The GaGa ball pit game is becoming more and more ubiquitous as each summer camp season passes by. It’s an incredibly fun and simple game. It is like dodgeball in a pit where you hit the ball with your hands and you get out if the ball hits you on the legs or feet. Here are some variations from the common rules that you can choose to add…
I have discovered that there are some fun variations to the game. And even the “house rules” of each group who plays can vary from group to group. Here are some of the variations I’ve come across over the years:
- Knees and below versus legs and below: This is a rule that dictates how you get out. Some kids like to play where the ball must hit the knees or below for the player to be out. Other groups might play where a hit anywhere on the leg (waist down) is an out. You could even do shins and below (meaning that a hit on the knee means you’re still in). Whichever route you go, make sure it is clear and everyone agrees to the same rule at the beginning of play.
- Getting back in the game: This is a fun variation that says that if you’re out but you catch the ball “clean” (meaning it doesn’t hit the ground outside the pit), then you’re back in the game and the person who last touched the ball in the pit goes out. A word of warning: I saw a group once play where whoever retrieves the ball outside the pit (whether it hits the ground or not) can get back in the game. It was a disaster because the kids chased after the ball and wrestled for it in hopes to get back in the game. Someone could easily get hurt in a situation like that. So I like to say it needs to be a “clean” catch outside the pit (and you cannot reach in past the pit wall to try to catch it).
- Double Ball GaGa: I have provided a video example of this variation. You play the game with two balls at once and all the same rules apply. It’s like when you had two balls going at once in the old pinball machine. Just make sure you always look behind you!
What variations of GaGa ball have you seen or played?
I do a lot of large group events. I’m always on the lookout for games that are fun and easy for huge crowds. When people come together in large groups, there is a lot of potential energy that can be tapped in the form of socialization, laughter, competition, and shared human experiences.
So here are some of the resources I have found to be particularly helpful in leading fun experiences for crowds of people:
This organization creates and sells (at super affordable rates) crowd games that you can run on your computer and then project on the big screen. Browse around at all they have to offer – http://crowdcontrolgames.com/
How about crowd thumb wrestling?! Invented by monochrom and officially called “massive Multiplayer Thumb-Wrestling.” Here is that game led by a game designer on the TED stage….
You can also lead your crowd in making the sounds of a thunderstorm. This video shows a choir on stage doing it. But you can just as easily lead an audience of any size in the same exercise:
I have also compiled a blog post category of group games over the years on this blog. There are over twenty entries and growing, so read through all these great crowd game ideas such as “Heads or Tails” and “Bring Me This.” Click here.
I’d like to share a worship response object lesson we organized at summer camp last month. It was a little risky because we had about 300 campers and it could have gotten chaotic, but the kids did great and the end result was very moving.
First of all, when I say, “worship response,” I’m referring to something we do after the sermon/teaching time in a worship service. The band played soft worship music while the kids rotated around the room at various stations that helped them respond to God’s Word in a variety of ways. I go into more depth about this general idea in another post.
One of the stations this particular evening of camp invited the kids to write things down at two different tables. The theme of the camp was “I Am” and we looked at some of the “I Am” statements made by God in Scripture.
Table number one had poster boards, permanent markers, and a basket of cards wherein each card listed a name of God found in Scripture (“Counselor”, “Redeemer”, “Alpha and Omega”, “Good Shepherd”, etc.). The kids would come to this table, grab a card, and write what they saw on the card onto the poster (using a permanent marker).
On table number two, we had a large white dry erase board and some dry erase markers. The children were invited (if they chose to do so) to come forward and anonymously write a sin or struggle on the white board using the dry eraser (see where we’re going with this?).
When all the campers had written what they wanted at the two tables, we brought the posters and white board on stage. I instructed the band to play What Can Wash Away My Sins? Nothing But the Blood of Jesus while a child wiped away the sins and struggles from the dry erase board. It was a beautiful moment.
