Tag: Teaching

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

The Play’s the Thing


There’s a common thrash amongst youth pastors – should you use games to attract more kids to your group? Or do games distract from your message?

Both camps, I think, miss the point somewhat. Games are so much more than a means to an end. Play has powerful benefits it its own right. Young people who know how to play well with others have more options available to them.

Consider these real-life scenarios:

A group of twenty teenagers and their youth leaders are standing in the dark on a street corner in San Francisco waiting for a bus that won’t come for another half hour. Every one of them is bone-tired from working in a food pantry. Some of them didn’t bring enough warm clothing. It is freezing cold.

One of the kids has an idea – let’s play Big Booty. What could have been a 30 minute grumble fest turns into a fun-for-all.

Too old for Trick-or-Treat, a high school girl isn’t thrilled by the idea of staying home and handing out candy to an endless parade of Cinderellas, Transformers and Harry Potters. She gets permission from her parents and then meets her friends at a warehouse owned by the family business where they all play a ginormous game of Sardines in the dark.

A group of college age young men and women get together and hang out. They all want to do something besides beer pong. One of them suggests a game of Team Assassin. Hilarity ensues.

Increasingly I’m seeing young people take the games they’ve learned in youth group and and play them with their friends who don’t attend church. Playing group games may not be evangelism, but it’s a great way for people young or old spend a Saturday night.

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.