Rewarding Kids Debate...How About This?

There has been much debate over rewarding children for spiritual disciplines. Both sides have valid reasons why they either do or don’t reward children.
Last fall something happened that made it very clear to me about what I should do. We were finishing up our new children’s building. One of the rooms was going to be a “prize” store where children could cash in the points they earned for prizes. The room looked like an actual store complete with display counters, shelves, etc. I was ready to stock the store with prizes like skateboards, candy, toys, etc.
But all that suddenly changed. We gave away four bikes to children who brought guests with them on a particular Sunday. All four children, on their own, turned around and gave the bikes to other children in need. I was blown away! That week I woke up in the middle of the night and felt God speaking to my heart. The plan He wanted me to follow was very clear. Here’s the result.
Yes, kids can earn prizes for spiritual disciplines. They get “points” for things such as attendance, bringing their Bible, learning the Bible verse, good behavior, etc.
They can then bring the points they have earned to a gift shop. It’s called the “Five Loaves and Two Fish” gift shop. Remember the story of the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus. Jesus took it and did a miracle with it by feeding over 5,000 people.
Inside the store, you will see “It is Better To Give Than to Receive” and “Place your basket in Jesus’ hands…Miracles will happen” on the walls. And yes, the store is full of “prizes” that the kids can purchase. BUT ALL THE PRIZES ARE ITEMS TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE.
Here’s a few examples. If you have 8 points, you can purchase a paint brush that will be used to help paint a local family’s home. If you have 20 points, you can purchase a bag of groceries that will be delivered to a family in need. If you have 80 points, you can purchase a goat that will given to a family in India. We work closely with our outreach and missions department to make these things happen when the kids purchase the items. The kids then get reports, pictures, etc. of their points at work.
The response has been phenomenal. Kids are learning the truth of “it is better to give than to receive.” They are excited about helping others. Groups of children are even putting their points together so they can earn larger gifts for others. On the wall is a giant world map. There are dozens and dozens of pins on the map that mark places around the world where the children are helping others through the points they have earned and given.
Children want to make a difference. We’ve seen them work much harder to earn prizes that are for others instead of themselves. They are excited about giving to others. We believe God is using it to instill in them a life of giving and living for others.
So whichever side of the debate you fall on…you might want to consider this different approach. I believe it brings the best of both together. Pray and ask God what He wants for your church. Whatever you decide, I pray God blesses your ministry as you strive to help children become followers of Jesus.