Monday, July 7, 2014

My Game Hall of Fame

Cocktail at Myrtle Beach in 2004
This past Saturday I got a call from my friend Joanne Gastler with an unusual request. Her daughter Jennifer (Wesley Memorial UMC) was trying to remember all of the rules to the epic card game, Cocktail, a staple of many trips in my later years of ministry. I have to admit I surprised myself by being able to recall the complicated procedures. In truth, there were so many classic youth group games that it is hard to remember them all! Over the years my students played hundreds of different games as a youth group, from the sophisticated to the stupid. I always assumed most student ministries were like that; I could be wrong. I think our games always had a lot of variety and creativity, and I know that some of them are quite memorable to the kids who played them. If you happen to be a former youth of mine who is reading, I'd love to hear which ones you remember. I bet someone from every group I was ever a part of remembers the Egyptian Mummy Race. Let's take a stroll through my Game Hall of Fame:
  • The grand poobah of all my games was Sardines. I learned it as a kid from my youth leader, DB3, and then passed it along to every group I ever worked with until Waycross, where we had no decent place to play without disturbing people. This was hide and seek in pairs, and it was a riot. The kids at Springfield were really good at it.  
  • Does anyone remember the whole New Games craze of the 1970s? I was an officially trained and licensed New Games trainer and referee. Smaug's Jewels or British Bulldog, anyone? "Play hard, play fair....nobody hurt!"
  • At TNT we often played versions of TV game shows. We played Remote Control, a game of TV trivia based on the MTV show. We did our own versions of the Dating Game and the Newlywed Game. The Newlywed Game was especially fun because we would partner students who barely knew each other and make them guess at the answers to the questions. It was often hilarious. We also used board games such as TabooWin, Lose or Draw and Outburst to create games we could play with a large group.
  • We had a great game we played on the pool tables at Springfield and Kissimmee called PIG. It involved rolling a pool ball and sprinting around the table, and it was awesome. We played a similar game on a ping-pong table called Round Robin. Other active indoor games for the groups included classics like Fruit Basket UpsetShuffle Your BunsBroom Hockey, The Technicolor Stomp and Do You Love Your Neighbor? All of these required lots of movement and lots of noise, so they were very popular!  And I haven't even mentioned the cults of Four Square players that sprung up at Springfield, in Kissimmee and in Tampa...
  • I can't think of a ski trip and not think about Pass the Pigs. Great time killer!
  • Our visit with Amy Simmons Stanley and her family in Orlando recently reminded me of her favorite game at Springfield Friends Meeting, Musical Guys! This was an aggressive version of musical chairs, using guys on all fours as seats instead of the traditional chairs. It often involved a bit of wrestling before losers were declared. And Amy retired undefeated...
  • There were two different winking games we played. One was Killer, a nice passive card game that involved catching a winking murderer.  The other was Wink 'Em, one of the most violent games ever created. Ask if you want details!  :)
  • We played Brain Games, too. These were always fun, but there was always someone who just never figured them out, so they often took a VERY long time to play.  "It can be Snoopy, but it can't be a dog..." And who could ever forget Who Has the Hat?
  • We played dozens of different Name Games designed to help students learn each other's names. These games, at every stop along the way, were pretty much universally despised...
  • We had some outdoor games that were favorites as well. Go Tag was a classic that used tons of energy and created mass confusion. It also allowed lots of opportunities for creative cheating, one of my favorite things about youth group games! Wild Softball was another favorite, featuring a softball bat, a kickball and running the bases backwards or playing without a third base. We also tried Wet'N'Wild Softball, where you were hosed down between third base and home plate. We occasionally played football and basketball like normal people...but not soccer. Never soccer. I do have standards.  :)
  • Over the last few years of my ministry, at Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa and in Waycross, we had a lot of fun with a device called The 4-Way Grinder. It was basically a tug of war between 4 individuals with inner-tubes wrapped around their waists, all pulling in different directions (see picture at right). Only minor injuries were recorded...
Why so many (and such weird) games? For fun. For exercise. To build group unity and give the students a shared history to talk about. All of those reasons and more add up to the main reason- being strange and unpredictable helps put butts in the seats so we can talk about Jesus. It's pretty simple, really. And it helps convey the message that following Jesus is NOT dull, boring or predictable. It's a wild ride... and one with a GREAT finish!

Because of Jesus,

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