PLEASE STOP Paying Your Kids to Know Jesus

Over the last few months I’ve seen too many parents and children’s ministry leaders and directors who are skewing the Gospel of Jesus with well-intentions. For some reason in our we are compelled to feed the cultural idea that the end justifies the means.

I read (and often fight against) ministry program after program having kids earn Bible Bucks or Jesus Money at church. Play money is awarded when a child successfully memorizes a Bible verse, or the Books of the Bible, or completes their “homework.”  Stores are set up where kids can purchase meaningless prizes in exchange for knowing John 3:16. I even know of a KIDMIN teacher who paid her kids an actual ONE DOLLAR BILL for stopping for a few moments in class to listen to God.

Even parents have jumped on this bandwagon.  They are having their kids earn X-Boxes and extra dessert for reading their two chapters a day, and are doing so unashamed.

I can go on and on about how this is so unhealthy for your environment and community. I can explain how it sets certain children up to fail, because they can’t physically follow through with what you are asking of them. I could give you insight on how this is completely unfair to the child of divorce, or who have experienced trauma.  Instead I will slap you with this:

WHEN YOU PAY KIDS IN ANY WAY TO LEARN ABOUT JESUS YOU ARE PREACHING A PROSPERITY GOSPEL. 

A prosperity gospel preaches and teaches that in return for your faith, or works, or tithes God will return the favor and bless you with wealth and/or health. This is the dangerous ministry that is often taught by most televangelists and some majorly known pastors in the Christian community…and it just might be taught by you.

When I tell a child that knowing Jesus and learning to know the Bible is worthy of a paycheck we are completely tainting the truth that His grace is a free gift. We set our kids up to think that there is always instant gratification in our relationship with God. We teach them to focus on the prize of the world instead the prize of Christ.

Bible bucks

By paying kids to know Jesus, we are training them to think of Jesus as some sort of slot machine, who if you pull the right lever, read the chapters, memorize the verse, Jesus will spit out some sort of blessing in return.

Out of all the bribes we make our kids day in and day out…Knowing Jesus should NOT be one of those. How disappointed will they be when their faith doesn’t pay dividends in a way they expect? What’s going to happen when they do all the right things in life, and they don’t get that job they want?

Will this type of faith, that is dependent upon earning something, be foundational enough, or more importantly, relational enough?

Jesus is about relationship–and relationship is built on love, and trust and time and effort, not “what can you do for me?”

When we pay our kids to learn about Jesus as a “harmless incentive” we are missing out on the opportunity to share the real gospel –it’s about what Jesus did for us at the cross that matters, nothing else.  He doesn’t owe us, we owe Him.

Paying kids to know Jesus:

Cheapens the Gospel

Devalues the Bible

Stifles the Holy Spirit

And Sets Kids Up on a faith that is not rooted in authentic relationship but rather superficial temporal motivations.

I know we want our kids to read their Bible. I know it’s important for them to form habits.  I know that we want our kids to know the books and commandments. But is it worth teaching the absolute adulterated perspective of Christ and His sacrifice in order to get there?

We don’t need incentive programs, we need Holy Spirit revival.  We need to spend as much time on our knees praying for movement in their hearts instead of developing stores and money and payment programs.  As parents and ministry leaders, we first must believe that Jesus in and of himself is absolutely enough. We must have the faith that when a child tastes and sees how good the LORD is, he will be hooked. We must trust that God can come in and give that conviction to a child to know and be known by Jesus.

So, I beg you, please, in your ministries, in your homes, please, please, please, stop paying your kids to know Jesus. It’s just not helpful.

Comment and share!

LG|LP

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21 thoughts on “PLEASE STOP Paying Your Kids to Know Jesus

    1. Evidently this person does not work with kids…any behavior that you reward will be repeated! It may look to an outsider like you are paying a child but not True at all You are blessing and rewarding a child who put forth an effort to learn or display the Gospel in various ways! Money “Son Bucks” teaches them accountability when they have to keep up with their reward themselves and can see by the way they are blessed in return they can aqurie things as well. Same principal applies to adults in the sanctuary if they would bring their bibles and apply themselves get envolved in the service and seek God ….God would bless and they too could leave filled with Spirit and Blessed….Same thing we do every week as Pastor we are merely cheerleaders of the Gospel to try and Encouragne Enhance and Equip those to respond to the Word of God through the foolishness of preaching. The same idea will work for you as well if you will give as the bible says you too will receive! Games are the number one teaching tool proven fact for kids and any behavior rewarded will be repeated! But keep in mind It Is All About The Word ! Keep it Simple Make It Fun! And let’s raise up Supernatural Kids who can one day grow up and say ” I have never know anything else but Serving The Lord! :” Amen.

      1. Thank you Pastor for your thoughts. I do work with kids, and specialize with working with kids under tremendous stress or have experienced trauma. I do believe that offering a physical reward for reading the bible, memorizing. Scripture, etc can allow a false gospel to seep into a child’s heart that says : If I do the right things, I will be blessed with physical rewards. Jesus never promised physical rewards. Jesus paid our sin debt, so we in turn owe him everything. I wouldn’t offer a form of payment to an adult, so I am wondering how we set kids up to fail by offering them a payment plan for doing what God expects of us. Just food for thought.

  1. I work with a lot of inner city kids who receive little or nothing. I am not paying them to know Jesus, I am giving them a source of encouragement, to listen. If they never listen they might never know. I would much rather they know, and if it takes some encouragement to get them to listen (for they are never taught it at home) then I am all for it. I have been in ministry to youth and children for 40 years and have seen children grow and become soldiers of Christ and have never yet seen one child grow expecting things from God that He is not willing to give. (not a one lives a prosperity gospel) They live lives surrendered because they listened at the right time. (and maybe I gave them a trip to the treasure chest for a $1 prize) Instead they remembered the love behind that prize.

