The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Giving thanks — and good gifts

Maya, the youngest grandchild, definitely wanted a pig, and Jacob, the oldest grandson, listened carefully as the other cousins chose what they wanted from the ELCA Good Gifts catalog. The children, parents and grandparents asked questions and made important decisions about spending $500 donated by the adults. This Thanksgiving they will do it again. 

Frank Moore, director of community ministries at First Lutheran Church, Greensboro, N.C., shares this family story, encouraging others to do the same: “We wanted the children to participate in a way that focused on being ‘blessed to be a blessing,’ making decisions together and experiencing the joy of generosity. And the catalog offered a great approach — plus the children liked the animals.”


To help his nine grandchildren understand how financial gifts can make a difference in someone’s life, Moore offered choices of pigs, sheep, goats, bees, etc., stopping occasionally to give details about items such as water purification tablets.

After explaining the process and the importance of serving and sharing, Moore said there was a bit of confusion during this first deliberation for ages 4 to 12. “It was like a church council meeting,” Moore said. “Different people had different opinions. But after a few questions and a long pause, the ideas exploded.”

One child yelled, “Chicks!” Another concurred, but then there were suggestions for bees, a goat and a garden. An adult, aware of how fast money can be spent, said, “Well, let’s see how much that is. ... How about a share of a garden?”

Animal selections dominated the process. The purification tablets were an unexpected choice, but the children agreed that clean water is important. A survival kit also made it into the shopping cart.

This Thanksgiving they’ll add selections to this “family farm” that grows and nurtures other families in the world — gifts through the catalog go to nearly 90 countries.

“The idea is full of hope and optimism — teaching children the joy of giving on a national day of thanks,” Moore said. “It was a 15-minute session that started slow but resulted in happy shouts and glimmers of understanding about serving others and using our God-given resources to help those in need. A new way to give thanks was born, an approach that will become a Thanksgiving tradition passed on from these children to their children — all of them children of God seeking to share gifts of peace.”

Last year’s shopping spree by Maya, Mason, Emily, Rachael, Mary Margaret, Rachel, Sarah, Aaron and Jacob resulted in two sets of chicks ($20), a sheep ($125), three pigs ($90), one set of bees ($20), a goat ($50), a survival kit ($76), one set of water purification tablets ($50), two backpacks ($20) and a share of a community garden ($50).


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September issue


Reinventing Sunday school