What’s your game plan? I mean games for your youth group fellowship. Youth Leader Stash dishes out games that will make your bonding time godly and fun. Check out this interview with Chad Swanzy of YLS.
Delighting Grace: Hi Chad, so what’s the deal with having games in your youth fellowship? Why is it important?
Chad: The most important moment in a youth environment, experience, event, or gathering is the time set aside to deliver a conversation about Christ. When that moment comes at a gathering I hope that every leader wants every student to feel safe, secure, accepted, and loved well. Some students never arrive at this point and others do so at varying paces as they come to a gathering. When a youth leader creates an experience they should think in terms of earning the right to be heard. The primary way to do this is through relationships. When students feel connected to caring adults they can begin to experience freedom and opportunity knowing that they are cared for, loved, and noticed. The things that happen in a gathering are moments where a leader is saying in preparation and in creativity, “welcome to our house. We made this moment for you.”
Games are just a way to help create an environment that, over time, move students toward the realization that this gathering is intentional about community. When you do a mixer (group interaction element) you’re helping students be known and connected. When you do a group game you’re creating a sense of community, adventure, and celebration. When you do a volunteer game you should be making those who volunteer feel like a star and celebrated. It’s a chance to shine the spotlight on them.
Unfortunately, youth leaders struggle with balance. They often think in extremes without intentional thinking. They either believe games are silly, synchronistic, entertainment, or polarizing or they think that games are the only thing to do and the only way to attract. Somewhere in the middle is a balance where games only help to move students to the most important moment in the gathering and help to create community and connection.
Delighting Grace: In your opinion, should games always attach biblical themes or Bible lessons and why?
Chad: I have a lot of friends who feel strongly that if a game is played that it must have a scriptural backbone or arc for the student to hear. I applaud them for their transitions and heart. It’s been rare in my experience that I’ve introduced a moral or spiritual layer to a game or even made reference to a game later in a talk. For me, I use a mixer in the beginning to move kids toward each other and get them off the wall. Next a group game to celebrate life and create fun, and then maybe a volunteer game to celebrate a kid in front of their peers. We would move into worship and with the talk being the moment where scripture is delivered in one single focused moment. Some leaders can use scripture throughout the gathering. Others save those pieces for one single expression.
Delighting Grace: In Youth Leader Stash, what games got the most raves from people who use it?
Chad: I have made a few posts where I share the top five group games and volunteer games at the Stash. These seem to be the favorites but there are a lot of great games there.
Delighting Grace: What your favorite all time game? Any memorable stuff about it?
Chad: My favorite all time game for me personally is Bag Head Knock off it’s just a ridiculously fun game. Every kid laughs and smiles when we play.
Delighting Grace: For a youth leader, what are some pointers how they preparing games?
Chad: Always make a rundown (order of the experience) with instructions and the time the game should take to play. Pick the most energetic people to run the game. Do not pick “Negative Nancy” “Begging Bob” “Screaming Steve” or “Fed-up Fred.” You need the most energetic communicators who when they lead the experience are fast and mentally wired to present what they are doing or asking the students to do is the most exciting thing they won’t want to miss. Do not let 10% of the room hold back the 90%. I have seen people lead games stopping the flow of the game and the energy of the rest of the group to get three or five kids on board. Just let those kids go. Don’t force everyone to play. Encourage participation and let the leaders on the floor lead in getting kids involved don’t do it from the front on the microphone publicly. The game leader does not beg students to play or call students out who don’t. Create a culture where all leaders participate with the kids, having fun, and building community. Their energy and excitement can help with the room. Have your stuff for games in a staging area ready to go. Move fast. Cut a game from the program as you watch the rundown and focus on the time if you’re going over. Better to cut the game than time from the talk. Don’t mock kids, speak death on them, or place them in compromising positions. Don’t be boring.
Delighting Grace: Chad thanks for your time. Kindly tell our readers to check out your great blog, Youth Leader Stash.
Chad: Youth Leader Stash has a reputation of sharing great games that come with graphics you can use for slides but there are a ton of posts on set everything from set design to apps, and group builders that are published every week. We have talk outlines and illustrations that can help you form thoughts and get your brain going creatively as you work in prayer and pursuit of what God wants you to say to students. We’ve also started a talk subscription service that will deliver every other month a complete four week series with talks, talk outline, discussion guides, and community experiences. The subscription also delivers great digital content and only cost $5 a month. With all that’s already free on the Stash the subscription just brings it full circle. I never feel more alive than when I know the Stash is helping leaders love on kids and push them toward Jesus.