    1. Amen Millie! I too work with inner- city children in sidewalk Sunday School – our little “incentives” are not bribes or prosperity – we are talking POVERTY folks – one of the first choices from our “treasure box” usually is a bag of snacks – not only are these kids hungry for the Word they are hungry period! And like you said – it speaks volumes to these kids “you fed me when I was hungry” – I had a boy now in his 20’s FB message me that he was always so proud to have answered Bible questions correctly when he was in our program and earn that ” Kingdom Kash”. I do agree that we need to evaluate what are children are understanding about a rewarding life in Jesus and walking in the Spirit – my son is only 10 and he understands the rewards of being obedient and a blessing to others because I reinforce what he has learned from his teachers with life applications for our daily living

      1. I too have worked with inner city kids and fed them breakfast and pizza and whatever it took to fill their tummies so they could feel safe and at peace to learn about God’s love. Thank you for sharing with me Jill and it’s always an extra blessing when we get to hear from our kids many years later.

  2. Tiffany, I appreciate your thoughts on this, but I am not sure what your background in group dynamics is. Do you teach or oversee a children’s ministry? If so, how many children do you teach weekly? Just wondering whether this is theory on multi-age, multi-ethnic, multi-behavioral children’s ministry experience, or theory?

    I have taught and ministered for many years (about thirty) to large groups of children, and have found incentive for behavior is pretty important. I disagree with the idea incentive teaches prosperity doctrine. (there is the case of David, who asked what he would get if he killed the giant… he was a teenager at the time, and incentive certainly seemed to help him step forward, or why would he have asked?)

    Good behavior is in most children, but incentive helps to bring out that behavior when children are in large diverse groups.

    1. I have 15 years of experience working with children’s ministry including a mega church setting, a church plant and a working in an inner city church. I have also worked along side Linda Jacobs as a National Trainer for DC4k- educating churches on the child of divorce. I currently run workshops to help churches understand kids under stress. I think there is a difference in Giving kids a bouncy ball every now and again and actually devising a system to pay kids to do Bible work. I think a kid is a kid, even though there might be some socio economic challenges but a message is a message.

      1. I really appreciate brothers and sisters who work with children, and appreciate the importance of your current ministry! I guess my perspective comes from having to manage, teach, inspire large groups of children and keep them focused. (not mega church, but in settings of 70-100 children) From your argument, (which again, I dismiss “prosperity Gospel” is taught by giving children incentives) it doesn’t seem like you have over time ministered in this way.

        I think broad brushes end up leaving paint in unintended consequences, and putting down ministers who use incentive to help manage the children they are serving doesn’t really help, but can cause criticism of those who are trying their best, sometimes in trying circumstances. It is better to have other concrete room management ideas than to put down others.

        What would you do to manage large groups of children for an hour without incentives for good behavior?

      2. Actually I have ministered in every possible way you can imagine … Except overseas missions. I desire to challenge people to create truly Christ centered environments for kids to learn heart change not behavior modification. I have managed severely large groups of kids with installing a sense of safety and ownership along with a passionate desire to learn about Jesus. If there are specific way I can suggest I will be happy to.

  3. I have a treasure box I use. I only teach once a month. I use my treasures as “so glad you”
    It works for the situation.

  4. Tiff, I love your heart and love a place to share ideas and perspective, but I have to completely and categorically disagree with this post. For starters, it makes to many assumptions, chief among them that developing a reward system is the enemy of or mutually exclusive to spending time praying for the students in a ministry. I just haven’t found that to be true. I agree that our desire is for kids to be motivated intrinsically just because God is worth it and that his grace alone is sufficient. I know, however, that kids brains are taught best with extrinsic motivators. As you heard me say in a sermon a few weeks back, I offer incentive for my kids to memorize the books of the bible. It worked. They were paid once, they memorized them, and now when we talk about the bible as a family, they know how to navigate the bible on their own, which makes personal growth and reading so much easier. For me, that’s the win, and it’s worth it.

    I’m proud of the job our kids min is doing pouring into and loving kids and pointing them towards Jesus. I am grateful for teachers who have a passion for helping kids know Jesus loves them. I am excited to watch that ministry continue to grow.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and welcoming the exchange of ideas! That’s the beauty of the kingdom. We can love each other, disagree, and still be sure that God’s love for us is unending.

    1. I don’t think i said that reward systems are the enemy of prayer…yet encouraged people to pray for revival. I believe that paying kids in any form to seek after God is an open door for a false gospel to seep into our kids hearts, giving them false expectations and wrong motivation for seeking after Jesus. There are a lot of ways that work to motivate kids, but that doesn’t make them right….and I personally in my own children’s lives want heart change, not just their behavior changed. I would think we would want this in our ministries as well. Jesus was clear about this in his ministry on earth, that he wanted people to have sacrificial, life-giving heart change toward him. The lukewarm he walked away from, the lukewarm he spits out. I believe that offering children these types of awards cheapens the idea of obedience, and quenches the Spirit of God. Our kids hearts are then not motivated by Jesus, but by the prize….we may get kids to do what we want them to do, but I’m not convinced that their compliance with our expectations is growing them toward Christ, but yet teaching them to please man. Thanks for your thoughts though.

  5. Totally agree. I never saw it from your perspective. We did it at our former church before we moved and I didn’t see anything wrong with it but you’ve made some great points and I now see the negatives. Thank you!

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