Tag: Learning

Object Lesson – Value of Time

Clock on Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed railway line | Photo S. Terfloth

Clock on Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed railway line | Photo S. Terfloth

This is a quick but powerful way to help students realize the way that they view time. Bible says that life is short (1 Peter 1:24) yet most of us feel like we have plenty of time to make things right. But what is time anyhow?

The Set-Up:

You will need a stopwatch for this activity.

Have students put away their phones. If any of them have watches ask them to remove the watch and put it in their pockets. Make sure there are no clocks in view of anyone in the room.

Have everyone stand up.

Ask the students to remain standing for one full minute. Tell them that they can sit down when they think a full minute as passed. Say “Go!” and start the stopwatch.

Some students will stand for less than a minute. Others will stand for more than a minute. Most likely a group of students will sit when they see their friends sitting.

Make a mental note of the person in the room who came closest to standing for one full minute.


How many felt like they came close to a full minute?

How many felt like they sat down too soon or too late?

(If there is wide variation in the group) How do you account for the group’s perception of time?

Call out the person who was closest to one minute and give them applause. See if anyone is surprised by the result.

From here you can discuss the biblical view that life is short, and that we need to make every minute count. You can ask students about how they perceive the future – how long until they graduate? How long until they are done with college and ready to start a career?

Now matter how they perceive time now it will change as they get older. It’s important not to “put off” important decisions like having a relationship with Jesus or making peace with a friend who feels wronged. You might feel like you have plenty of time, but that could just be a trick of the mind.

Urgent Evoke Is Urgent

In seven days it’s all over. The ten week alternate reality game Urgent Evoke will close its first “crash course in saving the world.”

Players take the role of special agents in a dystopian world, tasked with learning about social problems, shadowing leaders and innovators, and launching collaborative projects. The game brings real-world materials, news and people into play, giving players bite-sized challenges that take them closer to being agents of social change.

If you haven’t started yet, you’re behind the 8-ball for sure. But, at least initially, the challenges can be done fairly quickly. Complete 10 challenges and you can be certified as an EVOKE Social Innovator – Class of 2010.

Urgent Evoke

[Via Howard Rheingold]

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.

Toward a Theology of Game Design


Design for Blueberry Garden on Gamestorm by Erik Svedäng

Sometimes you read a book that flips a light switch in your head. For me one such book was  A Theology of Children’s Ministry by Lawrence Richards. It changed the way I thought about teaching.

Richards looked at the way children learn best and concluded that heart-knowledge was more effective than head-knowledge. A lecture or a lesson plan can’t penetrate the heart the way friendship can. He believed that faith is best taught by modeling behavior in the moment.

It is in fact our emotional responses to situations that trigger our thoughts and shape our perceptions, rather than an analysis of a situation triggering our emotions. As long as our understanding of the Bible and its teachings is not linked to our emotions, it is unlikely that we will remember and apply appropriate Bible truths. (As cited in People in the Presence of God.)

Certainly this is the way Jesus taught. When he wanted his A-team to learn about trust he took them out in a small boat and into a big storm. And then he went to sleep.

If I had the energy, the patience and the grey matter to go to seminary I might attempt to scribble out a theology of game design. Youth workers can’t drag out a leaky boat every time they want to teach a lesson. But using a game youth leaders could capture the essential experience of fear that the disciples felt, and walk students through it.

There is a catch however. Experiences within a game are endogenous, which is a fancy way to say that what happens in the game, stays in the game.

The endogenous nature of gaming experiences is a good thing if you’re playing Grand Theft Auto. But it’s problematic if you’re trying to use a game as an experiential learning tool. For instance you could create a game where the recitation of Bible verses made it possible to overcome obstacles. Inside the game those verses would be valuable and powerful. Would they retain their power outside the game? Or would they become  just that much Monopoly money?

Important things to think about. And if you’re the thoughtful sort, by all means feel free to post a comment.

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?