Then, as you can probably guess, we brought up the posters with the names of God all over them. I told the same child to try erasing it with the dry eraser. You should have seen the look on his face! He thought I was crazy for telling him to do so. But I wanted to make the point clear: as he attempted to erase the poster with God’s names, nothing was coming off. It was all permanent! And that is exactly the point of this illustration: Jesus wipes away our sins, but His name endures forever!
Your name, LORD, endures forever, your renown, LORD, through all generations. -Psalm 135:13
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Photo Credits to Christopher Seay of Next Level Kids Camp in Texas (all except the last photo).
Last month I successfully juggled while flying down a zip line. I had tried the feat three or four times previously and I always dropped about halfway down the line. This most recent time, though, I made it the whole way (about 100 yards). Here is the video evidence, followed by some thoughts on the science behind it….
Between doing this zip line juggle and juggling while running (“joggling”), people often make comments to me that imply their confusion over the science of how it works. Many people think I need to throw the balls ahead of me in order to juggle while in forward motion.
The answer is, no, I do not. The balls are already in forward motion with me as I’m running or flying on a zip line. They are traveling the same speed as me, so when I toss them upward, they fly both up and forward without any extra forward effort on my part. If you were to stand in the back of a moving pick-up truck (do not attempt) and toss a basketball straight up, it would not fly behind you but rather in front of you as if you were standing still (as long as you are not going so incredibly fast that there is crazy wind resistance).
The problem with the zip line, though, is not the forward motion, but rather the spinning motion. That is what has always messed me up in the past. When I spin while juggling, I do need to overcompensate my throws in a particular direction to make up for the spin. When I successfully juggled down the zip line, I just happened to get the throws right based on my spins. It was tough, but certainly possible.
I have an acronym for scripture memory that I use at camps: MVOTW. It stands for “Memory Verse of the Week.” You pronounce it, “muh-vah-twuh.” Kids love saying it and we put motions to the words to help us remember whatever verse we are working on. Most camps and vacation Bible schools have a theme verse or main verse for the week. So I review that verse multiple times a day with the kids. I have found it to be a very effective way to teach kids how to memorize Scripture. One year, some girls recited a MVOTW to me that they had learned two or three years prior. They still remembered the words and the motions.
So if you lead your kids in a MVOTW, put some motions to each word or phrase (try to put in some or all American Sign Language if you can). Then quote the scripture reference, and finish it off with a hearty, “muh-vah-twuh!” It works. Trust me.
Here is a video of a group doing the MVOTW at Highland Lakes Camp in Texas last summer:
EIGHT TO TEN YEARS
Adventures in Odyssey.
Produced by Focus on the Family, Adventures in Odyssey is a long-running radio program that is set in the fictional mid-American town of Odyssey. Whit is the wise elder statesman of the community who helps kids figure out solutions to life’s problems through a Christian and Biblical perspective. This often happens at his soda fountain shop called “Whit’s End.” He also has a time machine called the “Imagination Station,” which allows characters to travel back in time – whether to the battle of Fort McHenry at Baltimore or to the stables in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph. Originally in cassette tape format and then compact disc (CD), Adventures in Odyssey episodes can be downloaded online nowadays (http://www.whitsend.org/).
The Bible App for Kids (https://www.bible.com/kids).
An app for devices that allows children to interact with Bible stories through animated visuals. Thiscan be helpful in allowing kids to engage with Scripture through the technology of their generation. Like all electronic devices, parents and leaders should monitor the amount of time spent on the device.
Hastings, Selina. Illustrated by Eric Thomas. The Children’s Illustrated Bible. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.
A very comprehensive collection of Bible stories with colorful and detailed visuals aids such as pictures, maps, diagrams, and artwork. It includes introductions to the Bible as a whole, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. It also has a glossary of names and a useful index oftopics. Each Bible story is retold in a way that a parent could read to their child while the child looks at the pictures. Many of the visual aids provide the cultural and historical background information relevant to each particular story (http://www.amazon.com/Childrens-Illustrated-Bible-Selina-Hastings/dp/1564584720).
