bob: I think that’s an important point to make because people often think that the verse is: “Where your heart is your treasure will be;” in other words, “The things that you really care about—that’s where you spend your money.” You’re saying: “If you need to cultivate things in your life, you ought to be sowing into that. You ought to be investing there, and your heart will come along.”
Brad: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: It was about 20 years ago that a couple came into Little Rock and sat across the room from me, in my office. The guy was wearing cowboy boots. He and his wife had come in to make a donation to FamilyLife. It had all come about because his wife had said: “Sweetheart, do you think if we wanted to give some money to a ministry like FamilyLife, that they’d accept it? Do you think they’d meet with us, and we could talk with them about what they’re doing?”
And her husband—his name is Mike—Mike just smiled and said, “Sweetheart, I promise you, if we wanted to make an investment in what they’re doing, they’ll meet with us.” So, here we were—now, this is 20 years ago. FamilyLife Today, at that point, was not even named. It wasn’t really even an idea. We hadn’t hired Bob yet, but this couple came in and basically helped underwrite the first year of launching FamilyLife Today. It takes, today, anywhere from two to four years before a broadcast like this can begin to get enough donors alongside it to cover the cost of syndicating, producing, and airing the broadcast.
I’m just smiling because your illustration of you kind of taking a step back to bring Laura alongside of you in your heart for giving—everybody listening can apply that because it’s not the amount. The issue is intimacy, oneness, and agreement.
If, as a husband, you’re outrunning your wife here, you do need to take a step back and bring her alongside. Now, have your children caught the disease of generosity?
Brad: Well, Dennis, I like to say: “We get to give. We don’t got to give.” It’s absolutely been part of the legacy that my grandfather left—of modeling generosity—in the caught, not taught, thing. We don’t preach much about it. I don’t think we preach at all. I really try to talk to them about the ideas of Jesus and the power of living those ideas out.
So, when we read in Acts 20:35 about how Jesus says, “It’s more blessed to give than receive,” that has just become one of those staple verses in our home: “There’s an idea of Jesus. We’re going to live that out.” What we find is that the more we live out His ideas, the more they become true. It just becomes part of our life.
As a matter of fact, years ago, a mentor of mine said there are hot leads in the newspaper. What he meant by that is there are opportunities to give and do for other people, even in your local newspaper. Our family got the Sunday morning newspaper, and we saw a Sudanese family who had their bike stolen. I brought the article in. We read it, as a family, on a Sunday morning.
I asked them, “What could we do about this?” My seven-year-old—he looked at us. He held up his precious little blanket. He said, “I’ll give them my blanket.” I said: “Oh, Drew, bless you; but they can’t ride your blanket to work—any other ideas?” My oldest son said: “Oh, Dad! We have to go get them bikes.” I said: “You’re right! We have to go get them bikes.” We brought them into this experience where we went—and we put the whole day on hold for what we were going to do—because we really felt like the Lord gave us an assignment.
Bob: You didn’t know this family? There was an article in the newspaper about them?
Brad: Article in the newspaper—needle in a haystack. The only indicator I had—calling in to this mega-church that had sponsored them—was a little picture in the newspaper. They wouldn’t tell me where they lived. I said, “Well, it looks like it’s in this part of town.” The guy said: “You’re right. It’s actually down on that end.” I said, “Well, that’s enough for us to go by.” I just had a strong sense we were supposed to make this happen that day. They needed to go to work the next.
Dennis: You’re talking about a family that truly needed transportation to be able to get to and from their home to work.
Brad: That’s right. That afternoon, we had big plans, as a family. We were going to go to a fun water park and do some really neat things. We decided, as a family: “We’re going to punt on that. We have to push ‘pause’ on the water park.” That afternoon, we were able to come into connection with this family.
Bob: How did you come into connection with them? First of all, you went to the bike store and bought bikes; right?
Brad: Bob, we went to Costco®—loaded up the minivan with two bikes—and set out on this adventure to find them. Because we had a picture, out of the newspaper, that had a little hose reel on the side of the house—because the person at the church had given me a general idea of where they lived—I said, “That’s enough for us to go on.” We’re driving up and down these streets. We realized: “Oh no! All these houses look the same.”
Then, we went back to that newspaper clipping. There’s that green hose reel, where Samson and Hussein, hopefully, live. We’re knocking on the door; and they said, “They’re not here.” I’m thinking: “Where could they have gone? They don’t have any transportation!” So, we drove around and got ice cream. An hour went by, and two hours, and three hours—
Dennis: So, you found the house—they just weren’t there.
