Sure, games are great way for your students to burn energy before you get into a lesson—and they need it. They’re also fun! But ministry is about making disciples, not “fun and games.” So what’s the point? Is game time just a thing you have to do to get students to calm down—or are there other reasons to spend your precious time planning games every week?
What if your games were all part of disciplemaking in your ministry? What if they could help your students and leaders follow Jesus together?
Younger students, especially middle schoolers, are at the height of insecurity and confusion about who they are. Their relationships are often complicated, awkward and emotional. They often start asking big questions about God. But games can help students grow toward mutual community as they learn to depend on each other.
The best games are not only fun; they help us make disciples by
- Breaking down barriers
- Building trust
- Building confidence
- Illustrating biblical truths
Study & Share tool: Romans 12:9-21
Read it together and discuss: How can playing together help us live out this passage? Then, brainstorm & dig to create a list of games that will help you reach your game goals.
So games are totally worth it—but if you want to suppport disciplemaking, avoid games that…
1. Embarrass or mock students. If we’re doing a game that could be especially messy or put a student on the spot, I let them volunteer to be embarrassed. If they’re choosing to let others decorate their face like a frosted cookie, they’re much more likely to enjoy it and not feel humiliated by it.
2. Isolate students. A lot of games are elimination based, and this is one of the quickest ways you can lose students’ attention. There are ways to tweak elimination games to keep everyone involved instead of leaving them to roam awkwardly while the game continues. In a large enough group, you may be able to draw the eliminated in to cheer on who’s remaining. In our smaller group setting, this almost never works.
But you can change the rules to make it work. For example, at the point where a student should be eliminated, you can instead give them a handicap (“Okay Ben, now you have to play with your eyes closed / standing on one foot” etc.) Or, come up with a “silver bracket” where the eliminated can keep playing.
3. Are more about competition than about fun and connecting. Keeping score is a great way to keep students engaged in the game, but don’t make winning more important than the people who are playing.