Jacob’s Ladder (Toy).
This traditional wooden toy is a set of small wooden squares linked by a ribbon. The ribbon weaves in and out of the blocks so that when you hold the toy a certain way, the blocks fold down on one another and givethe illusion of a falling ladder. The toy can also be configured into various positions to imitate everything from a table to a dog. The name of the toy (Jacob’s Ladder) opens up a conversation the parent or ministry leader can have with the child(ren) about Jacob’s dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-19). In the same way that the toy has a mesmerizing appeal to it, so also God mesmerized Jacob in a dream about a ladder. That ladder represented a portal to heaven (as angels went up and down on it). It was through this gate/portal that God spoke to Jacob and declared the covenant promise that had been given to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham (Gen 28:13-15). Later, in the New Testament, Jesus alluded to this ladder when he told Nathaniel that he would see “the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). This was Jesus’ declaration that he himself was the ladder (the portal between heaven and earth) to God the Father. Here are someinstructions on how to make an oversized version (http://www.sermons4kids.com/instructions-ladder-toy.pdf). It can also be purchased here: (http://www.amazon.com/Toysmith-6195-Jacobs-Ladder/dp/ B000RAEBL2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1454428925&sr=8-2&keywords=jacob%27s+ladder).
Johnson, Andy. Lantern Music. Multiple music albums (http://www.lanternmusic.org/).
Andy Johnson serves as a worship leader for the Children’s Ministry program at Valley Church in West Des Moines, IA. He has compiled three albums of original worship songs where the lyrics are Scripture verses. Johnson uses simple sounds from the guitar, keyboard, and drums. The musical style could be considered modern folk pop (like Jason Mraz). The tunes are catchy and memorable so that the kids can memorize Scripture in a way that is engaging on their level.
The Lads (http://www.theladsband.com/).
This is a music band of young men who hail from New Zealand. They have since based themselves in the Nashville, TN area and they tour the country performing shows that communicate Biblical truths through upbeat kid-friendly music styles. They have CD’s of their music as well as a few television show episodes that feature their music and storytelling with a Christian message.
Mauss, Doug ed. Illustrated by Sergio Cariello. The Action Bible. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook. 2010.
This is another comic-book style Bible (similar to the The Picture Bible mentioned above). This one has a lot of bright colors and high-energy action depictions. It is drawn to resemble an action-packed graphic novel or superhero comic series. It is very visually stimulating. Parents and teachers could read through stories with the children and appreciate the artistic medium. I would suggest balancing something like this with time and space for quiet reflection and prayer away from the images. See more at the home website for the product: (http://www.theactionbible.com/).
Meiklejohn, Julie ed. Amazing Science Devotions for Children’s Ministry. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing. 1999.
This book is a collection of 41 science-based object lessons that teach Biblical truths. For example, there is a lesson that teaches kids how to make a rainbow using everyday household supplies (a cup of water, tape, scissors, a piece of paper, and sunlight). The teacher or parent can lead the child in the science project and then discuss the Biblical connection (in this case, the beauty of God’s creation and the promise he gave Noah never to judge the earth again with a global flood). Children learn the God-authored beauty of science as well as a particular Biblical truth alongside the science. There is an introduction and an index of Scriptures and topics (https://www.group.com/product/9780764421051-amazing-science-devotions-for-children-s-ministry.do).
Noah’s Ark 504-piece puzzle: Christian Brands RC717 Noah’s Ark Jigsaw Puzzle by Gifts of Faith, 2013.
Puzzles are a great way for a family to come together around an “unplugged” activity that helps people slow down in this media-driven society. When the subject matter of the jigsaw puzzle is a Biblical scene, it allows the family to discuss the Bible story in organic and meaningful ways. Certain details that may be missed in a quick glance at a picture suddenly become relevant as everyone looks for a certain piece of the puzzle. Aside from the subject matter of the puzzle, there is a valuable payout in terms of family togetherness, cooperation, patience, and working together towards a goal. This 504-piece puzzle is appropriate for older elementary children through adults.
