I was looking in our toy and game cabinet at church this weekend and that got me thinking about the games that every children’s ministry ought to have. It also got me thinking about the advantages of some games over others. Sure, Rock ‘Em / Sock ‘Em Robots is fun, but is there really a way to “use it” in children’s ministry. The following were my thoughts about games which would be useful in children’s ministry (or youth ministry) that you might want to make sure are in your cabinet.
Most of these games are fairly common, and I am assuming that you are familiar with the basic premise for most of them. As you read this article, think yourself about how you can use a short game with a child to further the cause of Christ. Click here to let me know what you think.
The classic of all classic. I like the oversized boards with the oversized pieces that you find at country stores and places like Cracker Barrel. Not all kids know how to play, but those who do really enjoy the game. To my mind, the greatest thing about this game is that it is care free enough (for most players) that you can carry on a conversation during the game.
2. Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples is a game where people select adjectives from the cards in their hands to describe of noun. One person then picks one of the cards, and that person get a point for the round. The first person to X points wins the game, but this game is about a whole lot more than winning. It encourages kids to think and strategize in selecting their adjectives. I have found that the choices made often lead to further discussions which is the real gift of this game.
Even more so than checkers, you will find that many people either just don’t get chess or don’t enjoy it. However, those who do play love the challenge and the strategy of the game. In children’s ministry, you will find that it is mostly older elementary kids who play, and many are just learning the game. That said, chess is a great game to get kids thinking beyond just the next move. In life, that translates to learning something about delayed gratification which is a good thing in our culture. It is also very applicable to the sacrifices we make in this age and the rewards we will receive in heaven.
I love Pictionary even though my drawing abilities are often worse than the kids I am playing with. This game encourages team work, imagination and abstract thinking as kids try to guess what on earth it is that their teammates are drawinf. For those reasons alone, it is a must have.
5. Connect Four
This one is a classic. Line up four of your checkers in a row before your opponent does. Like checkers, this game is generally light hearted enough that it allows plenty of time for conversation while you are playing. It is also simple enough that almost anyone can play. Games are also generally shorter which makes it very adaptable to almost any time frame.
6. You Gotta Be Kidding
From the makers of the adult game “Would You Rather?” this kid version poses ridiculously goofy choices to kids who must chose whether they would pick one or the other option. Everyone else at the table then has to guess how that person voted. It is a great way, albeit very unorthodox, to get to know one another. The rules also require the chooser to explain why they made the choice they made which encourages cognitive thought.
Everybody loves Uno – well almost everyone! Rarely have I come across a game where everyone plays from age three through age 99. At my house we range in age from 3 to 38 (with 8, 10, 17 and a 37 thrown in for good measure), and we all love the game. There are so many different “house” rules for this game, that you’re likely to have fun just figuring out what you want to rule set to be.
Jenga is a great game for your more active learners. They get to touch the pieces and try to defy gravity as you build a higher tower. The game provides ample suspense and plenty of time to talk as you carefully remove each piece and add it to the top. There’s an object lesson here about how God changes us as well, but we won’t go into that right now!
9. A Deck of Cards
A simple deck of cards is extremely versatile. You can play war or rummy or old maid or any number of other games with the kids in your ministry. You can play games one-on-one or as a group. You can do magic tricks with them (assuming you know any). You can build card houses.
There are a number of different versions of Cranium that I have played. Most involve having the kids try to get their teammates to guess the clue doing crazy things like humming, charades, and much much more. These are great games for kids and adults to act silly together and have fun trying to work together toward a common goal.
There is one constant in all of these games that makes them great for children’s ministry. They give you time to talk to the kids while your playing and building relationships around shared experiences.