I went to LaCygne by myself and didn't really know anyone. It was a chance to meet new people - a lot to do every day and I loved that the activities were optional.
One night after an evening gathering, they surprised us with the "Fugitives" game. It required us to run around in the pitch black dark, looking for clues and avoiding the other team. The combination of the surprise factor (out of the ordinary) and the high stakes made it feel like the Hunger Games. It was really awesome, we were scared and laughing at the same time!
Fugitives actually helped me bond with some other girls and I made life long friends.
There is something about playing and games that bring people together. As I reflect upon my life, I clearly remember my childhood and adolescent years being a time when I was consistently creating activities for friends to participate in cooperative fun. I organized play and created games. When I was younger, I was creating scenarios in which my playmates could pretend that we were on great adventures while accomplishing important tasks. From late childhood into adolescence my organizing play mostly involved sports related activity. As I got older, I enjoyed playing board games and cards with my family and friends. I often wonder if I organized and led play because leadership DNA was a part of my personality or if these activities helped shape my desire to lead.
Play is important because play is something human beings were created to do. The Bible is mostly silent concerning the issue of play. However, the Scriptures mention play, dance, creativity, and celebration often. The issue of play in youth ministry has come up a lot in conversations about programs, events, and activities and their roles in youth ministry praxis. It is an important critique to insist that youth ministry should be more than fun, games, and activities in order to engage meaningfully in the Christian formation of our youth. At the same time, though, to hold a position that doesn’t include a theology of play is a big mistake. And by theology of play, I don’t mean making a cheesy spiritual application to a game of Capture the Flag or describing how our life is like a volleyball that sometimes gets hit out of bounds.
All this to say, I'm really excited about our Youthworker Training Day this week. When Youthfront offers training to youth workers we tend to lean toward substance and theology. We will be focusing on play and gaming. However, don’t make the mistake that we will be giving you the top ten games to try out on your youth group. In fact, this training day could be one of the most important we've hosted in a long time.
Dr. Mark Hayse is the Director of the Center for Games and Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University. He holds an undergraduate degree in religion, a Masters in religious education, and a PhD in educational studies. His dissertation topic was “Religious Architecture in Videogames: Perspectives from Curriculum Theory and Religious Education.” He is director of the Honors Program at MNU and was awarded the Alpha Chi Donald Metz Award – Faculty Member of the Year for Distinctive Academic Contributions in 2007. Mark has written numerous scholarly publications on games and gaming and regularly presents on these topics. His 20 years spent in youth work, with an ongoing emphasis on games and recreation as well as his research into how games can be used in education will continue to further the mission of the Center for Games & Learning. In addition to conducting research on the use of tabletop games in educational settings, Mark has helped the Center build a collection of over 50 tabletop games that have been identified for their ability to foster students’ development of “21 Century” skills.
Matt Saunders, is the Program Director at Youthfront Camp West. Not only does he make sure that more than 3,000 middle school have an awesome time at camp but he recently became a published game designer. His first title, “Mow Money” will be released this fall. During his years in church youth ministry, Matt used meaningful play as part of spiritual formation.
A very surreal week started with a wonderful tailgate meal with Vicki while anticipation mounted for the Chiefs playing New England on Monday Night Football on a perfect fall evening in Kansas City. Even though we love our Chiefs, the city is in frenzy over the KC Royals. While waiting for the kickoff the atmosphere was enhanced by a dozen or so Royals players who made a surprise appearance on the field at Arrowhead. The crowd roared as they walked around the perimeter of the field, giving high fives and chatting with fans. The Chiefs made a classy decision to feature a Royals congratulation video on the jumbotron. Arrowhead was charged up. I felt like the Chiefs had a good chance to win but no one expected a 41 to 14 spanking of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This was SO FUN. We also broke the Guinness Book of World Records by becoming the loudest open-air stadium in the world reaching 142.2 decibels.
This event was opening act for the headliner happening on Tuesday, when the KC Royals would return to post-season play for the first time in 29 years. If the opening act featuring the Chiefs was so good, then certainly the headliner playing the next night would surely be stunning.
Tuesday morning started out charmed when I pulled up to one of my regular coffee stops to find George Brett holding court with some buddies, talking baseball and telling stories. George saw the Brett Jersey I had bought my father several years ago hanging in my back window. That brought a big smile and thumbs up from the Hall of Famer.
