After working in the middle school youth ministry for a time, I launched a high school group with the graduating middle school students. In this context, I decided on a new goal: I wanted them to be on time. To me that didn’t seem much to ask, but asking wasn’t working. The group started at 10:00am, one hour before church on Sunday mornings, and the kids had to make arrangements to get there. This was in a church where time wasn’t valued. People showed up whenever. The kids I taught were never on time to anything, so it actually was a big paradigm shift I was asking of them.
Janet and I came up with a plan. She made special treats each week for the kids– homemade baked items, fancy exotic things they hadn’t tasted before, something different every week. The kids absolutely loved these treats. Many of them didn’t get breakfast at home, so would show up hungry. They were highly motivated to get these treats.
But the catch was this– the refreshment table was open for 15 minutes before class started, but once we got started, the table was closed and inaccessible until after the class. Suddenly, kids were working really hard to get there by 9:59am. Soon they were even showing up at 9:50am, talking and socializing with the others kids and building relationships.
It was a great way to teach punctuality and responsibility. When we went on outings, I’d create oddball times to be there: “We’re leaving at 8:18. If you’re there at 8:19, the van will be gone. It doesn’t matter if you call to say you’re running late. You need to be there on time.” It only took one time when a kid was two minutes late and his parent had to drive him to where we were going to be. Word got around that Pastor Bob means it. Eventually, the kids would start to ask me, “What time does it start? What time do we need to be here?” And they’d be there.