Reply to "Discussion: Should we, how to reward kids for Sunday School achievements/levels, memorizing, etc."

Moderator's Note:

Here is a collection of responses to a similar question about "rewarding kids" which was originally posted in our Help! Lounge by Member RF...

"Looking for ideas for rewarding...

....learning the Books of the Bible"

Member Neil wrote:
I bought my nine-year-old daughter a neon green case for the Bible which the church gave her, some bookmarks, etc. She loves it. 

I then put out a couple of brown lunch bags at home with "extra" goodies hidden in them, and wrote what she needed to do to "win the bag." Here are some of the things I wrote on the bags:

  • "Recite the first five books of the Old and New Testaments"
  • "Find Psalm 23 within ten seconds."
  • "Remember over half the words of Psalm 23."
  • "Mom or Dad sees you reading your Bible at bedtime."
  • "Remember all by yourself to bring your Bible to Sunday School each week for a month."  (This one had DQ coupons in it.)

I've always felt this was a better way to do "rewards" -- at home to involve the parents. Maybe the kids could get involved in making the brown bags at church.

Member Jaymie wrote:
Regarding awards and prizes...
We went the store route ourselves several years ago when we revamped our Wed. night ministry. After two years we dropped it, mostly because it was such a headache to keep up with who had done what, when, etc. The kids were excited at first, but quickly lost interest. 
They haven't missed it.

We've taken the time and money we spent on "prizes" and charts, etc. and put them into quality activities, art projects, and games. What we've found to be the most effective is playing games that actually teach the verse (there are hundreds of ideas to use). The kids end up learning it without even knowing they are memorizing. 

I USED TO give small candy treats (positive reinforcement!) to my Sunday school kids who remembered to bring their Bibles. Worked great for about 2 months -- still works for a few kids, but most don't care anymore

Member Lisa wrote:
I've also found that incentives work for short periods, then need to be discontinued, then brought back in a slightly different form. For example, you could have rewards for the summer months. Then stop and pick it up again in Lent.

(Behavioral sociologists would call that intermittent reinforcement, which has been found to establish behavior patterns more firmly than constant reinforcement.) 

Member Karen wrote:

Even if you think awards are okay, in my experience, they are a hassle and tend to reward the over-achievers and penalize those with learning disabilities, or with parents who don't bring them enough.

Is it possible that we are rewarding students because we're not putting enough effort into making SHOWING UP rewarding, and making our lessons REWARDING?

Member Julie wrote:

I had to do a program for attendance and memorizing awards because individual teachers were taking it upon themselves to reward their students, and some of the prizes were getting out of hand. $20 coupons, etc!

Member Hilary wrote:

In our congregation, the kids work together for group rewards. This can be anything from a Sunday Morning Puppet Ministry performance (relating to our current topic) to a special snack or even a lunch. We set a number of points (300+) and award points to students for positive activities, such as attending Sunday School & arriving on time, finding the Scripture lesson in their Bible without having to refer to the Table of Contents, helping a classsmate, welcoming visitors, etc.

 No one child gets the credits for the points, because points are added to the class pool.

This approach helps us avoid leaving out the kids who cannot attend each and every Sunday for family reasons, and encourages the students to work together. It is also another way we help our kids focus on the fact that God loves us all, equally, and wants us to love one another.

Member Neil wrote:

Some people feel strongly about NOT rewarding children in church, but it happens all the time in schools, homes, and sports teams.

We are built to seek approval, and to appreciate signs of appreciation. There are plenty of days I wish somebody would give ME a gumball or Bible bookmark as a sign of appreciation! (email address on file). The Bible is full of stories where one shows appreciation by giving someone something (The Prodigal Son's father for example).

The problem is when we set up "reward systems" that penalize kids for things out of their control (such as attendance and learning skills), and make some kids feel like failures (even if they did better than others).

The potential for negatives of a "system of rewards" seems to outweigh the good we are trying to achieve. And I just think "the good" can be achieved by other methods. Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. All content here is the copyrighted property of its listed author. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content here for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author is referenced. Posting here implies permission for others to use your content for non-commercial purposes. Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. Google Ad Note: Serving the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more! is rated 5 stars on Google based on 55 reviews.