(This post is not to express an opinion about whether using Awana Shares, or Bucks, or any other similar type of incentive is appropriate or not, but rather if you use them, to have you consider how you use them.)
Awana shares, Awana buck, Bible bucks, whatever you call it. If you use this incentive for children to memorize, attend, bring their Bible, and whatever you choose, you are setting up an economy for the children in your ministry. In many ministries, the sole opportunity for a child to use these dollars is for a toy, or prize. So is the sole purpose of using bucks for an incentive to use them for prizes? Is it teaching them a prosperity gospel that if we do good, then God gives us the pleasures of our heart and it is all ours to do with as we please?
Recently in the Awana club where I am serving, we began to collect an offering each week for the local Awana missionaries. What I offered the clubbers surprised many people. As I introduced the offering, I mentioned that they could give their Awana shares in the offering as well as cash. I would then take the shares that they gave and convert them into cash for the missionaries. It would not be a dollar for dollar conversion because a share/buck is never worth an actual dollar. There would be an appropriate ratio for the conversion. Yes, in this case, the money comes out of “my pocket” (other leaders joined in on this “deal”), but there is a greater lesson being taught to the children.
We teach parents about the tithe and giving to God. We may even teach the children in our ministries about giving to God; how they should take some of their allowance and give it to God, but how often do we encourage the children to give a tithe of the shares/bucks that they earn from our ministries? How often do we give them a chance to use their shares to give to the Lord? I can hear many people saying to themselves, but these shares hold no real value! But for the children, they do. We give them money (whatever you may call it) to purchase things, that is their income. Shouldn’t we be teaching them about being good stewards and about giving to God a portion of what He has given to them? If we fail to do so, are we doing them a disservice but not teaching them honor God with all we have been given?
So how can this be done without ruining your personal budget? If you use shares/bucks as an incentive, then you spend real money to purchase the prizes (or you have them donated). You could set up an offering basket in your store and encourage children to give there. Use the funds you would have used to purchase cheap items for the store to support a missionary or other way to give. Use the same ratio you use to determine the price of items in the store to convert back to cash. In this way, we can help teach the children in our ministries about giving back to God from our increase, whether “real” cash, or our ministry’s “fake” cash.
When I was an Awana Commander, I allowed children to use the Awana shares to purchase car kits for the Grand Prix. For some children, this is the only way that they “earn money” and so by doing things like this, it can help teach them about real money, being a good steward, and giving back to God.
So I ask….. what is your purpose for using shares, or bucks? Is it just an incentive with no further thought? Is it teaching the children that all they earn is theirs and for their pleasure? or is it teaching them that everything we receive is from God and we should give back to Him?
Is it time to re-evaluate why/how you use this incentive?