Vicky Bergem, San Diego, CA
Should we offer our children incentives to do the right thing or are we just bribing them? This topic has strong support on both sides, and I debated with myself on whether it is the right thing to do - until recently.
The first influence on my perspective was an article written by a children’s ministry pastor who uses incentives to train the children in his ministry to give. He converted an available room into a store that opens at the end of bible class. The children can use their bible money – earned during class for various activities – to purchase items from the store. What is special about this store is that it offers not only items the children can buy for themselves, but also items like tooth brushes, shampoo and paint brushes. The children can purchase and donate the items to a needy person in the community or support a service project happening in the church. The other story was told to me by a sister who also battled with the idea of bribing. She told me about a young boy who insisted that his family come to church on the last Sunday of the month because he wanted to trade in his bible money for something from the treasure box. If bible money and a treasure box help an entire family hear God's message, how can I say no? With these two stories in mind, we opened discussions in our ministry about offering incentives to our children. We decided that bible money will be a treasure and earned by our children for bringing their bibles, contribution, or friends and for class participation. We will also be on the lookout to reward children who show love, faithfulness, goodness, self-control, compassion and kindness to others. Good deeds will be rewarded. Good character will be recognized. Our treasure box will come out once a month and the children can buy something for themselves or something for a child who has little. We will also spend the year giving our children the opportunity to put treasures in shoe boxes that will be shipped to children in the Philippines for Christmas. By doing this, I believe we are giving our children the opportunity to live out Acts 20:35, "It is better to give than to receive". The children will experience the joy of knowing they made difference in someone else’s life. And we believe that one day someone will be baptized into the family of God because a child wanted to come to church, earn bible bucks and trade them in for a treasure! God offers us two amazing incentives: forgiveness and heaven. I would be lying to say that these two things don't influence my daily decisions in life. What about you?