child sponsorship The other day as I checked Facebook in the early morning, I read this article and was aghast. I shot it off to my team in indignation. My boss quickly wrote back, “Isn’t this a joke site?”

How embarrassing.

But this article is funny because it’s true.

Like the woman who wants to trade her tired out, boring Roberto for a cuter, more exotic Thai girl, how many of us have somewhat self-serving attitudes when it comes to sponsorship?

I have to admit that when my husband and I chose our first sponsored child, we picked a child from India because:

(a) my husband likes Ravi Zacharias
(b) Indians are so good looking

Hey, you gotta choose somehow!

I have a co-worker (who shall remain unnamed) who says that the first time he sponsored a child, he picked up the child pack, read the bio and said,

“He’s perfect! Do you have him in blonde?”

He was quoting “The Simpsons,” but still.

Research on why people give to charitable causes is never very flattering to the donors. According to the study this article cites, when we give, we’re often not motivated by philanthropy or logic, but by our feelings. Namely, our desire to feel good about ourselves.

I’d like to think that over the years, I’ve evolved as a sponsor, that my giving has gone from self-focused to others-focused. But I still have to watch my motivations.

This year when giving Christmas gifts through a charitable catalog, I had to seriously ask myself what’s the purpose of sending the emails that say “Amber has given a gift in your name”— to pet my own ego or to raise awareness of the needs out there? A part of me knew it was a little of both.

One big problem with being motivated by our own feelings when helping others is the long-term effect it has on our giving. Like the woman who wanted to trade in her sponsored child, when we’re motivated by our own needs and feelings, we won’t be committed in the long-term.

We will be more concerned with what we want than what the child needs. We will become more focused on what we’re getting out of our sponsorship experience than on how it is helping the child.

How do you deal with this in your own life?

We are all human and can fall prey to our less-than-noble motivations so quickly and easily. How do you ensure that your giving and sponsorship are in response to the Holy Spirit’s nudging and not your own ego?

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  1. Paula
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 7:28 am

    I admit I chose my sponsored children as an extension of my own family and chose children who could “blend in” with my kids. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I had a friend tell my that the reason people sponsor children from countries such as Guatemala or El Salvador is because they are uncomfortable with black African children. I doubt this is true, but it does make one think.

  2. Dec 22, 2011
    at 7:30 am

    Gosh, I struggle with this! I know that I am addicted to the “feel-good” aspect of sponsoring. And I mean that seriously–we have taken on probably too many sponsorships for our income as a teacher and a maintenance man…
    I often pray for my sponsored kids, and ask God to please overlook my selfish motives and let the kids benefit anyway–to shove “me” aside and allow “Him” to shine through my flawed thoughts and deeds!
    Brain research is showing that the human mind is *wired* to feel pleasure after doing good–even just witnessing a good deed makes those pleasure cells fire up. As much as I feel a little guilty about my selfish motivations and by my own need to feel good, I also remind myself that God made this self-reward phenomenon in us… so maybe it’s not all bad!

    • Amber Van Schooneveld
      Dec 22, 2011
      at 9:05 am

      That’s an excellent point, Julie! God did design us to enjoy giving, and, thank God, He blesses our giving even when we’re not perfect!

    • Dec 23, 2011
      at 1:40 am

      Wow. What great facts. That ‘brain research’ has certainly made me feel better about my sponsorship. That I’m not an egonist or else, but just a person that GOD has chosen to work for him.

  3. melanie
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 8:30 am

    Several years ago after i had sinned grievously and repented, i asked my husband if i could sponsor a child. I wanted some way to express my gratitude for the mercy of the Lord. When I went on the Compassion website there were several hundred girls waiting for sponsors and I did not know how to choose. Then i saw her – dear little “Mercy”. I wept and knew that was my sponsored child, a daily reminder of the mercy of the Lord. So I always think that the Lord chose her for me. She is a precious and beautiful girl in Kenya, and she has blessed my life far more than anything I have done for her. I am so grateful and do ask that my motivation may be pure in the eyes of the Lord.

    • Dec 22, 2011
      at 8:46 am

      Melanie, that is a lovely reason to sponsor! :-)

  4. corina lucas
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 9:03 am

    My first kid I picked because he was the only kid from Thailand on the table.
    My second kid I liked because of his beautiful dark black skin and I felt a big yes from God. He was a teenager and I wanted someone my age.
    My third I picked because she was so gorgeous. She is from Ecuador but she does not look hispanic. She was a red heart and I thought it might be because she did not look Ecuadorian.

  5. Julie
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 11:05 am

    I talked to a sponsor a while back who asked me if I could find him a child whose name he could pronounce. No other criteria mattered – he just wanted to be able to say his child’s name. :)

    • Dec 22, 2011
      at 3:11 pm

      I like that. Names are so important.

  6. Karen
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 1:20 pm

    When I “chose” my child to sponsor, I took the very first packet — I figured they ALL need a sponsor – and this is the one God meant for me to have.

  7. Pamela B
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 1:53 pm

    My first girl picked me…I saw her picture amongst the packets on the table at church and it just pulled at my heart. She was 6 at the time and lives in Ghana. My second girl is also from Ghana and I picked her because she was 12. I think I have been led by God about whom I sponsor although when I picked the second girl, I made sure she was in a different project. I want each girl to feel as special as possible when I write or send little things to them.

  8. Dec 22, 2011
    at 1:55 pm

    Great episode of the Simpsons, ‘Brother from the Same Planet.’ Homer’s neglect sends Bart looking for a new father, and Homer responds in kind.

    Pepe: I love you, Papa Homer.
    Homer: I love you, too, Pepsi.

  9. Dec 22, 2011
    at 3:25 pm

    Would you exchange your biological child when they hit that awkward looking, awkward behaving teen stage? Sponsor kids are part of the family, even in the awkward stages.

