Blog

The Easiest Large Group Game Ever

IMG_0368This is probably the easiest large group game ever invented.  If you can think of an easier one, please let me know in the comments.

Heads or Tails!

This game of heads or tails involves EVERYONE in your large group.  It is actually better the larger the group gets.  There is an elimination factor to it, so that you are left with only one winner.  But the eliminating happens so fast that the people waiting to play the next round don’t have to wait long.

What you need: A lot of people and one coin (I like to use a quarter).

How to play: Have everyone stand up.  Tell them that they need to select heads or tails before you flip the coin each time you flip it.  They indicate heads by putting both hands on their head.  They indicate tails by putting both hands on their rear.  Whatever the coin says, those people stay in the game and advance to the next flip.  The eliminated people (their side did NOT flip) must sit down and wait for the next game.  Repeat this over and over until you are left with one final winner.

Tips:

  • Don’t worry, this game moves fast.
  • Before you flip, say “ONE-TWO-THREE-Lock it in!” so that the players all lock in their heads or tails at the same time.
  • No switching selection after you say “lock it in!”  If a player does so, they’re out.
  • Let the winner be the coin flipper for the game after they win.

Kids want to play this game ALL DAY LONG.  You’ll be surprised at how crazy easy it is.

Want more group game ideas for kids and family events? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Want to learn how to juggle? Here are the basics!….

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

What toy will be the next “fidget spinner”?

If you work with kids, then you saw the fidget spinner come and go this past summer. The popularity of this fad toy (which has actually been around for quite some time) peaked sometime in June 2017. But by July and August, it seemed that every child in North America had at least a dozen of them, if not, more. Their interest waned. And parents were tired of buying yet another metal and plastic spinny thingy.

Kids are kids. They will always find a new fad toy to enjoy every season. Sometimes that is driven by brilliant marketing campaigns by large toy companies (like the Pet Rock or Tickle-Me-Elmo) or simply by the interests of the children aided by the viral nature of social media (like the Fidget Spinner or the water bottle flipping craze).

I have come across three toys that I predict could be contenders for an upcoming viral fad. Only history will show if I get any of this right. But I have found some toys that are basic in design yet complex enough to capture one’s attention for hours on end. Here they are….

Kendama

The amazing ball-on-string-on-wooden-stick toy that has an infinite array of possible tricks and variations. I have been aware of them for years but never spent much time with one until now. I have some basic tricks down but if you want to see ninja level, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFiiXkonsXY&t=228s

 

Jacob’s Ladder

This small toy made of wood and ribbon has been around at least since the Colonial period in America. The segments roll downward and appear to magically transform themselves like a magic falling ladder. I’ve seen children and adults stare in mesmerization (is that a word?) at this very simple toy. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiIpUUsIsVE

 

Mokuru

This is a stick toy that is weighted in such a way that it rolls and dances in different directions when you manipulate it. Just watch this video to get the gist of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7TwE4Qv2nQ

Books for Christian Ministry with Children

I’d like to share some resources that have helped me over the years while working with children and families in church ministry contexts.

You’ll notice one book in this list that seems out of place (the Jonestown one). I included that as a narrative about how NOT to lead families and children in ministry. It is a warning to all of us who work with children to steer clear of the vices that plummet leaders into grave destructiveness.

Jerome Berryman. Godly Play. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together. New York: Harper, 1954.

Diana Garland. Family Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide, Second Ed. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Jeff Guinn. The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017.

Catherine Stonehouse. Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

 

 

Teacher Tip: The Right Question to Ask Yourself

Teacher Tip: How can I help these kids best learn what I’m teaching?

Notice I didn’t say, “How should I teach the content of my topic to these children?” There’s a big difference there. Do you see it?

One is teacher-focused. The other is learner-focused.

Your work as someone who teaches kids in any capacity is not to show off your knowledge to them – or even to put on a good show and entertain them. And it is not to simply download information into their little brains as if you have all the knowledge and they don’t.

Ask yourself, “What is the end-goal here? And what is the most effective way to help these students move from where they are to this end-goal?”

Think about the children: who they are, the context of their community, culture, and family life. Think about how you can best translate the content of your teaching into their world, their minds, and their actions. And do so humbly, admitting that you have a lot to learn from them as well. Then follow up on it and see if they are grasping and living out your hoped-for-outcomes.

Finally, take what you’re learning from that process and do it all over again with the new knowledge you gained from that first cycle. Repeat.

These kids ran away with the circus…

I’m so proud of the first class of students of Camp Carnival RVA! This was the first circus arts camp of its kind ever in the state of Virginia. Every day for two weeks, these kids got to “run away” from home and join a variety of instructors who taught them the ins and outs of circus skills. Don’t worry, their parents/guardians dropped them off and picked them up at the end of each day.

