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.
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.
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