We’ve all been there! The game just … isn’t working. Your students are bored, one is actually taking a nap and some others are buried in their phones. That fun element you downloaded from the internet or found free on some app is dying in a pile. You are now mid-game and it’s… welcome to boring-town. Snoozefest 2021. ZZZZZZZZ. What do you do?
I’ve run games for 25 years in my youth ministry and have bombed in front of students more times than I care to admit. There’s nothing worse! OK, there are a TON of worse things – but at that moment it’s super rough. Not as bad as that new kid Michael and one of your key student leaders in the back row displaying way too much PDA at church. Wait, I think I’m getting a bit off track. I do that from time to time around the end of the year as I reflect on all that God has done and some of the occasional knuckleheads He has brought into our youth ministry this year.
So how do you save a game? How do you pivot a game? How do I fix this mess I’m in!? Help!! Here are a few options when things just aren’t going as planned in your program:
Fire up your backup youth group Christmas game
A backup game? Are you kidding me? I’m not some sort of game genie and can just summon a new element of fun! And it’s true … you’re not … yet. Now that you have this idea firmly planted in your head you need to do a quick run-through Josh’s Stocking Stuffers games and pick out some perfect backups for your group in case something goes less than stellar. May I recommend Grandma Got Run Over By a _______________? or First to Ten: Christmas Edition – both are fireproof and always a sure-fire hit. Have a backup game and you’ll always bail like a pro. Click the links to download them right now!
Punt it quickly and do one of your “go-to” games
A game pro will always have a simple crowd game ready to go in their back pocket when something goes sideways. Certain tried and true games are virtually guaranteed to crush, like the Bob Ross Christmas Party or Christmas Movie Emoji Challenge but sometimes stuff isn’t a hit in your group. We get it, not everything you try is going to land – so always have these ready to rock:
- Sit Down If – Everyone stands, and you call out features or facts of their life and they sit if it’s true about them. The last one standing wins. Bonus: Reverse a few to stand back up for a fun twist to bring students back in.
- Bring Me – You simply call out an item and someone has to bring it to the front. The first one there wins a prize or a point. Things can get crazy when you ask for a shoelace or a contact lens.
- Rock Paper Scissors – You know this one! Have the whole room play it and if you tie you’re both out. Whittling everyone down to one final winner from the crowd makes it easy and fun.
- Impossible Shot – Every week I have this ready! A simple Nerf bow and arrow and a target in the back of the room. Adds a burst of energy and engagement every time!
Win them back by raising the stakes
If they’re not giving you great attention or it’s bombing maybe the prize isn’t worth playing for? It doesn’t have to be super expensive (I love visiting the Dollar store to make up games or find prize ideas). Adlib a little bump in the value of the prize (adding $5 to the Starbucks Holiday Drink gift card) or blow them away (the winner goes to Winter Retreat for FREE, also, may I suggest a theme: Superspreading the Gospel Virus). Upping the stakes of the game, by eliminating people could also be a fun way to win the crowd back. 5 cans of Pringles, 10 avocadoes, a cat hot pad. The ideas there are endless. Ha!
I hope this helps you save some face when something goes wrong with your game. This holiday season post-pandemic-election-Zoomed-out-virtual learning-no-sports your students need fun so I hope you’ll lay it on thick! Oh, and definitely don’t use that Winter Retreat theme, it’s a terrible idea.
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