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Yesterday my wonderful wife made a batch of very bad cookies. Please don’t think I’m picking on my wife. She’s the first one to tell me they were bad. She’s an incredible baker and cook. It must have been a bad recipe. They were valentines day cookies and guess what? Titus LOVED them! They were the first thing he saw when he got up from his nap and he was so excited to eat “red hearts.” He had two.

That’s something I’ve noticed and have always been amused about children’s ministry. When it comes to certain things, kids just don’t care. I could have a bad cookie that I paid 15 cents for or a delicious gourmet cookie that cost three dollars and the kids would be equally excited about both. When taking off for summer camp or a retreat, I’d often load up on Dr. Thunder and Sam’s Cola brand soft drinks. Guess what? No complaints… just happy kids. The youth pastor would often laugh saying that he could never get away with that.

This goes back to a principle I learned a long time ago. As a 20 years old working at a summer camp, I learned something called the “smartie principle” during training. You know smarties, right? The small chalky candy that come 15-20 in a small roll wrapped in clear plastic. It’s a Halloween staple. The principle stated that kids would get just as excited about a single smartie as they would about the whole roll. It just depends on how you present it. At this camp we spent a lot of time on the bus traveling to state parks and pools. On the long bus rides, the counselors would quiz the kids with random questions. The prize for getting a question right? A single smartie. We’d do this all summer long and the kids were always crazy excited to play our little games for smarties. I learned that with kids, bigger isn’t always better. In fact, better isn’t always better. Why give away a king size Kit Kat when a smartie will do?

Don’t read too much into this post. I’m not talking about a free license to be less than excellent. I’m talking about leveraging a child’s ability to get excited about almost anything and and taking kids on a experiential roller coaster that doesn’t have to break the bank. Save your big guns for when you really need them. In all other times, don’t forget to just be creative about the small stuff. Kids love the small stuff too and have the capacity to get just as excited about it as the big stuff… even bad cookies.