    Maybe that good feeling we get after doing something nice is God’s way of saying “Thanks and good on ya!”

  10. Renee
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 3:49 pm

    The deciding critreia for me was “special needs”, because I wanted to have as much benefit as possible for the child. I preferred a girl, but was not set on gender. When I saw “my” child, I just knew she was the one. In most less developed areas (such as India, as my girl’s from) “strikes” against a child are so much worse. Poor, female, handicapped, etc. All I want from the sponsorship is for my girl to be cared for, healthy and happy. I hope she get’s a good education and makes a future for herself, but I’ll love her no matter what.

  11. Markiesha
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 4:13 pm

    The first few kids that I sponsored I had Compassion choose for me because I didn’t feel right choosing one kid over another. Later, I started choosing kids that were orphans or lived in single parent homes.

  12. TonyU
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 6:29 pm

    Have a list of Rules:-
    Rule 1.
    I gave/sponsored because I truly felt & believt that Hod wanted me to do this.

    Rule 2.
    Whenever I doubt, reconsider, waiver in my resolve, think that I can’t afford it, let other worldy ideals try to sway me.., REFER TO RULE 1!!!

  13. Dec 22, 2011
    at 9:02 pm

    I don’t sponsor through Compassion. I took on my sponsorships before I learned of Compassion so maybe it’s a bit different. My kids were chosen for me and over the years there have been some changes to the children I’m sponsoring. A girl was pulled out of the program by her parents. I never wrote her but I’ll never forget her name, Putuli, and I wonder what has and will become of her. They are all in India and I’ve never had a love for indians, I just feel it’s the most worthwhile thing I can do with my life. Yay yay yay for sponsorship. If I never touch anyone or bring light into the world directly around me at least I am making a tremendous difference somewhere.

  14. Ruth
    Dec 22, 2011
    at 11:02 pm

    I started to sponsor 30 years ago, when I got my first permanent job after university. The girl from India was chosen for me, and her photo was a bit of a shock. It was a black-and-white photo which enhanced the severity of the girl who was unsmiling. She was a teen and she wasn’t ‘cute’! I had hoped for a ‘cute’ kid!! I did continue her sponsorship though until she left the program but the Lord taught me an early lesson that I remember to this day. The ‘cute’ ones get sponsored quickly but the not-so-cute ones (especially teenagers) don’t. Since then I look to sponsor mostly teen girls and younger girls. Many are not ‘cute’ but if God can look to their heart, so can I.

    I have been so blessed by being a sponsor. I pray more people will get to know the joy of sponsorship.

  15. Debbie
    Dec 23, 2011
    at 5:57 am

    Umm, I really don’t know what to think of this article. I think because there are so many needy people in the world, and I, as an individual, cannot help them all, that something has to appeal to me with picking an organization and also with picking a child. If this wasn’t to be part of it, then why does Compassion have a website with search engines for disabled, orphans, boys, girls, countries, age? Many people just identify with a particular need or age group or want a certain country. I do think you need to pray about it when you choose a child, and be open to a new country, or a new age group, but if I enjoy the older kids, and want a older girl from a certain country, and this is a monthly commitment I am making, then I don’t see what is wrong with having a bit of a say in whom I choose. I know many people who want a kid the same age as their kids, or a certain date means something to them., or a name, or a certain country is on their hearts. I don’t see that as being wrong…..
    that being said……I am also a correspondence sponsor, and those kids were chosen by Compassion for me. Some of my favorites have been kids that I never would have chosen, had the choice been up to me, and yet they are very special to me.
    I think people come to Compassion because they do want a say in whom they choose. If not, then we should just give our money to any goodwill organization that we know will benefit people. Prayer is certainly needed in making decisions, but I think my heart is more in it if I have a choice.

  16. Debbie
    Dec 23, 2011
    at 6:33 am

    I just followed the link to the article about giving. Is it wrong to feel good about giving, or should I just do it because there are needy people out there.
    Which would Compassion whether have? Someone just says, yeah, ok, I’ll sponsor a kid, the kid really needs help, or a sponsor who is happy with Compassion and their kid, and who is going to tell everyone about the child, therefore getting more people involved, writing more letters to the child because they really care, sponsoring more kids themselves, prays for the kids, tells everyone how great and Compassion is, and why they should get involved, and in the end more kids are helped. If that’s because there was some ego involved, then that seems ok to me.

  17. Matthew Bray Nimeth
    Dec 23, 2011
    at 8:11 am

    My sponsored child is the little boy my Grandmother was sponsoring when she passed away in January of this year. My grandmother in her own poverty gave sacrificially from her fixed income to sponsor Rudy, I feel connected to him in a way that is unimaginable. I feel like God had my grandmother choose him for me. I am hoping to visit him on a sponsor visit. Amber thanks for the great post.

  18. Allyson
    Dec 24, 2011
    at 12:23 pm

    Pray! I know God will answer in one way or another. He is faithful to give me guidance and answers in all areas.

  19. Mark
    Jan 19, 2012
    at 8:17 pm

    This may sound unusual, but in a couple of cases I chose children who had the same birthday as I do. It’s something we had in common that I was able to mention in my first letter to them.

    It also made it easier to remember to send them birthday gifts and greetings, and I knew we’d both be writing about our birthday celebrations around the same time. Usually shortly after I celebrated my own birthday, I’d get a letter telling me what the child did on their birthday, and what they bought with their birthday money.

  20. Linda
    Jan 31, 2012
    at 7:15 pm

    I actually chose my little girl because she had a warning on her picture of a urgent need. I wanted a girl because I already have three sons and because of the inequity females can face in the world. And my selfish reason is that because she is from the Dominican Republic I might actually have a chance to meet her.

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