How We Finally Controlled the Chaos of Kid's Ministry Games
For the longest time we didn't understand what was happening. Game time for any children's ministry is, at its best, controlled chaos.
Our game time always seemed to be missing the controlled part.
Everything starts great - children are participating, having fun, playing the game, and following the rules. Within a few minutes the noise level begins to rise, but this is different - it isn't children excitedly throwing a ball or running a relay. Instead there are little pockets of conversations at that piercing outside voice level that kids seem to master before they can even speak full sentences. At first we don't mind - kids being kids and all. A few of them are bored with the game, and that's okay. At first. As the game continues the conversations increase and we realize fewer and fewer of the students are participating. The game is breaking down.
Our game time has devolved into free time.
Complete and utter chaos.
We took a long, introspective look at game time. What were we doing wrong? How did we always lose control? How could we get it back, and turn game time into something fun and unifying?
We discovered three "secrets" that have allowed us to take charge and reclaim game time.
Stop Playing Games Where Children Get "Out"
This was our biggest and most important discovery, and the first step to making game time fun and engaging for everyone.
In many games children get out, going to the sideline or sitting in place until a new game begins. It's the traditional dodge ball model - get pegged and you're out. Before long a large group of your children are sitting in a corner of the room chatting, losing all interest in the game you spent a long time planning and setting up. When many of these games come down to the last 2 or 3 people they seem to stretch out into eternity. The final dodge ball players are facing one another down, both afraid to throw the ball, and nothing happens for what seems like eons.
I get bored and lose interest too.
How did we fix this? First, we stopped playing games where children get out. We look for ideas where everyone has a chance to play throughout the whole game. This seemed to limit our options some, so we got creative. Now if we find a game we like where people get out we change the rules and adapt it to our own purposes. There are ways for people to get people back in quickly, or when someone gets out they take a different role in the game.
Using traditional dodge ball as an example, you can play the variation where if someone catches the ball one of their teammates that is out, or even their entire team comes back in. You could also make up a new variation where the people who are out stand in the middle of the game and try to disrupt it. (Controlled chaos, remember?)
Scatterball is an amazing variation of dodge ball that keeps everyone involved.
Have a Big, Distinct Voice
This one was a personal revelation. As a smaller church, we often delegate game time to one of our junior leaders. These are our teens and young adults who don't have a lot of experience with children yet. They have not yet developed their "mom voice."
While they certainly like to have fun, and we love having them as part of the team, as we would expect, they struggle to control the children.
The biggest problem is that instead of leading the game they would often play the game. This may work with a few games, such as mum ball or Simon Says, but for bigger, more chaotic games it simply will not do.
As an extension of this, there is a strong difference between a leader who is fun, and a leader who is one of the kids. It is a difficult balancing act, but the children have to acknowledge you as an adult who is in charge for you to have any authority.
You need a leader with a strong voice, leading the game, to keep things under control.
Get Your Junior Leaders in the Game
If you have teenagers helping with your children's ministry, you have no doubt seen the way they cluster together during lesson time. We call it a gaggle of juniors. If not properly directed, your junior leaders tend to segregate themselves into their own little group. They've taken their leadership responsibility and turned it into their own free-range youth group.
But it's not their fault, it's yours.
They are doing this because they don't yet have proper direction or training. They simply don't know what they should be doing. Leadership comes naturally to some, but most need assistance.
They need to be trained, so they know what they should be doing during lesson time and during game time. They should be instructed how to handle when a child is misbehaving, or when children are talking during the lesson.
During game time, we get our junior leaders playing. They're no longer on the sideline, doing their own thing, and setting that example for the kids. They are now playing along and being an active participant.
With just these few tweaks you can make game time something exciting and fun, that children look forward to. Adjust the games you're playing so people are never out. Have a strong and distinct voice. And get your junior leaders more involved. You can control the chaos of game time in children's ministry.