I headed to Kauffman Stadium early to take in all the festivities. I particularly went to sit in the same seat I sat in next to my father on his last outing before dying a little over a year ago. My dad taught me how to love baseball so deeply. When it became clear that we would be playing the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card game, I knew I had to be there. The A’s came to KC from Philadelphia. They never had a winning record in KC but I loved them. In fact, my parents had to get special permission at my grade school to let me where my Kelly Green and Gold A’s hat. I even had my school picture taken with my hat on. When my father told me that Charlie Finley was taking the A’s to Oakland, I cried for days. It wasn’t long before KC was granted an expansion team that we wouldcall the Royals. Some of my earliest memories are of my father taking me to old Municipal Stadium to see the A’s and then the Royals play. Ewing Kauffman, the owner of the Royals, worked to get us a new stadium, along with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt. Several times a month my dad would take to the overview hill to watch the progress being made on the new stadiums. So it was special, painful and joyful all at the same time to sit in this chair and remember.
The pre-game festivities set the stage for an amazing, one of a kind night. I chatted with Jamie Roach, my brother-in-law; Eddie Garlich, a Youthfront kid now grown up; friends Gary and Vickie Pener; I saw friend and Royals legend Mike Sweeney and exchanged texts; and for a special treat I discovered in row two behind the Royals dugout and right in front of me, Julia Burbridge, a Youthfront supporter and friend, with her two daughters, Lisa and Anna. I was missing Steve, Julia’s husband, who was in Palm Springs on business. I eventually moved down a row to sit with them. I got non-stop messages and texts from friends, during the drama of the game, friends who saw me on TV. I’ve learned that sitting near the dugout gets you TV and JumboTron time.
When we went down two runs in the first inning my heart sank but soon soared as we regained the lead. I’m not going to lie – I was depressed and resigned to lose when we entered the bottom of the 8th behind by a score of 7-3. But then magic happened and continued to happen. When Peres hit the walk off single, in what had become the first winner-take-all game to go at least 12 innings since Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, I cried, the kind where tears roll down the cheeks. Even though the clock was striking midnight and I had a 5:00am flight to Sacramento, California for the National Youth Workers Convention, I couldn’t leave. The fans couldn’t leave. The players couldn’t leave until we properly celebrated in astonishment what had just happened. My phone was lit up with texts, v-mails, calls, tweets, Facebook mentions, etc. from friends from all over the world. I so wish my dad could have been at this game. One of those voicemails was from my mother. I called her back on the way home and we celebrated, talked about dad and reminisced.
As I finally pulled myself away from the field, I did, what my dad would have wanted me to do. I stopped at least two dozen 8 – 10 year olds who were walking to the cars with their fathers and mothers. With what voice I had left I enthusiastically told them, “You are so lucky to be here. What happened tonight you will remember the rest of your life. You will some day tell your children about it. You were here. You saw this and you will never forget it.” Once the parents realized I wasn’t intoxicated, they affirmed what I was saying and jumped on the moment to drive home the moment to their children. I think my father would be very proud of me for doing that.
Even though I'm in my 39th year of youth ministry and mostly focused on weighty youth ministry dialogue and theological reflection, is it ever good to not have a good game resource. The answer is no.
GroupGames is an App developed by Calum Henderson, a teacher and Youth Leader from Sydney, Australia. The App is a database of over 120 game ideas. You can find out more and watch a video demonstration of the App at http://groupgamesapp.net/
Put this on your iPhone or iPad and you will always be ready to roll.
I have five free Apps to give away. I will send a download code to the first five youth workers who email me at email@example.com
Vicki and I, joined about a dozen friends for one of our son Micah's 30th birthday events. We went to RA Sushi Restaurant at Town Center. After a feast of happy hour sushi beyond the capacity of my ability to eat one more bit we headed to our car to head to the next leg of the party. Vicki had the keys and we stood beside our doors as she tried multiple times to unlock the door. The beeper kept going off, we could hear the doors unlock but we couldn't open the doors. I tried the back door and questioned Vicki to explore if she was doing something wrong. She just kept trying when all of a sudden it dawned on me that the vehicle next to the one we were trying to get in was identical in everyway to ours and we were trying to get in the wrong vehicle. Duh!
The Plaza is truly one of my favorite locations in the world and I've done enough traveling (55 plus countries) to add credibility to my statement. Here in Kansas City we had the biggest Christmas snow storm since 1895. Absolutely beautiful. We finally decided to get out late Christmas Eve with Micah, Anne and Jessica. Here are some of my iPhone pics.
On Friday night we joined a dozen friends for an evening at the Westport Flea Market to join in the fun of Separated at Birth. Separated at Birth is a hilarious duo of comedic and talented musicians made up of Carl Pelofsky and Grant Wood. Their gig is live Karaoke. Grant Wood was one of my favorite kids I worked with as a teenager involved in YouthFront. Grant has become more than a kid who was involved in my ministry - he is a friend. Grant served as a youth pastor right out of college and also was on our staff for a couple of years. Grant and his beautiful wife Emma now run a very successful family therapy center. Here is a Kansas City Star Article on Separated at Birth. They play on the last Friday night of every month. Go early if you want a good seat. My son Micah and I have committed to our first karaoke performance next month.