When youth workers get together there seems to be a handful of topics we discuss time and again. They are sticking points in the grand scheme of youth ministry that we can’t agree on. Better yet, it’s like they are standing tall in the middle of our youth rooms and we just decide to ignore them. They are the “Elephants in The Youth Room.” My friend Shawn Harrison and I had one of those discussions just the other day. At the end of it we decided to pull the youth min nation in and see if you are talking about these ideas as well, and see what you think. Look for a couple of posts from Shawn and I as we try to at least expose the beasts that we continue to ignore.
Today I am contemplating this idea of games….
Three of my children were recently discussing a local youth group they had been invited to attend and tried once.
One mentioned, “I don’t feel like we really go deep learning about Christ, I don’t know if I want to go again.”
Another responded, “I have friends there, I want to go and hang out.”
The youngest chimed in, “The games are really fun. I like the fun.”
In my own living room sat the conundrum of many a youth worker- three students, perspectives, needs and wants out of their youth group. We wonder where to begin and how to approach this.
However, when I tool around on the internet, following the requests of youth workers on social media it feels like most of youth ministry is in search of a new game. The top read posts on this blog are for free games. Is that genuinely what one third of our students are looking for? If it is what about the other two thirds?
YET, when we get together and talk about ministry I do not know ONE youth pastor who thinks that it’s the games that change the life of a student. Often we use them as a catalyst to teach a point. Are we doing a search for games so our time can be spent on the “deeper things?” I wonder though if there are times we rely on them because they make us feel good? When we successfully pull off a great game we feel awesome about it. “The kids really had fun,” we are able to say. However, true discipleship takes a lot of time, energy and it is sticky.
Recently I spent some time chatting with a youth guy who went through a period of time when he didn’t play any games with his group. It wasn’t on purpose, it just sort of “happened.” He was bi-vocational, and some key volunteers moved away. He didn’t have time to prepare for “everything,” so he scrapped games. It shocked him when a month later of focusing on going deeper, answering hard questions and building relationships, no one came to him and said, “Why don’t we play games anymore?” He had been told that “games were a central piece to youth group.”
Now I admit I am not a “games for the sake of games” person. In our group, we use activities to make a point we will double back to in our lessons. I honestly think that is more my personality. However, I do have a friend who will admit they use games as a time filler. He has said, “My students don’t want to step up and really learn about Jesus, but they enjoy games, so I figure at least it gets them there.”
As I meet more and more youth people I feel like they don’t really know what to do about this “game” thing. What do you think?
Should games only be used in outreach events or as a catalyst to get students through the door?
Are games awesome, serve a purpose and you will never ever get rid of them?
Is it all right to nix games all together and put that time in elsewhere?
Let’s talk about. I feel like we keep circling around this one and debating. Honestly, I feel for many of us we would get rid of “game time” but feel guilty about it. What would our students say?
Let me know your thoughts!