This week my friend Sam Luce wrote about using Bible Bucks in Kids Church to motivate/reward children. Honestly, a lot of churches do it. Many programs actually have rewards built right into the fabric of it’s DNA. I’ve dismantled this type of program at three different churches (including Gateway where I’ve just landed). I’m not at all saying their wrong. For me it’s been a matter of personal preference. I just don’t like them. Not all the kids are inspired by it, it’s expensive, it can be a beast to manage and too often there are kids who feel left out on the day they get to go to the store (I know, that’s the day the leaders give out Bucks to everyone so that everyone has something to spend and those first time visitors can get at least the smallest prize).

Let me tell you , dismantling the Bible Bucks system is a little daunting. There aren’t people out there who “hate” it and are glad to see it go. The only people who’ve ever told me they were glad to see it go were the staff members who had to stock it and price everything. In fact, most of the kids LOVE it… but that doesn’t necessarily mean its the right thing either.

The question I have to ask is, “why are you doing it? Why is it a part of your program?

For many it is the thing kids are most excited about coming to church. It actually motivates them to come every week, learn their memory verse, bring their Bible and sometimes even bring a friend. However, are kids falling in love with Jesus and his word or are they in love with their Bible Bucks? Are they really connecting with their leaders and other peers or are they motivated simply to earn enough for the scooter in the prize store?

Call me an idealist, but I think our programs should be so good that the kids just don’t want to miss out. Maybe they’ve got such a good relationship with their small group leader that they don’t want to miss them. I understand that we want the experience to be fun as “fun” is the language of kids. However, when the main “fun” part isn’t really associated with connecting with kids or helping lead them to spiritual maturity, then you’ve got a problem (regardless whether it’s a prize system, and environment or games). I’ve been at churches that have spent thousands of dollars on a prize store. My question would be, “what could you do with that extra money that would make a big difference immediately?” I’d figure out the answer to that and then do it.

I certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. There may be people out there who have a fantastic experience with their prize store and it only “adds” to an already exciting and fulfilling program. If that’s the case, then go for it. I can only speak from my own experience and every prize store experience I’ve had has been negative or has added nothing to the overall experience for the amount of work and resources it took.

Tomorrow I’m going to blog about how to dismantle a prize store, just in case you’re thinking about doing it.