Creating Games That Engage Students
By Kenny and Elle Campbell
Fun matters. It matters to a kid’s faith, so it should matter to us as we create ministry experiences for them. There are a lot of ways to infuse more fun into your weekly experiences, and creating engaging games is one of them. But if you’ve ever prepared or led a game for students, you know that finding, creating, and executing games that connect with students isn’t always easy or intuitive. So here are four principles for making great games happen…
- Prepare Seriously
Did you buy the right supplies? Did you think about the timing and what the energy is going to feel like in the room? Did you think about how you were going to explain the instructions? I’ve seen games with incredible potential crash and burn because one of these questions were not answered during preparation. Pulling off fun games, that have great energy, and that flow well is actually a hard task to accomplish. I always practice the games first during the week with staff (or friends) before we ever play them in our program.
- Respect Your Audience
We never force a kid to play our game. This is the main reason why I typically stay away from games that everyone has to participate. Some kids just don’t want to play – and that’s fine. We find games that are fun to play and watch. Don’t expect everyone to love your game. Go easy on the kids that are talking with their friends, building relationships and connecting with peers is a good thing.
Also, when we call volunteers to the front we try to never make a joke at their expense – when our hosts make jokes we tell them to be self-deprecating. Students don’t need to add “youth pastor” to the list of people who make fun of them.
- Control The Energy
Who do you have hosting the game? Is it someone who smiles a lot? Is it someone who is known for having fun on and off stage? Students naturally want to engage with people like that, and we typically have two people hosting together – a guy and a girl. Sometimes games can cater to boys, so it really helps to have a fun, cool female up front to get the girls involved.
And keep it positive. We train our hosts to never say things like “wow this crowd is dead today” or “you guys are no fun”. If you feel the energy is low, do something to engage them, but never point it out.
- Involve Small Group Leaders
We believe small groups are the most important thing we do, so we try to set them up for a win, even during the game. When students play with their small group leader they are building memories that build influence. Kids want to know that you like them, and the fastest way to show them how much you like them is to embarrass yourself with them and laugh with them.
So what did we miss? Do you have any tips for creating fun games that engage students?