I love games. Card games, sports, board games, silly messy games, love all of them. Growing up we played mother may I, red rover, freeze tag, and anything with a jump rope. As I grew older I can still remember late nights with my youth group friends playing card games, trivial pursuit, and even a crazy round of hide and go seek when we were snowed in Sophomores in college!
Games are sort of a universal language. I used to teach children who spoke languages other than English, and one of our favorite games was silent ball. There was not one kid, from those who were born in America, to those who were just of the plane from Iraq that didn’t love playing silent ball. Games transcend language and cultural barriers and create atmospheres of cooperation and joviality. I’ve watched students become best friends, with no common language, over a game of checkers.
Games are a huge part of what I do in ministry. Some people probably see my job as only games, especially the people who see the broken doors and muddy footprints that occasionally follow some of our more rowdy escapades. But games are important for ministry, not because we see our jobs as youth ministers as only ensuring our students are being entertained, but because games are a way in which we learn. Games can illustrate a theme for a lesson, set a mood for an event, or change a person’s perspective on a topic. They can also serve the purpose of creating community where we least expect it.
Recently, at an all church inter-generational event, I was asked to come up with a game for all of the attendees, which can be hard with limited space and a crowd of people all sitting at dinner tables, so I decided we would play a quick game of heads or tails. For those unfamiliar with the game it is about the easiest thing ever. Everyone in the room stands up at their seats, and one person is designated as the coin tosser. Before the coin is tossed, everyone in the room either puts their hands on their heads, or on their rear ends, signifying on which side the coin will land. All those who were correct keep standing, and the rounds continue until there is but one person still standing.
For my group of youth and their younger siblings, who don’t always interact with the adults of the church, it was great for them to see adults laugh and just enjoy playing a game. It created an atmosphere where everyone was in something together, breaking down some of that youth vs adults mentality.
I can thank my mother for my love of games as part of education. She was a public elementary school teacher for 25 years, and taught middle school math for the following five. She has always valued games, both for recreation (she was the kickball pitcher at recess my whole third grade year) and for retaining information. Her students played the games the children in early America played to learn about life in the colonies. They played around the world to practice math facts, and played set or 24 challenge to work on other math skills.
I am forever grateful to the people who taught me how to play, and I hope to be a youth minister who allows space for play. Below are instructions to some of our favorite games we play in our youth group. I hope you find a new favorite, or if you have a different favorite, I’d love to hear about it. We are always on the lookout for new games!