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Moderator's Note:
This topic began with a question about awarding points and recognizing attendance. We have since expanded it to include related Sunday School "awards" and recognition (should we, how).

There was a time in Sunday School when awards, pins, and other forms of recognition were in vogue. As you will will read, many have tried some sort of reward system, and out of it has come some pretty good alternatives! 

Has anyone had experience with designing Sunday School so that the kids can achieve points and levels, badges and recognition --as they attend and participate?   I have been kicking this around for a while. Our kids are used to video games and ipad learning apps that give tokens and points to "unlock" levels, etc.  

I'm thinking of trying something in June and July with a smaller group of kids before we start up big in August. I've heard of this being done in Sunday Schools and public schools, so many ways to go with it. 

Thanks and take care, 


Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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This is an interesting idea!

it could certainly work, but be careful it doesn't turn into a works righteousness competitive sort of thing. 

There is a good chapter in Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower about that problem. ("the Grapes that Taught Good News")

from page 158:

"I want to teach them the good news, which tells us (1) the best rewards are not material but spiritual and (2) these are never earned or deserved by our religious behavior."


i highly recommend this book. It will help you look at Sunday school differently. 

Hi Theresa,

What would you award points for? That would be my big caveat.

In my experience, it isn't the kid's fault for irregular attendance, or not having a parent who reads them Bible stories at home. And speaking as someone who didn't go to Sunday School very much as a child, a reward system would probably have left me feeling hopelessly behind some of my peers.


Personal Theory:

The less we try to make Sunday School like public schools the better.

Different subjects, different objectives, different values system.

Certainly there are things we learn from them, but many things I think we are struggling to UN-learn as well!



I personally would not reward with points for various activities at Sunday school. Here is the message that I feel that it sends to kids: Sunday school is so boring that we have to pay people to do it.


-- Carol

We do have a "points" program that we use during Sunday School.

Each child has a card (the guide keeps it) for each unit that includes attendance, bringing Bible, bringing a friend, three scriptures corresponding to our unit, five or six questions from the unit, and a mega-point section that includes Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments etc. that they may recite once a semester. These scriptures and questions are also on the back of their name tags for them to reference. We pull questions from each of the workshops they visit and their guides work with them at the end of each lesson to reinforce what they have learned.

Each year we have a special rotation that ends with a "Celebration Sunday." On this Sunday they "redeem" their points at our Sword Store.

The Sword Store is a glass-front cabinet with different items in it that is stocked through donations. One parent-volunteer stocks the store.

Our guides are able to tell us if there are any areas we need to teach differently based on what they see in the students' understanding. Some children may only be able to attend every other week due to parent custody and some children have a difficult time memorizing. This system gives everyone an opportunity to participate.

We also have a 5 point "Grace Coupon" for children who are very new or visiting on Celebration Sunday.

(moderator improved layout)

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

We have a point system similar to the one above that jwmcrae listed.  This year we are focusing on discipleship and we changed our point system in to a Martial Arts "belt" system. Everyone starts as a white belt and they upgrade to different levels. We introduced some significant challenges such as learning the books of the bible, the beatitudes, the lord's prayer etc.  We make sure all the kids get an opportunity to level up and be successful, but it also allows for kids who are really keen to progress at a rate they are interested.  Our prizes are very simple, packages of gum, book marks if someone obtains their black belt then they get a movie pass. We have even had parents ask if they could participate this year. We are using the Martial Arts concept to help the kids understand being a disciple who is instructed by the Master.

I have struggled over the years with the reward/points idea. For me, the struggle is between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards or what can feel like "bribery." I've gone from both extremes and now I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.... I think God can use anything to reach the hearts of kids...

We used to use points in our Wed. night program with prizes redeemed at certain times. We now use tickets on Wed. night (we have an outreach ministry to kids in our neighborhoods who are generally significantly under the poverty level) -- tickets are awarded for attending, bringing friends, bringing Bible, learning memory verse. Twice a year kids redeem their tickets -- in August to purchase needed school supplies and in December to purchase gifts for family/friends. It works well in this setting.

In SS, we don't have points, but we do reward kids who memorize the monthly memory verse with a little laminated dog tag. At the end of the year kids who have memorized at least one receive a ribbon, kids who have memorized all 12 receive a trophy.  We also reward kids who memorize the books of the Bible -- this year we let them choose their reward. Guess what they chose? To come to church in their pajamas! NEVER would I have thought of that one! So, in 2 weeks we'll be having a big pajama party during SS! 

I have seen that the trophies are incentives for some kids. And I think that's a pretty big accomplishment. There are probably other (?better) ways to recognize their accomplishments -- name in bulletins, pictures on display, personal letter home -- and we might add some of those this year.

I DO love the concept of "levels" and encouraging kids who want or are ready to go deeper to do that. I've had a really young and fairly immature group this year and it has felt as if I had to lower our expectations/standards a bit. I worry that the one or two kids who ARE ready for deeper aren't getting what they need.

Interesting conversation...


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.

I am focusing on bible skills this summer and have given each child a folder that includes reference sheets (books of the bible, etc). They also keep any activity sheets in this folder. I am debating whether to place stickers on the cover of their folders for when they reach a certain goal - sort of like a Bible badge. (Books of the bible OT, NT, memorizing key verses, etc) Does anyone have thoughts on this? I was hoping the stickers would be an encouragement.

Hi, @Chris Epstein!

I think kids always enjoy stickers. And filling out charts is also fun as well as a good visual of what has been accomplished.  I would just encourage you to have space on the chart for attendance and maybe even for a student trying to learn a list so that infrequent attenders who haven't been there to receive the list of things to learn still get some sort of acknowledgment.

younger kids might also enjoy an extra sticker to wear. 

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