As I tried to understand this phenomenon through personal observations and candid conversations with the teens and their parents, 3 common factors affecting season-long commitment emerged:
1. Mid-year Burnout
2. Lack of Success
3. Uninvolved Parents
Knowing is half the battle. Armed with new intel, here are my suggestions to combat these 3 adversities:
While trying to figure out a cure for this dreadful disease, a few years ago I asked myself: What "carrot" could we dangle in front of our teens to keep them motivated the entire season? What do they enjoy the most about TBQ? The answer - for us, anyway - was that our teens love to travel. Sure, they love to travel in the church van together to another church on the District for a quiz meet. But our quizzers REALLY love to travel far, far away from their parents and stay in a hotel. The following season we started going to a mid-year Top 10 tournament in addition to the year-end All-Star Regional championship we always attended.
As the name implies, the Top 10 tournament is only for the Top 10 quizzers on the District - NO EXCEPTIONS. I made the mistake one year of allowing other teens to travel with us as spectators. I learned from that experience that I had effectively diminished the specialness of the achievement of the Top 10 quizzers. (When I refused to allow spectators the following year, you can be sure that made an impression!). As a coach, you can apply the same principle to the monthly tournaments.
Another way to keep your quizzers motivated all year long is to come up with frequent, simple rewards based on their interests. If they like chocolate, offer a Hershey's bar for every quiz-out. Or a gift card for making the Top 10. This also addresses the “lack of success” syndrome (more on that below).
Between quiz meets, keep practices interesting and new by playing different types of games using the quiz material.
Unfortunately, some teens get discouraged when their efforts don’t fit the award system defined at the quiz meet. The best way to curb a quizzer's disappointment is to find other ways to reward their hard work.
Notice I said "hard work". I am not a fan of rewarding people for simply doing what is expected of them. Thanking them for coming to practice is fine. Encouraging them to continue studying at home is wonderful. You should do that. But I reserve the treats and trophies for achievements that are meaningful and require effort.
***WARNING: RANT APPROACHING***
We do a disservice to our kids if we raise them with constant coddling, pampering, and congratulating. Then we scratch our heads and wonder why they eventually enter adulthood so entirely unprepared for the rigors and challenges of the real world. Believe me, I've seen it:
“Hey! I showed up to work – well, most of the time - for a whole year and completed the minimum amount of work I was specifically instructed to do! I want a raise! Where is my bonus? At least praise me in front of my peers with a trophy and a lengthy speech heralding my achievement of doing what you asked me to do! I feel unappreciated! This treatment is unacceptable and unfair! I quit!”
We get them so hooked on the spotlights of recognition and flattery at the age of five that by the time they’re 25 they have become full-blown addicts. They crave attention and congratulations, and can’t handle living in a world that doesn’t give them a medal every time they actually complete some minor, routine task that they were probably asked to do in the first place. As Yoda might say, this attention-seeking, “hey, look at me!” mentality is the path to the Dark Side; it leads to resentment. Resentment leads to jealousy. Jealousy leads to depression. Depression leads to Snapchat accounts.
***END OF RANT***
Instead, find ways to reward meaningful achievements or improvements of any kind. For example, pepper the quizzers with public accolades or candy for:
- their first ever quiz-out,
- the first time they make the Top 10,
- successful Challenges or Rebuttals,
- getting a toss-up question correct in every game at a tournament,
- winning the game for the team on last question,
- finishing a tournament with a higher average than they did the previous month,
- correctly answering a question as a Multiple
But please keep this in mind: recognition is not the same as encouragement. You should always encourage your youth. Tell them that God’s Word is for everyone. They don't have to do well at a quiz meet to prove that they have God's Word in their heart. Remind them that you will love them regardless of how well they perform at a silly quiz meet. They will respond!
The solution to this one is the easiest to say, but the hardest to do: get parents involved in TBQ. At least with teens you have some influence or positional power. I'm sure you would agree that parents are invaluable in Bible Quizzing. A parent’s belief in and support of the ministry directly translates into the commitment level of their teen. I have found that spending time articulating the benefits of Bible Quizzing to parents is essential. In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, make announcements to the church explaining the goals of the ministry. Make or download a promotional video to show during offering. Have former or current quizzers give their testimony to the congregation. Host a luncheon after morning worship and give a presentation.
Another option to win parents over is to enlist them to help out at practices. Testimonies from teens are great, but seeing quizzing in action will likely spark a fire inside of the adults. And to bring this idea home, do just that: have parents host practices at their home followed by a time of fellowship and snacks.
Finally, encourage every parent to attend every tournament. They go to football and basketball games, don't they? Why not Bible Quiz tournaments? Not only do they get to see exciting Christian competition and an impressive amount of Bible knowledge on display, but they can help you chaperone! To me, that’s a win-win situation.
You have other ideas to add? I’d love to hear them! Leave your comments below.
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