Since 2016 my ministry has been characterized by an interesting item….Jolly Ranchers!
For years they have been the backbone of my discipleship ministry with young people. Basically the person who obeys the best in church or Bible study groups would get a Jolly Rancher. Of course, I often gave out more than just one. The large five-pound bags became a normal part of my yearly Christmas barrel, and my hand item carried onto the plane (even though they occasionally check it for explosives).
It is possible to work with young people without rewarding them, particularly once they learn to love and respect you.
But I have learned there is a power in rewarding good behavior.
Author Bruce Wilkinson has a term he calls “flourishing” that involves seeing something good a student is doing, and then drawing attention to it. Ideally this is done verbally, but sometimes it can be done with a simple Jolly Rancher.
I use those candies to honor and recognize the children who obey because so often they only hear negative things about what they don’t do, or need to do better. A word of praise like “I love how quiet your being Jonny I’m so proud of you!” along with a reward can do wonders for the child surrounded by negativity.
Wilkinson also points out that normally the only young people who get attention are the ones who disobey! The child who does their homework, sits quietly, and always obeys often feels ignored. So being able to catch someone “doing something good” is a HUGE encouragement!
Next year I am going to retire the Jolly Ranchers (the Vincentian heat makes them too sticky). But in their place I will bring other rewards for my treasure box. And with each one I will have a word to flourish a child’s heart.