One of the things I love about Bible Quiz is that it moves motivation in the right direction–from the external, to the internal, to the eternal. Let me explain.

Motivation for most people starts out being external. This means that something or someone outside of themselves is pushing them to do (or not do) something. Such motivation has both positive (do this to get this) and negative (do this to avoid this) forms. There is nothing wrong with a little external motivation. Everybody uses it at one level or another. In its more corrupt forms, it is known as manipulation and bribery. That isn’t to say that BQ doesn’t or shouldn’t employ external motivation. After all, we give trophies and scholarships. Some tournaments even give cash. I have no problem with this, as long as we continue to move students through the process.

I remember one new quizzer starting with me at the beginning of the season several years ago. As I was giving out assignments at the end of the first practice, he asked, “What’ll ya give me if I do it?” My answer, “Nothing.” It was clear to me that this quizzer needed to move to the next rung on the motivational ladder, and if I gave further external motivation I would only be enabling him. This isn’t always very easy to determine, so you have to be discerning.

From the external, the next step is internal. Instead of doing something because there’s a payoff at the end, you do something because you genuinely want to do it. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment, of a job well done, or of simply meeting a challenge. The point is that you no longer require that carrot and stick. It doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the occasional carrot, but that you will get the job done without it.

In Bible Quiz, this is the kid that shows up every week with their work done, even though there’s no gold star, treat, or incentive other than the work needs to get done. It’s difficult to measure this, because in quiz if you study, you are more likely to win. You can usually tell by the attitude of the quizzer. This is not to say that such quizzers aren’t competitive, but that there is more to them than that.

The final step is the eternal. The rest of this motivation stuff gets talked about a lot in the secular world. The eternal part is what makes us different. We do what we do to serve God, to show our love for Christ, and to win souls for the Kingdom.

Some people believe that Bible Quiz should skip straight to this step. These are the people that feel it is wrong to compete over the Bible, and that there are too many bad attitudes in quiz. There are a few bad apples, to be sure, but I think those are probably the people that need as much Scripture as possible. As to the idea that competing over the Bible is wrong, I simply would suggest that these people consider this simple fact: For every teenager you can name who has memorized one book of the Bible apart from Bible Quiz, I can name 100 that have memorized 5 or more in Bible Quiz. Almost all of them are still serving God, and many of them are in full-time ministry.

Eternal motivation is what coaches live for. It is why, years later, we talk to quizzers that we worked with who are now doing wonderful things for God. It is ultimately what keeps us going when things get a little tough.

As for my motivation, of course I like it when my team wins. Nobody goes into any competition hoping to lose (though I’ve seen a few teams I wonder about). For me, it’s when I see a quizzer do something great, something they weren’t sure they could do. It’s when I know God is pleased with my work, even when nobody else seems to notice or care.

In reality, all of us are motivated by a combination of these factors. The key is to keep moving from the external to the internal to the eternal.