Category: Articles

Can Fun Change the World?

As Christians we like to think that everything boils down to one answer – only Jesus can change the world. While that is unquestionably true, the reality is a little more nuanced. For instance, the apostle Paul tells us “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

If we want Jesus to change the world, we first have to be willing to let him change us. That could mean reconsidering the way we do all kinds of things, including the way that we play with our kids. For instance, we used to play a dodgeball variant called “slaughter.” I don’t want to be a prude about this, but I think we should at least question the way we name games, the types of activities we promote in those games (I’m looking at you, First Person Shooter), the outcomes of our games (winners vs losers).

To paraphrase Paul, all games are permissible to Christians, but not all games will build up the body.

With that in mind, here is a list of 15 games to change the world, just to get an idea of how we might start re-thinking what it means to have fun.



Ten Reasons Small Groups Are Great for Kids

Back in July Doug Fields blogged ten rewards that teens get from associating with small group leaders. Interestingly a lot of these benefits are directly related to having a relationship with a caring adult.

Here are ten of my own ideas. Some, of course, will overlap with Doug’s –

1. Relationship with a caring adult
2. Solidarity with other Christian youth
3. Learning how to do a personal Bible study
4. A place to talk about random things
5. A place to brag and get recognition
6. Establishing a foundation for future small group involvement
7. A place to discuss social and cultural norms
8. A place to be challenged
9. A place to receive forgiveness
10. Learning to hang out and socialize in a healthy way

Use YouTube for Interactive Storytelling

Neil Cicierega’s Haircut (choose-your-own-adventure-song) was three years in the making, but you might say it was worth the wait. The clever upbeat story is inspiring…what other interactive stories could you tell using YouTube?

(Note, the interaction doesn’t work terribly well in the embedded version above. Check out the video on YouTube’s site to choose your own ending.)

How to Lead Great Games

Great leaders are not born, they’re made. Or, maybe more to the point, you can’t expect to lead a great game night without a little preparation and practice.

1) Read through the games ahead of time. Make sure all necessary supplies are prepared and in place at game time.

2) Have a couple of fall-back games prepared in case one of your planned activities falls flat.

3) Understand the rules of the games backwards, forwards and inside-out.

4) Run through the games ahead of time. Make sure you can explain the game quickly, particularly if your group is a little squirrelly.

5) Have an upbeat attitude. Depending on the group you might need to be unnaturally “bubbly” to generate enthusiasm.

6) Keep things moving. If a game doesn’t take off don’t let it die a long slow agonizing death. Kill it and move to another activity.

For some slapstick game pointers check out the 7 Sins of Game Leading.

The Color of Happy

Colors mean different things to different cultures

Colors have cultural meaning

Yellow is a happy color. Think of the big sunny Happy Face that’s as common as dandelions.

That is, unless you’re a Native American. In that case yellow means “danger” and red means “happy.” Of course, red means “danger” to North Americans of European descent.

Using the color wheel in the gorgeous wall chart available through Information is Beautiful you could easily create a quick cross-cultural game where teams have to communicate an urgent message using color alone. Of course, the teams wouldn’t know that the colors have different meanings until one or two rounds have gone past.

Knowing the cross-cultural symbolism of color is also useful for theming games or experiences that involve people from diverse backgrounds.

A Simple Event Flow for Educational Games

Quite Coyote also known as Focus Fox

Quiet Coyote Grabs Attention

There’s a lot going on whenever you bring a group of people together for a game. Some people will be nervous. Some people will be angry. Some people simply want to shoot the bull with their friends.

In order to have a successful group experience you need to get everyone on the same page quickly and as naturally as possible. With younger children you can use  a “Quiet Coyote” (see above) or “when the hand goes up, the mouth goes shut” approach to focus redirection.

My group likes to argue about the focus device – is it a Coyote? A Focus Fox? What about Silent Spiders? And off they go into the woods again. In this case, getting them up and moving them to another location is a good way to get everyone into the same head-space.

Here’s a simple event flow that brings people together around your activity:

Excitement Builders

Fast, fun hilarious stunts capture attention, get people laughing and loosened up. If you have energetic, enthusiastic song leaders then a couple of songs can bring people together socially and spiritually.

Centering Stage

This is a transitional move designed to focus attention on the main event. You can have people move to tables, fill out a questionare, make name tags. If your learning experienced is themed, this would be a good time to introduce theme music, dim the lights, don costumes or whatever is appropriate.

Essential Experience

Here is the main event where everything works to reinforce the emotional state of the experience. For instance, if your learning experience has to do with the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert, here is where you turn on the halogen lights and turn up the heat. Do your best to get everyone into the essential experience of the lesson.

Debriefing and Decompression

Essentially your group has just taken a hero’s journey. You’ve gotten the goods, now is the time to return to the real world. Spend the last 15-20 minutes of group time talking about the experience, the emotions and feelings that came up and practical applications in the real world.

The temptation for an educator is to feed the flock, stuff them full of information. But when everything goes well your group will be lit-up, and eager to do it again. Your job is to send them out into the world hungry for more.