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Token Ministry

To give (prizes, points, candy, and treats) or not to give? That is the question.

Some experts say that giving kids tokens, rewards, candy, and the like destroys their intrinsic motivation. Yet churches still have their Bible Bucks stores and report that kids are more motivated than ever. So who's right? Let's take a look at this issue from three different perspectives.

REWARDS WORKS

by Gwen Kelley

When you work, you get paid. When you go to school and do well, you're rewarded with stickers, prizes, parties, and good grades. So why not give out Bible Bucks in Sunday school when kids follow the rules, participate, and learn?

Our ministry successfully uses Bible Bucks as a reward system for our children in first through fifth grade. Kids earn Bible Bucks for knowing the Bible verse, attendance, bringing their Bibles, class participation, and demonstrating fruit of the Spirit in their actions. Kids also earn 30 Bible Bucks when they turn in their completed monthly devotionals. During class time, we limit the number of Bible Bucks kids can earn to no more than seven.

Our Bible Bucks store is filled with candy and prizes, starting at five Bible Bucks for candy and going as high as 700 Bible Bucks for lava lamps. Children in our middle school program run the store on weekends and program nights. They also stock the store when the supplies are low.

Our kids often save their Bible Bucks and buy gifts for their brothers and sisters for Christmas and for their parents on Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Bible Bucks have served as a great motivator for our children to learn their verses, do their devotions, save for gifts, and serve others. I see no drawback to a system that offers kids incentives to do well.

In fact, I have to ask: If a child who's typically disruptive in class will sit during Bible time and participate because she'll be rewarded…then how can there be something wrong with that system? Before long, the same child will be able to participate with no problem. And at the end of the day, does it really matter if we give children a Bible Buck to learn their Bible verse that week? Isn't our end goal to have children hide God's Word in their heart so that they can use it when they need it? Bible Bucks are a fun, positive way to do just that-and they work.

Gwen Kelley is the children's ministry director for Allegheny Center Alliance Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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