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Getting…to Give

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by Dale Hudson

There’s ongoing debate on the topic of rewarding children for
spiritual disciplines and good behavior. Both sides to this
argument have valid reasons why they do or don’t reward children.
Here’s my take on that argument.

Last fall something happened that made it very clear to me about
what I was supposed to do in our ministry. 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 good
behavior, Scripture memory, and so on. The finished room looked
like an actual store, complete with display counters, shelves, and
register. I was ready to stock the store with prizes such as
skateboards, candy, and toys.

But my plans suddenly changed in a completely unexpected way. On
one extra-special Sunday, we’d given away four bikes to children
who brought guests with them. It was a big deal with a lot of
surrounding hype. But all that hype was eclipsed when all four of
those children–independently–turned around and gave the bikes
they’d won to other children in need. I was blown away!

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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 what we’ve implemented in our ministry.

Kids earn prizes for spiritual disciplines. They get points for
things such as attendance, bringing their Bibles, learning the
Bible verse, good behavior, and so on.

Kids can redeem their points for prizes. They bring their points
to our store–the “Five Loaves and Two Fish” gift shop. Remember
the story of the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus? Jesus took
that small amount and created a miracle by feeding more than 5,000
people. Inside our store, kids see our slogans: “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 that will help other people.

A few examples: For eight points, kids can purchase a paintbrush
that’ll be used to help paint a local family’s home. For 20 points,
they can purchase a bag of groceries that’ll be delivered to a
family in need. For 80 points, they can purchase a goat for a
family in India. We work closely with our outreach and missions
teams to make these things happen when kids purchase the items. On
the wall, we posted a giant world map. Today, there are dozens and
dozens of pins on the map that mark places around the world where
our kids are helping others through the points they’ve given. The
kids get reports, pictures, and notes that let them see their
points at work.

The response is phenomenal! Kids’ lives are changed. Kids are
truly learning that it is better to give than to receive. They’re
excited about helping others. Groups of children work together to
pool their points so they can earn larger gifts–for others.

Kids want to make a difference. We’ve seen our kids work much
harder to earn the prizes that go to others than they did for
prizes they were earning for themselves. They’re excited about
giving to others. We believe God is using our system to instill in
our kids a lifetime of giving and living for others.

Whichever side of the reward debate you fall on…consider this
different approach. I believe it brings the best of both sides
together for the greater good.

Dale Hudsonis the children’s
pastor at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens,
Florida.

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