Worship Response Stations.
For centuries, Christians have developed creative ways to respond to God. From the sacrament of communion to the lighting of prayer candles, Christians throughout history have practiced a wide variety of worship response methods. While many liturgical churches have response experiences and stations often built into their liturgy or curriculum, non-liturgical contemporary churches often lack the same variety and scope of response opportunities. For example, many churches today view the “altar call” as their definition of a response to a worship service. I like to challenge that thinking and attempt to create what I call “worship response stations” in order to expand our perspectives on how we can creatively respond to God in worship. I have found this idea to be especially helpful in children’s ministry because children enjoy variety and interactive experiences. Here is my pinterest board with worship response station ideas from many different people: (https://www.pinterest.com/jessejoyner/worship-response-stations/).
Here is an exceprt from my blog post about worship response stations from August 7th, 2014 (http://jessejoyner.com/worship-response-stations/):
I speak at many camps each summer, but this one stuck out because of the format they asked me to follow. First of all, there were two chapel services each day for the kids – one in the morning and one in the evening. The morning service was designed to be the “main” service of the day (in terms of worship music and teaching time) with the evening service being more of a “review and respond” service.
So in the evenings, I taught for about 10 minutes, just reviewing the points we learned about in the morning. Then, for the remainder of the service (another 45 minutes to an hour), we spent responding to God’s Word through the format of worship stations.The camp told me this ahead of time. So I wrote up some station ideas that went along with my lessons each day. The leadership at the camp then took all my ideas and turned them into reality by getting the supplies, setting up the stations, and manning them each night.
The results were amazing. We realized that kids learn and respond in a variety of ways, depending on their learning languages. Some kids respond well with hands-on and interactive activities while others are fine being still or reading. Most kids have a variety of learning styles inside of them anyway, so it’s good to have the different stations so they can move around freely as they like. I’d like to take a few posts to share the ideas and pictures from the worship response stations.
Here is a quick rundown of the stations. I will go into more details with each one in subsequent posts.
- Prayer Counseling – This is the traditional idea of having prayer counselors on hand if a kid or adult needs prayer for anything. This is usually the only “station” people offer as a way of response at camp or in church. We still used it, but it was only one of many ways to respond.
- Question Cards – If the kids had a question about God or the Bible, they wrote them down on a 3×5 card and handed it to an adult. The adult would then attempt to find the answer in the Bible and answer the question. If they couldn’t find it, then they would say “I don’t know” or “I’ll look it up later and get back with you.” This was a surprisingly popular station for the kids.
- World Prayer Map – There was a map on the wall and the kids would go up and place a sticker star on a country, city, or location of a people group and pray for them.
- Slime Buckets – One night, we taught about Jonah. In order to explore the idea of what it may have felt like to be inside the belly of a great fish, the kids put their hands in slime. This was obviously very popular.
- Blindfolded Prayer – Also along the story of Jonah (who prayed in pitch darkness inside the belly of the fish), we had the kids put on a blindfold and then sit or kneel and pray. One leader said this station was the first time he had seen one of his boys pray. Sometimes it takes some creative way that really connects with a particular kid to open them up to things like prayer and worship.
- Kids Pray for Adults – I will devote an entire post to this station, as it was my favorite of all the stations. Kids were on hand to pray for adults who wanted prayer. It was humbling for adults and exciting for kids. More on this one later.
- The Wooden Cross – This is another traditional station that many groups have used for years. I believe it is still very powerful in form and function. The large wooden cross reminds us of what Jesus did for us and we have the chance to lay prayers and confessions at the cross by writing them on a piece of paper and nailing them to the cross.
- Prayer Journaling/Drawing – This was also a very popular one. We had stacks of paper and boxes of crayons, markers, and pencils on hand. The kids would simply grab some paper and something to write/draw with and freely journal or draw pictures as prayers, thanksgivings to God, and other worship thoughts on their minds.
