Do you know what word keeps popping up everywhere? Motivation. We know at a gut level that it matters and affects the outcome, but research really backs this up.
And a lot of the research and discussion is revolving around, of all things, gaming! Now before you roll your eyes and check out, I’m not suggesting that all kids (and adults) should spend more of their time staring at a screen, holding a controller.
But I do want to understand more about why that’s so addicting—what’s the draw? And how can we leverage that in other places that matter—like in church, school classrooms, even at home—to motivate and really engage the next generation in a way that makes sense to them and rewards them intrinsically so the learning sticks.
After reading several books and watching some great TED talks (comment below if you’d like more information), some of the main factors encouraging intrinsic or self-motivation were summarized well by a scientist named Edward L. Vockell, and they all start with C’s:

  • Challenge
  • Curiosity
  • Control
  • Competition
  • Cooperation

One of the reasons “gamification” is so popular right now, is because it works! Are you energized by a new challenge? When you get curious, are you inspired to learn more? When you feel a sense of control, is it easier to actively participate and push through obstacles? Doesn’t a little bit of competition light a fire to keep you moving? And cooperation is powerful when we want to quit or feel stuck and alone.
May seems like a great month to talk about motivation—school is ending and summer is arriving. Kids and adults in the habit of a certain structure and routine have more hours to fill and spend together. Whether you’re a leader who is thinking about ministry when it’s hot or a parent, how could you plan ahead to make a bucket list for these next months of things kids would like to learn and do that will challenge and stretch them—to help them get out of their comfort zones a bit? It will be gone before we know it.

  • What are they curious about and how could you lean into that—sharing what they’re learning so everyone is motivated to have something to say?
  • How can kids share some of the control this summer and direct some of their activities—what is pulling them because of how they are wired?
  • What could a little healthy competition, plus a few cooperative group goals with shared rewards when they’re met, look like?

This month in 252, we went with a game-type theme—Great Expectations—on purpose. We didn’t want discussion about responsibility to feel heavy like a burden when everyone is already busy. We want to lean into kids and parents encouraging them to discover how fun (even addicting) it is to use the abilities and time God’s given us to join Him on His mission. Talk about motivating!
What have you found works well in your ministry and at home to motivate and engage kids? Share your ideas below so we can all benefit and maybe add a few new tools in our box. Thanks!