One day, I was driving to the arts camp with my family in the car. Our six-year old asked, “Where are we going, Daddy?”

I said, “To my workshop.”

She said, “Where you build things?”

Then my wife chimed in and said, “Yes, where Daddy builds jugglers!”

I love Sarah’s answer. Myself and several other circus arts instructors had the privilege of building young circus artists. What a joy to share our passions with the younger generation and see the future of variety arts innovating and flourishing.

Here in Richmond, Virginia, there happens to be a large enough contingency of variety artists to sustain a camp like this. Heidi Rugg from Barefoot Puppets taught puppetry. Heather Bailey of Host of Sparrows Aerial Circus taught silks and aerial. Seasoned clown performer Christopher Hudert taught clowning. Natalie Kane of Circular Expressions led the students in hooping. And yours truly got to teach juggling and diabolo workshops. The day camp consisted of classes in the various arts and culminated with a demonstration of skills for the parents on the final day of camp.

Enjoy some pics of camp!

Teaching the Good Samaritan Story to a Modern Audience

JT gets ready to be the Aggie Cadet in the Good Samaritan Story: Texas Style!
I’ve had the chance to teach the Good Samaritan story to groups of children and preteens over the past month. I adapted the Bible story from Luke’s Gospel to speak to the kids in their cultural context. In Mississippi, for example, I orchestrated a skit that had a Mississippi State Bulldog fan kneel down and help an Ole Miss Rebel who had been passed over by two other Rebel fans.

In a skit in Texas I had an Aggie fan get beat up, only to be passed over by two more Aggie fans and then compassionately helped by a Longhorn fan.

I was warned in Mississippi that this would open up a can of worms by bringing up these two opposing fandoms in the skit.

BUT THAT IS THE POINT!

Jesus was opening up a can of worms by telling a story where the bad guy is the good guy. He was trying to show that your neighbor is the person that society tells you is unclean.

In Mississippi, the kids got all fired up for their “team” by shouting and screaming in support when they saw their respective characters in the story. But when the Bulldog knelt down to help the Rebel, it got so quiet you could hear a pin drop. They got it. They understood that even our enemy is our neighbor and that people we think are different than us are not excluded from the command to neighborly love. Our neighbor is NOT just our team, our street, our gang, our state, our country, our skin color. Our neighbor is, well, everyone.

Usually, when someone says “Samaritan” in today’s North American culture, they’re talking about a stranger helping a stranger. We hear about “Samaritans” in the news who stopped on the highway to help someone who got in an accident or other similar stories.

That’s a good start (strangers helping strangers), but it doesn’t capture the whole meaning of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus was talking about an enemy coming to the aid of Jesus’ Jewish audience.

The Samaritans in the first Century were viewed by Jesus’ Jewish audience as half-breed scum. Contact with them was to be avoided (John 4:9). This is why it was so shocking and revolutionary when Jesus even spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).

So when an “expert in the law” wanted to feel good about himself for obeying all of God’s commands, he asked Jesus for some clarification about the definition of one’s neighbor (as in, love your neighbor as yourself).

Jesus replied with the famous story:

A man (presumably a Jewish man) goes walking down the road and gets attacked by thieves. He is left for half dead and then gets passed over by a Jewish priest and a Levite (two people who would be expected to help).

Then comes the Samaritan. And this perceived low-life turns out to be the hero who helps.

Jesus shocked his audience by making the enemy the good guy.

Jesus asked the expert in the law who the neighbor was. And he replied, “the one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t even gather himself to say, “the Samaritan!”

Jesus tells the expert (and all of us), “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

Try it out with your group. Find two opposing groups (the more they hate one another the better) in your local context (north of river vs south of the river, this team vs that team, etc.) and tell the story using those groups. Make the guy who gets beat up (and the two passerbys) the majority group in your audience. Then have someone who is perceived by your audience as an enemy be the Samaritan in the story.

It’s bold. But then again, Jesus was bold and revolutionary. The least we can do is try to retell his stories with some contextual accuracy.

Fidget Spinner Bible Lesson

So here’s a way to teach a Bible lesson using a fidget spinner….

What Really Lasts?

Bring and show off as many of these fad toys as you can find (show pictures if you don’t have the actual toy):

  • the hula hoop
  • Lincoln Logs
  • the pet rock
  • the Rubix Cube
  • Slinky
  • the slap bracelet
  • Beanie Babies
  • Super Soakers
  • Webkinz
  • Razor Scooter
  • Silly Bandz
  • the water bottle flip
  • and now……the fidget spinner!!!

