Games. They’re pretty much a guarantee for success and fun with in youth ministry, right?
You can ruin even the coolest games—I’ve seen it happen more than once. Want to know how?
Don’t Prepare Well
Games look so much easier than they are. Most games need some level of preparation, even if it’s only moving the valuable items out of the danger zone. Plan your games ahead and make sure you have all you need to play them.
I was at a youth ministry once where the leader had planned to do a YouTube game. It was a cool game, except he forgot the tiny little cable you need to connect a Mac to a projector so the whole thing didn’t work. Bummer.
Explain the Rules Poorly
Explaining a game well is more complicated than it looks. Over the summer, my 7-year old son fell in love with a game called gaga-ball. He learned it at the summer day camp and every day, he’d come home and tell me how to play it. He even tried to play it with his dad, but based on his explanations alone, we still had no clear picture of the rules.
When you explain a game, do it well:
- Prepare how to explain it. That’s a step many people forget. They’ll prepare the game itself, but don’t practice or prepare explaining it. Practice on someone who doesn’t know the game. Explain it to them and then ask them if they understood and what wasn’t clear. Use a Powerpoint if necessary—sometimes a picture, graph, or illustration says more than 100 words.
- Make sure you have their attention. Listening to rules is never a favorite amongst students, but the game won’t work if half of the students don’t know the rules. So ask for their attention and stop when you don’t have it.
- Keep your explanation short and sweet. Don’t add unnecessary details. If the game is a little more complicated, it can work well to explain the basics first and then do a test run and share the rest of the rules while playing the first test round.
Allow Students to Refuse Playing
When you have a few students on the sideline, making snarky comments, this greatly affects the game. This is especially true if the commenters are the coolest kids, because the others will end up following their lead and will drop out as well.
There’s a fine line between forcing teens to participate and being clear that everyone participates in a group activity. Of course there are legit reasons for someone not to take part in a game, but make sure they are legit…and that they’re exceptions. A clear policy that everyone takes part in group activities should prevent this problem in general.
Play for too Long
Enough is enough. You have to quit a game when it’s still fun, instead of allowing it to get boring and tedious.
Only Play Certain Games
You can’t just play games the boys like. Or games that are only fun for the sporty kids. Or games that require being on top of current cultural events. Mix it up.
If you’re only playing certain kind of games, you’ll basically shut out a group of students who don’t like that type. Be diverse in your choices—and don’t forget to cater to the braniacs every once in a while as well.
Follow these tips to make every game with your students a successful one!
p.s. If you’re looking for some cool new games, check out the DYM store. They got tons of inexpensive, tested games that will be a hot with your students. The games are very American-oriented though, so if you’re based somewhere else, do your homework before you buy to see if the games fit your context. And if you’re looking for a different type of game, check out The Bigger Badder Board Games, basically a life-sized version of well-known board games. Use the coupon code YLA to get 10% off!