“I hate games—organizing, running, and trying to get my kids to play them.”
How many times have you said or thought something similar? On the list of priorities, game playing often does not rank high. You have precious little time with students. Why use it on games?
Here is why. Students still enjoy, need, and benefit from games. Play is still something that is allowed and socially acceptable. Your students still can enjoy playing games and using their energy in a positive way. The problem is when youth workers don’t understand how to love the game by creating engaging, energetic, and effective gameplay…
Games are an opportunity to engage students on a different level in a non-threatening way. If you want to break through to a hard-to-reach kid or group, a game that engages especially your Middle Years, 5th-9th grade, students is the way to open the door.
The two parts to creating engaging games are: knowing your group and knowing your rules.
Your group is different from every other group. Your students may seem similar to those in the group down the road, but the combination of students you have creates a unique social dynamic and personality. Find and create games based on what you know about your group. Your knowledge of your group is similar to a custom-made key created for a specific door. Have it, and you have access.
Rules are not meant to be broken, but they can be bent. Rules are the frame of the door you are trying to open. Define the overarching rules for every game, and then be specific about each game you play. Students need to have a defined idea of what is and is not allowed. Plan and allow rules to be bent, but make sure things are framed to be fair and fun.
Your students have energy, and it is going to be used—end of the story. It may be used during your lesson or during your game, but the basic theory of physics and energy for our world and for your group are: understand the need and understand the direction.
Your students need to move, especially the boys. They’re perpetual motion machines; if left in a state of rest for too long, they will erupt eventually. Games are needed in order to expend their energy. A less energetic game can offer students an opportunity to move or talk. Adults can benefit also from the energy a game brings to your setting, so don’t just lead—participate.
As in the physical world, energy is only useful when directed. An energetic game can give students direction to something more.
Beyond the need for expending energy, a well-thought-out game can create connection and spark learning. It is not enough to offer a game; you also must understand what the game can teach.
As students engage in energetic games, you need to be effective in what you are doing and why. Games should be more than entertainment. In order for your games to be fully effective, you need to get a purpose and a plan.
Our core purpose is simple: Bring students to gospel truth. A purpose-FULL game can make a point and illustrate truth in a way nothing else can.
Games are a hands-on, minds-on learning experience without students knowing it. Every upfront game, icebreaker, or group game is a powerful teaching tool.
More than supplies, space, and rules, planning is about following through on the purpose. Set aside time to plan and pray about the purpose. Ask some simple how and why questions. Think through what you want to accomplish and how it fits into your purpose.
It is time to stop being a hater of games and players. It is time to start loving students in a new way and love the game you play, plan and pray about. You might be surprised at how engaging, energetic, and effective games are as part of your ministry, as well as how they might change the game for you
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