- Finger Painting – On the day when we learned about Creation, the kids got to draw pictures of things that God made on a large white poster using finger paints. This was extremely popular and looked very pretty when it was all done.
- Other Stations – There were also stations with bead bracelets, mouse traps, clay and play-do, bowls of fruit, a white board with a dry erase marker, and Scripture reading. I will discuss each one in subsequent posts.
*This list comes directly from a paper I wrote for a class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL in March 2016. The class was ES 7524 (Education and Ministry Experiences for Children) taught by Dr. Magdalene Larson.
I’ve played a fun game with large groups of kids over the years that I call “Super Bible Trivia!” This contestant-driven stage quiz game is more of a staged drama than an actual serious quiz game. But it is set up so that the kids think it is a normal quiz game at first. Don’t worry, they’ll all pick up on the fun and join along pretty quickly. The goal is to get kids excited about the Bible.
Remember that this game is just a tool. Ultimately, I believe the Holy Spirit instills in us a joy for God’s Word – by God’s grace. God’s Word is exciting in and of itself. We don’t need to make it exciting. I do believe, however, in creatively facilitating activities that foster a love for God’s Word.
Basically, it is a quiz show with two contestants from the audience who have to answer a series of questions. Pick a boy and a girl and tell them they are playing for the boys and the girls, respectively. The groups can shout out answers to their contestant.
The first question is a countdown of the most read books over the last fifty years (from 10 to 1). Most kids will not know the top ten list, so they will just stand there confused as you ask for each ranking and then read the answers off (keep reading below for the list of questions I use).
Finally, you ask them “What is the best selling book of all time in the history of the world?” They may give you a blank look again. Or some kids may answer, “the Bible!” Either way, when you finally confirm the right answer (the Bible), you jump all over the place and have adult leaders as cheerleaders running all over the place with lights and noisemakers going off.
After a great deal of celebrating, you return to the game for the next question. At this point, the answer to every question is “the Bible.” After the first few questions, the contestants see the pattern and start laughing along as you ask more questions. Whenever they answer, “the Bible,” you and the other leaders start going crazy and cheering for the answer. Eventually, all the kids will get into the celebrating of each answer as well. You can have as much fun as you can handle!
If you want to have a surprise ending, make the final question (after 8 more questions where the answer is “the Bible”) something like, “What is the longest story book ever written?” (saying “story” eliminates encyclopedias and the like). The kids will probably say, “the Bible.” But that is incorrect. It is actually In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Then you can finish off by saying, “But that book is not nearly as great as…… the Bible!!!!!”
It makes for a lot of fun and noise. The idea is not to make fun of the Bible, but rather the opposite: to have fun getting super excited about the Bible. It is a great lead-in for a lesson about God’s Word and its importance in our daily lives and in the scope of eternity.
So here are the quiz questions:
- What are the top ten most read books over the last fifty years? Note: go through the list individually, which each ranking being one question. Here is the source of the list I’m using for this.
- What book is actually a collection of 66 books and is considered God’s Word to us?
- What book has been translated (at least in part) into nearly three thousand languages, which is far more than any other book on the planet?
- On what book do presidents place their right hand when they take the oath of office in the United States?
- What is the primary object that is meant to be placed in a pulpit when a pastor is preaching?
- What can be found in the nightstand drawer of thousands of hotels across the country?
- What ancient book has the most number of ancient copies still in existence today?
- How do you pronounce these five letters when put together into an English word: B-I-B-L-E?
- Video Question! (show a slide of a picture of a Bible and ask the kids to name what they see).
- What is the longest story book ever written? (answer is NOT the Bible – but rather In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust). But again, you can finish off by saying, “But that book is not nearly as great as…… the Bible!!!!!”
Have fun and let me know how it goes. In my next post, I’ll list out some practical ideas on how to get kids excited about God’s Word (that are not game related).
By the way, I later discovered that there is a website by the same name (Super Bible Trivia) that is a great resource for Bible Trivia questions. My game idea is not related to that website, but I would still highly recommend that site. You can try out their quizzes here.
