There is a very old argument in Children's Ministry and it's all about prizes. Are they ok? Should they be used? Should everyone get one. Should they be candy? If you asked a large group of Children's Pastors these questions, you would probably get lots of answers. Some would be adamantly for using prizes and some would be just as adamantly against using them and some would be in the middle. I am only one person, but I have served in several churches of various sizes and cultures and below you will find my thoughts on the subject.
Are Prizes Ok to use?
Sure! I say, if you want to use prizes in your ministry feel free. But, be aware that they do not work in every ministry setting, so figure out what will work best for you. Some places a small prize that you can give out often (like candy or stickers) is best and other places one large prize that the kids really have to work for is better. Also check your budget. If you have not set aside funds for prizes, then I wouldn't suggest using them unless you plan to purchase them with your own funds. Every church is different and every group of kids is different so see what is going to work best for your group before you make your decision.
Should I use candy as a prize?
Personally, I love using candy as prizes. Mostly I use it if I don't know the kids very well. For example, from time to time I will speak at a Family Camp or a Kids Revival. Usually those kids don't know me well and I may need a hook to get them invested right away. For me, I tell them that they need to pay close attention to all that is going on because I will randomly ask a question and if they get it right, I will "chuck candy at them." They get a kick out of my throwing it across the room...mostly because I have terrible aim and it rarely gets where it's supposed to go without help from the kids. In my own church, I don't use it as often. Occasionally I will hand it out after a service just as a treat before they leave. If you do decide to use candy, be very aware of any children with allergies and have alternatives for them. Some gummy snacks, goldfish type crackers, or even a fun pencil make good alternatives.
Does everyone get a prize?
Not always. In my church, we often have teams and all service the teams will compete for points. The winning team gets to choose a prize. I actually have 3 prize baskets. One has larger prizes (generally costs $1-2 per prize), one has very small prizes, and one has candy. Some weeks the winning team is the only one to get a prize. Some weeks the winning team will get a bigger prize, second place gets a small prize and everyone else gets a piece of candy. Some weeks no one gets a prize. I am inconsistent about this on purpose. Too often kids get into a "I deserve a prize" mentality. The lesson focus can get lost with the thoughts of possibly getting a prize. So sometimes, we don't do prizes. It's not to be mean. It's to keep the prizes as something that is a fun surprise and not something that is just expected.
Prizes can be a fun addition to your classes, but it's important that they are just that...fun. If they become the only thing the kids are coming to class for, then we need to do some revamping of the rest of the curriculum. Prizes can't be our linchpin in ministry to children. Your service should be as engaging to the kids without the prizes as it is with them. That way, if you do give any out, it's a treat...not an expectation. At least, that's the way I view them.
Until next week!