I was starting to get irritated with the number of small toys my second grader was bringing home from Sunday School. (I have an aversion to small toys.)
She has been earning the toys as prizes for memorizing long passages of scripture. She has a rockin’ short term memory for narrative….so if she is at the end of the line and has listened to all of the other kids, she can repeat the 10 or so verses without having worked on the passage at all during the week. (She also has a processing disorder so she cannot remember things like numbers in series, or directions more than four steps long, but that’s another story.)
The pile of stuffed animals and yo-yo’s she has collected was capped this weekend with a Bratz doll this weekend.
A Bratz doll!
The teachers of her class are older…there was no such thing as Bratz dolls when their girls were little. Also, the prizes come from donations and places like Goodwill, I think. There was no packaging with it to indicate that this particular doll wasn’t quite Sunday School approved. I give them the benefit of the doubt; the Bratz infraction appears to be an innocent mistake.
But it sent my mind reeling: Such commercialism in Sunday School! What a horror!
And just as suddenly as I was horrified I remembered being a first grader and a Care Bear Figurine in its powder blue box, on the table of awards in my Sunday School class. I happen to be Facebook friends with my former first grade Sunday School teacher (Hi Patsy!) and I bet she has no memory of the Care Bear figurine (in the powder blue box.)
She doesn’t remember it, I bet, because it wasn’t her currency. (That’s a phrase I stole from Dr. Phil.) We are supposed to use our children’s currency to motivate them. Second grade girls, like my daughter, value toys and are motivated by them.
I was horrified thinking the Bratz doll and stuffed animals were making the scriptures cheap, somehow. But in reality, the teachers were teaching the kids the value of the scripture.
You know what I mean? If a chocolate bar is $5 we know that is some GOOD chocolate. If we find a chunk of something that looks like chocolate, wrapped in silvered paper, with no label of any kind, we might have chocolate, we might have almond bark, we might have unsweetened baker’s chocolate. We’d have to taste it to see. I know I would hesitate.
If we give the kids a nice long chunk of “The Lord is my shepherd” and tell them “memorize this, it’s good for you.” Will they believe us? Will they get that there is intrinsic value in the verse?
It’s not likely they can do that kind of abstract grappling when they are still so young. So we say, “Memorize this. It’s value to you is equivalent to how you feel about that toy.” And lets just admit it here, kids LOVE toys.
They remember them.
The philosophy of AWANA is pretty much the same: Memorize God’s word and we will shower you with badges, awards, and praise. The kids then know the scripture by heart, which is the goal, and they associate knowing God’s word with the feeling they get when they are praised in front of their peers.
So, did the Bratz doll cheapen the Scripture for my kid?
Nope. It just gave that passage of scripture a value greater than all of my words of praise for God could have done, because it used her currency.
I am the kind of Sunday School teacher who wants to spend my time in story telling and hands on activities that help the kids remember the story and the message. I don’t want to take the time away from those activities to listen to verses. It’s a personality thing, not a matter of the right or wrong way to teach a class. But if I WERE to do verses with my kids I would definitely do prizes, now that I’ve had a nice long think about it.