Brad: They weren’t there. We drove around this part of town for four hours because Laura said to me: “We got these bikes. What are we going to do?” Now keep in mind, she’s hearing this tape, playing in her head: “Well, there are going to be hundreds of bikes in their front yard. Certainly, with 900,000 newspapers being circulated, somebody else is going to hit this need.”
Yet, when we came around the corner and they were walking into their home—they had been dropped off by another family—we went to their door, and they came out. We had no way to communicate, other than just to point to the bike.
Dennis: Meaning they didn’t speak English?
Brad: They didn’t speak English. There was no way to communicate. We just said, “We want to bless you.” All the dad could say is: “I like bike! I like bike!” He’s riding this bike down the street. My boys are clapping, and his son was clapping. The tags were still on it. We just said: “Have a good day. See you later.” They just waved to us, and off we went.
The next morning—on my way to school, dropping off my son—he said to me, “Dad, that was way better than us ever going to that fun water park.” I thought: “It’s sticking. He’s realizing that it’s better to give than receive.”
Of course, the Lord is so clear in Timothy. He tells us we can enjoy these things. He wants us to enjoy His blessings; but when He gives us these assignments, and we get to be a part of these—as a matter of fact, if you go to ILikeGiving.com, you can watch “I Like Bike.” We spend 4½ minutes re-enacting, as a family, for the very purpose of inspiring people to go out and create their own story.
Bob: We have a link, on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, to the I Like Giving website. If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link, you can watch that video and see some of the other work that’s being done through I Like Giving.
Dennis: What I like about your story is—it illustrates Second Corinthians, Chapter 9, verse 6. I hadn’t read this in a while. This was really good for me to read. It’s a great reminder. It says: “The point is this—whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Now, I have a feeling that, even though you’d circled the neighborhood for four hours, at the point of giving, there was a lot of cheering going on as you pulled away because the kids got a chance to begin to experience reaping in a bountiful way. That’s what giving really gives us the chance to do. It’s back to what Bob talked about, at the beginning of the broadcast. This is a part of the character and very nature of God.
It’s a good thing because God gives us all kinds of good gifts. It begins with His Son, Jesus Christ, who you talked about earlier—who changed your life. The person, who is listening today to our broadcast about giving—my challenge to them—if they identify with Brad, before they think about giving anything to anybody, anywhere, first turn to the God who is the giver of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Receive the finest gift that will not perish—that will never pass away—but will secure your eternal home, and even more importantly than that, a relationship with the Lord God Almighty.
Bob: We have a link on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, that says, “TWO WAYS TO LIVE”. It spells out for you that there are two ways to live. You can live with yourself at the center of all that you do, and then there’s another way to live where God is at the center of all you do.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about what it means to have a relationship with God and have Him be in charge of your life—the One who is calling the shots for you. Look for the link for “TWO WAYS TO LIVE”.
Then, there’s also a link on our website to the I Like Giving website that we talked about today. You can see some of the videos that Brad’s been involved with—maybe, show some of the videos to your family.
And Brad has just written a book called I Like Giving. We have that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Again—a great book to read through together, as a family—maybe, at the dinner table or the breakfast table. Read a chapter, at a time, as you sit down for a meal with your family. Find out more about the I Like Giving book and videos. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or order a copy of the book from us by calling 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, we want to take a minute and say a word of thanks to the generous givers who link arms with us, here at FamilyLife. We are a listener-supported ministry. If it weren’t for people—who like giving—who listen to FamilyLife Today and then call, or go online, or mail a check to us—we couldn’t do all that we do. In fact, more than 60 percent of the money we need to operate the ministry comes from folks, like you, making donations to help support this work.
If you can help with a donation this month, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a couple of CDs that feature a conversation we had with pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace, talking about some of the challenges they have faced, both before they were married and in the early years of their marriage. I think their transparency is healthy and helpful. We’d love to send you the CDs that feature our conversation with them.
When you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I CARE,” to make an online donation. We’ll send the CDs out to you.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you make a donation over the phone, ask for the CDs called Real Marriage with Mark and Grace Driscoll. Or you can mail a check to us at FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is Post Office Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. We’re going to hear more about giving from Brad Formsma and talk about how we cultivate a heart of generosity in our kids. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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