Tag: Curriculum

The Lesson that You Taught is Not the Lesson that You Thought

Good or forgiven | Image Public Domain

Good or forgiven? | Image Public Domain

Last week I was reminded why I love using games to teach. They create an immediate experience that can be discussed in the present moment.

On Sunday I ran a prototype of a game I’m working on, codename “Temptation Nation.” Players had the option of contributing to the church offering or keeping two “dollars” for themselves. Those who kept the money got an immediate reward (an Oreo and a glass of milk), but those who contributed to the offering would get a greater reward – but only when everyone chipped in.

Knowing the group pretty well I expected four or five kids would be tempted to “cheat” and keep the rest of the group from getting their Oreos. Then we would sit down and have a good talk about temptation and how our behavior impacts other people.

Something entirely different emerged in the group. Only two of the kids gave in to the temptation for immediate Oreos, and these were kids who have some verbal processing challenges. In other words, their behavior might not be a good example of giving in to temptation. What followed was even more unexpected – some of the players started using namecalling to try and bully the holdouts into cooperation. Now we had some unexpected material to talk about.

The thing that I imagined would be tempting, Oreos, turned out to be mostly uninteresting to the kids. Too soon after breakfast one player told me. But something that I hadn’t imagined, the temptation to resort to bullying, turned out to be a pretty big problem for the group.

If I’d been giving a talk I might have been a mile off the mark and never known it. I might have talked about temptation in terms of the Big Three (sex, drugs, and gangster rap), plus the temptation to cheat on tests, shoplift, lie about things to one’s parents. I hadn’t thought at all about bullying, self-doubt, the temptation to conform. It took a game to bring these issues to the surface, issues that these kids are struggling with all the time.

What comes up in the game may not be what you started out to teach, but it may be just what the kids need to hear most.

Hello World

Hello World | Photo by Rosan Harmens

Hello World | Photo by Rosan Harmens via Unsplash

The other day I was thinking about our High School guy’s small group ministry. We have a lot of fun, particularly in the form of beating each other black and blue.  But I can’t say that I’ve created a really good faith-based experience. I’ve tried a couple of promising studies (ie. The Gospel according to The Simpsons ) but every time I bring a book into the room the guy’s eyes glaze over and their tongues unroll. It’s more like Zombie school than Sunday School.

Rick Bundschuh once offered a little insight. “Most curriculum is written – or edited – by women. And most women think very differently from men.” Bundschuh went on to describe a seminar where the leader asked the people in the room to describe their day using a color. The women in the room found the task easy and enjoyable. Their days were mauve or peach or kiwi, amber or blush. The guys on the other hand were “huh? A color? I guess it would have to be blue because that’s the only color I can think of.”

Most curriculum is designed around two goals. The first goal is to drive home some bit of knowledge. The second goal is to generate discussion. Asking a group of women what color the day was is something that works. By and large most women enjoy discussion and the question simply provides a framework. Guys on the other hand are more likely to be energized by a challenge. Who can think of the most names for the color blue? The person who succeeds is 1) the winner and 2) recognized as having a special power and a special place in the group.

All this got me thinking. If guys (on the whole) aren’t motivated by learning information and aren’t interested in discussion for the sake of talking then how do I get more Bible knowledge into the group? Well, let’s rephrase that. Guys are motivated by learning new skills and they are interested in a challenge. They want to compare themselves to other guys and see how they stack up. They want to discover their own unique “super powers.”

And then I had an idea. What if, instead of another small group study we rolled out something entirely different. What if Thursday night Guy’s Group wasn’t centered on a study guide, but was based on a game?