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Here’s another great group game that requires ZERO set-up or materials. It’s called The Line Up Game.
There are many variations to the game. This can work with any group with three or more people. You can split the group into smaller groups to compete against one another.
The goal/point of the game is for the kids to form a straight line in the order of whatever command you give them. You can time them or have smaller groups race against one another.
Here are some categories of order you can challenge them to (all of them can be reversed, of course):
- Shortest to tallest.
- Darkest hair to lightest hair.
- Oldest to youngest.
- Earliest birthday to latest birthday in the year (January through December).
- Alphabetical order of first name.
- Alphabetical order of last name.
- Day of the month of their birthday (1st through 31st).
- Darkest eyes to lightest eyes.
- Smallest shoe to largest shoe.
- Total number of siblings (most to least).
BONUS: Try any of those “line up” challenges in “silent mode” (where the kids cannot make any noise – they must use hand motions, sign language, and whatever other methods they can to get in order).
Do you have any good “line up” game ideas?
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When I spoke at Mt. Lebanon Camp last summer, I got to meet someone who brought a very creative presentation to the campers on an evening in the middle of the week. After our worship service was over, we had a special program for the campers where they could wave glow sticks and wear glow-in-the-dark accessories in the worship center as we turned out the lights and played loud music. They loved it.
Towards the end, a thousand campers watched as a glow-man figure emerged onto the stage and danced a bit to a Michael Tate song. Then the man on stage pulled out a canvas and some paint and started painting very quickly. The campers were now quiet and mesmerized.
His painted picture was confusing and did not resemble anything but chaotic splatters of color….until he flipped it over.
Then we saw the face of Christ. It was very moving. The point was clear – life is messy, confusing, and chaotic. We look for God and don’t see Him or don’t find Him. Then, in His perfect timing, He flips our world upside down, changes our mess into beauty, and shows us His radiant face.
The painter’s name is Lance Brown. Lance did not ask me to write this profile. I wanted to share with you about a person who loves Jesus and loves to paint. And he has a creative way to share it with the world. Check out his website here if you’re interested in what he does or want to have him at your event.
Enjoy this video of Lance Brown: Speed Painter…..
A metaphor that some people use for describing Jesus Christ is that he is our superhero. But, I feel that the metaphor (like most) breaks down here – and so much so that I am uncomfortable saying that Jesus is my superhero (and teaching kids the like).
Here’s why: I believe that Jesus is beyond the category of superheroes. He alone is God (John 1:14). To call him a superhero is to limit him to a man-made box that likens him to our understanding of superheroes in popular culture.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
Furthermore, I think the metaphor is backwards. Instead of “Jesus is my superhero,” the aim of superheroes is that most are written to be godlike or to have supernatural powers. So it is not Jesus trying to be like them. It is them trying to be like Jesus.
In fact, I believe that the story of God’s salvation history is the greatest story ever told. I also believe that it is historically true. Comic book authors write about the struggle between good and evil and the godlike characters who wage battles using superhuman powers. If there is anything compelling or attractive about these comic book narratives, I believe it is because we are naturally drawn to themes that resemble the greatest story ever told (the Bible), not the other way around. I believe we are drawn because we are wired (by God) to yearn for the deepest realities of finding redemption from darkness in Him.
Granted, most comic book writers are not trying to write about characters who want to be Jesus. The comic book universe is a fictional fantasy world. Jesus, we believe, is a true historical person. And that is another huge difference that makes this metaphor break down even more…
When you mix fantasy with reality, especially with children, you can potentially cause a blurred line between the two. I think fantasy and fiction (and comics, for that matter) are great literary genres and we should encourage kids to enjoy great literature, whether textual or graphic/visual.
I would rather keep these two worlds (truth and fiction) separate so as not to make children think that Jesus is “limited” to the superhero status of comic worlds. Likewise, I don’t want kids to think that Spiderman is their divine savior.