Games with purpose
Just like parables or illustrations, creative youth group games can teach us important gospel truths.
When explaining the gospel to adults and young people alike, it helps to take the big ideas (such as grace, salvation, predestination, atonement etc) and present them using illustrations. Jesus did this in parables, saying ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like…’ and then using an illustration that people understood.
The power of illustrations
A friend of mine, James Fong, uses an illustration to explain sin. He says when God created the world, He made it perfect, like an unopened, untouched, unspoiled ice-cold bottle of Coke. God’s world was amazing, full of goodness, with humanity made in his image. It was as good as it looked. Adam and Eve lived without shame and without sin. They shared a perfect relationship with God and with each other. But when they chose to eat the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that all changed. Their choice, their desire to be the ones to choose what was good and evil, was sin. That sin was like putting dog poo into the bottle of Coke - it completely ruined it forever. No amount of covering it up or trying to fish it out would make it perfect again.
James' illustration is such a vivid, disgusting image that I've remembered it for years. But not only is the illustration remembered, but so is the meaning - sin has ruined God’s perfect world, and we need a miracle to rid this world of the problem. Enter Jesus.
Illustrations like this are important to help people grasp concepts of the gospel. No doubt your preacher includes some in their talks at church. Jesus used them. I use them all the time too. Why? Because they help give meaning to an otherwise abstract concept.
Games as illustrations
Did you realise that youth group games can be just like illustrations - the only difference is, they involve participation. If we choose to be purposeful about the games we play and the way they are explained, they can act just like illustrations, helping us understand gospel truths.
The majority of youth groups will integrate games into some aspect of their gathering. Games have multiple purposes:
- help people ‘let loose’
- provide social interaction
- satisfy that competitive streak residing in most of us
- fill the time
Most of us enjoy playing games, whatever age we are. I do. And while games are fun we want to make sure we make the most of the opportunities God blesses us with. Do we really want to waste time at youth group playing meaningless games, instead of talking about the gospel?
Games with purpose
Why not start including games that teach people about God and the work of Christ? Is that not the whole reason we run youth group in the first place? Every aspect of the gathering should reflect this reason. Remember games are illustrations that involve participation, and illustrations help bring concrete understanding to an abstract concept.
Last January I led on a camp called JAM. I was in charge of developing a night time game, as part of a day when we talked to the kids about sin. I wanted to illustrate to them we all have a sinful nature and we can’t escape from sin.
We played a game very similar to Capture the Flag, but the kids could go to a ‘Cheat Room’ to win a ‘cheat’, which would give them a very big advantage in the game. But I had mentioned subtly at the very beginning that you must obey the rules and that if someone was cheating, their team would be disqualified.
What happened during the game? At least one person from each team cheated and so nobody won! During the debrief, we talked about which team thought they won and why. A few switched-on kids had been telling their teammates not to cheat because they would lose. In the discussion I was able to show the kids how sin affects everyone and how you can’t take back a sin once it’s out there. Just like the Coke illustration at the beginning of this article, this game illustrated the all-encompassing effect of sin and brought it home for those kids. It turned an abstract concept into a concrete understanding.
Don’t waste your youth group gatherings with meaningless games. Make sure they have a purpose. They can be a powerful tool to communicate the awesome truths about God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Leah Dyason is the author of Youth Games With Purpose.