Then, if you have some skills, show off a few fidget spinner tricks or have a volunteer come up and do some.

Then read Isaiah 40:6b-8:

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,  but the word of our God endures forever” (NIV).

So the Bible says that our human existence here on earth is very temporary. People come and people go. The same can be said about the things we make – buildings, clothes, airplanes, and even toys! All these toys come and go. Their fame will only last for a short time. Fads come and go, but the Word of the Lord stands forever….

You see, God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. The same can be said about His Word – which we have in the form of the Bible.

Don’t put your trust and your joy and your excitement in these temporary man-made things (like fads), put your hope and passion into God and His Word. His Word will last forever, long past these toy fads. So let’s learn from Him and His Word!

Feel free to show this video as part of the lesson – I combine the fads of 2016 and 2017!

Want more Bible lesson ideas for ministry to kids and families? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

Want to learn how to juggle? Here are the basics!….

Fidget Spinner and Water Bottle Flip Trick

The fad of 2016 meets the fad of 2017! It took me a while to finally get this combo trick, but the patience paid off….

How Not to Lead: The Story of Jim Jones

I just finished a new book by Jeff Guinn and published by Simon and Schuster (2017) called The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. Before reading it, I had been aware of the general story of what happened in Guyana in 1978 and how a crazy cult leader somehow led over 900 people to their deaths in a religious-socialist commune carved out of the jungle.

But that was about all I knew. Guinn’s book takes the reader on a journey that explores the upbringing of Jim Jones and the story of the genesis, growth, and dramatic end of Peoples Temple. It is essentially a lesson in leadership: a warning as to what can happen when someone with strong leadership skills can horribly abuse their position of power to destructive ends. It came as no surprise that the poisonous problems that eventually led to a literal poisonous death for nearly a thousand people lay in one man: Jim Jones.

Just like the cyanide-laced powdered fruit drink (Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid) that killed the cult, so also Jones himself was a mix of positive charm and destructive abuse. On the one hand, Jones boldly stood for racial equality, raising up the poor, and fighting injustice. Those things, along with his charismatic oratory skills and pseudo-pentecostal “healing” performances are what drew so many people to follow and adore him. But on the other hand, Jones was a dictatorial demagogue who stopped at nothing to ensure that his adoring followers remained wholly committed to what he called “the cause” and ultimately, to himself. As his following grew, so did his ego, his harem of mistresses, his drug abuse, and his physical and sexual abuse towards others (including raping a young teenage girl).

Towards the end, Jones had become so drugged, delusional, and apocalyptic in his thinking that it took very little to ignite his wrath. So when a US congressman (Leo Ryan) visited Jonestown to check on some of his California constituents whose relatives were concerned their loved ones may have been held against their will, Jones was convinced the world was against him. Ryan’s visit started smoothly, but quickly descended into a fiasco when some of the residents wanted to defect and go home with the congressman. Tensions flared, Ryan and some others were murdered while trying to leave the area, and Jones convened a group meeting to end it all before the US government retaliated by (supposedly) torturing all their children. 918 people died that day. Just a few dozen survived due to various circumstances (for example, the Jonestown basketball team was out of town that day playing another team and did not drink the poison). Two men (Stanley Clayton and Odell Rhodes) managed to slip into the jungle during the drinking ceremony and lived to tell valuable eye-witness accounts of the tragedy.

Jones had all the flags of a cult leader who was destined to go down in a ball of flames. What nobody saw, though, was the sheer number of people he was going to take down with him in his ball of flames on November 18, 1978. People have correctly pointed out that this was not a mass suicide, but rather a mass murder. Several hundred of the dead included infants and children who were force-fed the poison drink.

Guinn’s book reads like a thriller. I was immersed in the narrative from beginning to the end. What in the world led to this terrible end? Guinn attempts to answer that question by simply telling the story. I had to stop every few chapters and remind myself that this was a true story. But truth is stranger than fiction. And Jim Jones certainly did some strange things (like planting assistants in the audience to wave bloody chicken gizzards in the air and claim it was “cancer” that had just miraculously left the body). It is so sad, tragic, and sobering. It is a constant reminder how not to lead people. It is a story that shows just how destructive the human ego can become – especially when mixed into a poisonous concoction of lies, drugs, abuse….and a little colored sugar to make it look good on the outside.

 

Fun Video from Curt Nelson

Curt Nelson has a video that shows kids eating from a bag of M&M’s, not knowing that there are skittles hidden in the bags. The reactions are fun and it makes for a good intro to a Bible lesson about how we should “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Check out the video here: