Yesterday I talked about my thoughts on Bible Bucks incentive/award programs. This was all inspired by Sam’s posts here, here and here. Anyway, my experience has been only negative or neutral, so I’ve had the pesky little habit of getting rid of them at the churches where I’ve worked.
So, thinking about getting rid of your Bible Bucks system? It’s easier than you’d think. I’ve done it three times and I’ve had exactly the same experience every time.
First of all, your biggest reaction will not be from the kids, it will be from adults. In all honesty, the most noise I heard from were volunteers, not parents. Usually it’s been the “we’ve been doing this for 7 years” thing or “Why would we get rid of something the kids love so much?” reaction. The solution to this is just clear and honest communication. I’ll communicate to parents and volunteers something like this:
Although we’ve had success with the prize store over the last few years, we’re looking to makes some changes to see if we can provide an even better experience for our kids. Maintaining the prize store costs a large amount of money and requires a lot of our volunteer resources. We’re looking at ways to free up these resources and do something special and different that the kids aren’t expecting and will totally love (maybe give some examples like a big party bash with inflatables and games at the end of every series or an end of the school year lock-in that’s totally free).
Sometimes I’ll even be direct and say, “Did you know that we spent $5,000 on prizes last year? Essentially that was $5,000 on pencils, erasers and yo-yos.Â Can you imagine how we could totally blow these kids away if we used $5,000 differently?”
I’ve never had a volunteer or parents argue with the simple truth. Usually when we announce it to the kids we will get some push back. We’ll get some complaints and questions.
However, usually we’ll explain to the kids that the Prize Store is taking a break. We don’t know when or if we’ll open it up again, so be sure to spend all your money at this last one. We usually amp it up and make sure we’ve got enough prizes as well as some new items that the kids will enjoy. Then we close it. By saying it is taking a break, we’ve left ourselves some space to open it back up if we really need to (like if the kids totally rebel against the idea… although they never have). Then when we do a big Christmas party or end of school year blast, we communicate to parents and volunteers that we’re doing this because we’re not doing the prize store. They’ll see the light.
In the 3 to 6 months after the prize store is closed, you will have a parent come up to you asking if their child can use their bucks as they were gone for the final prize store. I always say yes. If I still have prizes, I’ll put together a little gift bag of prizes their kids will love. If I don’t have any prizes, I’ll give them a $5 or $10 Wal-Mart gift card. In all the places I’ve closed prize stores, I’ve only had to do this with 4 or 5 people… combined. Within a week or two of closing the prize store, kids stop asking about it. Literally, they forget about it. Yeah, you’ll have the one or two kids complain, but 98% of all the other kids won’t mention it again. That’s usually my sign that it was a good move.
So, if you’re looking to close down your prize store because you have or are building an experience that is fun and exciting in the context of connecting kids with leaders, peers and Jesus, then go for it! You’ll be glad you did.
Tomorrow will be my last post in this little series. There is one thing I’ve used incentives for. I did this for nearly 7 years at three different churches. I won’t apologize for it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe I am a prize store hypocrite. You be the judge.