This month, we continue looking at more techniques and strategies for leading games and activities. Again, I thank John Busch for originating this list, and for granting permission to use and expand upon it.
8. Stop the game when the interest is at its height.
Nothing kills a game more than allowing everybody to have a turn being IT "just because". We've all been in games that started great, but eventually kept dragging on and on, and became boring.
When the group is having the most fun playing a game or doing an activity is exactly the time to end it. Why? Because not only will they just associate good memories with the activity, but you now have a fun game that you can play again at a later time.
9. Be firm, but kind, when enforcing the rules.
This hearkens back to number five from last month. By kindly re-explaining or enforcing the rules, we do not risk the chance to alienate an individual.
10. Have extra material for use in case of an emergency. Foresight...be prepared.
If I know that I need to be leading games for a group for about 20 minutes, I usually plan for 30-45 minutes of activity. This allows me flexibility. Some groups just don't grasp certain games, so I end the activity and keep going. With other groups, I see that one of the activities I was planning may not fit the group as well as one of my back-ups may, so I have the extra resources to change course.
11. Never give out a ball or any other game item until they are ready to be used.
Hand somebody an object, and the focus changes from you to the object instantly. If I plan on immediately leading the group through the first part of the activity, I may pass out things ahead of time. Otherwise, I wait until I'm done.
12. Be thorough but do not insist on meticulous perfection. At the same time do not tolerate the "anything goes" spirit.
Take things on a case by case basis. Sometimes a player does something that you didn't explain thoroughly, or that they didn't understand. In any case, make a judgment call. If the move doesn't seem to take away from the game, then keep the game moving. In some experiences, I've had groups add in or inadvertantly tweak things that worked very well. As an example, a player stepping out of the boundaries is not always worth the fight in mentioning if play is continuing along. On the other hand, all the players stepping out, or things becoming unsafe, warrants either re-explaining or moving on.
13. Never boss, scold, or ridicule.
See #'s 5, 9, and 12.
14. Keep things moving.
Nothing kills the mood more for games when players just got done with something great, then have to sit around and wait while the leader sets up the next activity. If you are leading with a few people, plan out the order with the games, so that the next leader can be setting up and ready to jump in and go. If leading by yourself, have a mental map of the order of your games, and have materials set up and ready to go.
15.Enjoy the activity yourself!
One of the great benefits of playing games is that the group gets to know each other a little more while playing it. Leaders and other adults add great benefit by playing the games with the kids. The youth are able to see adults in a "more silly" environment, and the leaders are conversely able to see the youth in a different light.
Please feel free to add any more anecdotes or ideas for game leading at the end of this article. Leading games is certainly not an exact science, but by thinking through some of the strategies, we can move games into a purposeful experience to use as a tool in our ministry.
The Great Christmas Cookie Taste Test
Note: While this isn't a fast paced activity, it is definitely a great seasonal activity that you can use as a gathering involving not just your group, but their families as well.
Ahead of time, enlist at least 5 people to bake different kinds and types of cookies. Ask them to bake at least 2-5 of each item (depending on group size), but they may want to make more to share with the group.
- Break the group into 2-5 small groups (or more, depending on group size). Give each group a table and one chair, and place one player at each chair, and blindfold them.
- Bring out one of the cookies, and have participants taste them on go. The players buzz in by shouting their first name, and wait until the leader calls upon them. They then share their guess for what flavor of cookie it is.
- The next player for the team comes forward, and is blindfolded, and play continues.
- For more unique flavors or ethnic cookie names, feel free to have a multiple choice option if players seem stumped.
Check ahead of time and at time of event to see if any of your participants have food allergies (i.e. peanut, etc...), and plan accordingly.
- You may turn this into a church-wide cookie party
- If families bring cookies that are a household specialty or that are relevant to their culture, this may be a great time to share some of those stories and methods.
- Have youth bring an abundance of cookies to take to a soup kitchen or to bring to a homeless shelter as a mission project.