I don't know what your thoughts, philosophy or even theology of fun is, but the value of "play" is so immeasurable in our MS/JH world. It is something that is being lost and we have the opportunity to rediscover and redeem it. It is something that I can personally tell you from myself and my leadership team this is a tool in your box you need.
We have got to a point in our ministry this year where once a month we don’t have small group, we have the “Next Big Thing”. It is a everyone is included fun game or activity. What we have found by all of us as adults jumping in and participating too. The next week “double long small groups” go better!!
You Mean… I’m Actually Supposed to Play Dodgeball?In a youth ministry world where “dodgeball” has almost become a bad word, let me encourage you to play it anyway. Shoulder-to-shoulder time opens the door to face to face conversation.
You see, dodgeball has received a bad rap in some circles because it isn’t “deep.” I often see comments emerge on youth ministry game web sites, “What does this do to further the kingdom?!” I assure you, don’t believe the hype. Dodgeball isn’t a sin. Point of fact; activities like dodgeball can open doors to meaningful conversation… when you actually play it!
That’s just it. When I say “play dodgeball,” I don’t mean just have “your teenagers” play while you say “Go” from the sidelines. I mean you actually play dodgeball with your teenagers.
Youth ministry needs less chaperones, fewer referees… and more adults that are willing to play shoulder-to-shoulder with teenagers.
Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try.
A few weeks ago I did… and I’m 41-years-old. The activity was dodgeball. I jumped in on the same team as the five junior high guys in my small group. When the whistle was blown I ran to the center, grabbing two of the red rubber balls. Tossing one to Jeffrey, one of my eighth graders, I said two words: “Get Ashley!”
Ashley is a cute 8th grader, Jeffrey’s friend… and my daughter. Jeffrey and I threw at the same time and pulverized Ashley. A quick high give, a smile, and we were on the search for more red rubber ammo to shoot at the enemy.
Hardly. This was bonding time. And it paid off. Twenty minutes later five boys and one very sweaty 41-year-old headed to our normal small group hideaway at the other end of our church. Within 5 minutes we were in deep conversation about Romans 12:2 and what it means to let Christ “change the way we think.” You’d be amazed how much junior highers actually pay attention to someone who pays attention to them.
Thank God for dodgeball!
If you want a kid to open up to you in small group time and speak honestly… try playing with them. The toss of a football, sharing a small cardboard tray of cheesy nachos at a football game, the ambush of a cute 8th grade girl with a dodgeball—these activities all open doors to connecting with kids.
That’s the thing. It doesn’t really matter what activity: dodgeball, worshipping to Chris Tomlin or playing X-box. Make the investment of time playing side by side and you’ll yield the results of conversation. Shoulder-to-shoulder opens doors to face-to face.
It’s not always easy to get today’s teens and tweens to open up to adults. The simple gift of “play” can open the doorways to conversation.
What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone. “Wanna go race Indy cars at Golfland?”
What about you?
Do you think “play” can open doors?
Why do games get such a bad rap?
What “shoulder to shoulder” activities have you used to connect with kids?
If you enjoyed this article from Jonathan McKee, you’ll love his book about relational ministry, Connect, Real Relationships in a World of Isolation.
Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous books i provides free resources for youth workers internationally on his website, TheSource4YM.com.