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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Right now is the second best time of the year, if you are a true baseball fan (unless your team is actually playing in the World Series, in which case it's the best time of the year, GO GIANTS). For most, the best time of the year is Spring Training when all have hope for a future that involves your team winning a World Series pennant.
My friend, Ethan Bryan, has written a book that captures the hope of Spring Training but deepens this hope for all. A hope in life and faith that goes way beyond the joy of your team winning the World Series.
From the Back Cover, "What can baseball teach us about living in the way of Jesus? Can going
to a baseball game be an exercise in spiritual formation? Run Home & Take a Bow shares
twenty insightful stories of the intersection of baseball and faith.
Grab a Dr Pepper and your glove and enjoy the journey."
Here's what people, including me, are saying about Run Home and Take a Bow:
Every baseball fan knows
the ballpark invites solitude, contrition, human solidarity, joy, and
enlightenment. Sit with baseball contemplative Ethan Bryan as he opens up the
simple truth of human living through one season with the Kansas City Royals.
Bryan’s heartfelt stories will call you back to the touchstones that give life
meaning—faith, family, gratitude, persistence, and play.
Director of the Center for Engaged Compassion
Author of Wonder, Fear, and Longing: A Book of Prayers.
book is as life giving as Opening Day and it’s as sensory as pounding your
glove and smelling the leather. If you are passionate about baseball
you will love this book. If you are not a baseball fan, just a lover of
great stories then read this book and you will be inspired, but beware, you
might just become a baseball fan.
President of Youthfront
Author and Editor of Immerse Journal
a big sports fan, and care little about the K.C. Royals, and I loved this book!
You will too, I'm sure. Just a few pages in, you just know that
Ethan Bryan is a truly good man, a caring dad, a fine writer, and a great
storyteller. His childlike joy in his beloved game is a delight to behold
and along the way you will meet some true athletic heros, from Hall of Fame
stars to historic sports writers and some memorably diehard fans. And
there is a caste of characters unrelated to the game, from Mike the Theologian
and Chick-fil-A Jake to Bryan's sweet baseball-loving daughters, not to mention
bunches of Bible guys, drawn vividly from the pages of Holy Scripture as
they are set alongside the boys of summer. This is light reading that
pitches some serious life lessons, is as entertaining as peanuts during the 7th
inning stretch and, like a last-ditch homer in the bottom of the 9th, has you
on your feet, leaving truly inspired. Take a bow, Ethan, author and
Owner, Hearts & Minds Books
been taught not to talk about politics and religion in polite company, two of
the three most interesting things in life worth talking about. So thank God for
baseball. And thank God for Ethan Bryan's reflections on life, faith,
friendship, and the greatest game ever invented.
Senior Pastor of Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, MO
Author of Preaching After God
The topic of the demise of guys is being increasingly being discussed. If a prominant Christian leader, psychologist or sociologist was behind this data it would be dismissed by many as moralizing. However, the article on CNN's website entitled, "The Demise of Guys: How Video Games and Porn are Ruining a Generation," is from world-renowned Psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo is a professor emeritus at Stanford University.
Zimbardo believes the consequences of pornography and excessive gaming "is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment."
Our creative, energetic (and young) youth worker staff have invented a game called Dizzy Ball. It is played with a whiffle ball and bat in the main office among the cubicles. They have come up with some killer rules which make the game quite fun, challenging and filled with strategery. HEY, we are a youth ministry. Refusing to grow up I have become a regular player. I sustain some kind of injury almost every time I play. Right now my big toe is totally black from a game last week. Today, I rug burned the palm print off my right hand sliding into home plate. My 50 year old body has an increasingly difficult time keeping up with my competitive mind and an imagination which has me making one spectacular play after another. Here is our team picture after today's game followed by a second one in which we all tried to look really tough and mean.