Large Group Game: Hot Potato Extreme

Here’s a great group game that actively involves everyone and no one gets “out.” It also involves an element of juggling that anyone can do without practice. It is like large group hot potato juggling. Here’s how it works:

Have the group sit in a circle. You can do multiple circles if you want to and have each circle compete for speed in the game.

Start with one ball in the circle. I suggest a ball sized anywhere from a tennis ball to a volleyball. Hand it to a person that will be identified as the “starter.”

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Give a “ready, set, go!” Then the starter person passes it to the person on their left (clockwise around the circle) and the ball must be passed around the circle in the style of hot potato. Everyone must physically handle the ball and physically pass it. If the ball skips a person, the facilitator must take the ball and re-start it at the point where it was last touched by a player. You can time the players to see how fast they can get it back to the starter player (kids LOVE this). You can also have multiple circles race against one another if you like.

So far, this is pretty much “hot potato” without the element of randomly halting it.

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Now for the extreme version: Add more balls to the circle. The starter passes the first ball. Then count to five (or whatever number you like) and start the second ball. See how fast the group can successfully make a full revolution with both balls making it back to the starter (and every player has passed it).

Try this with three or more balls at the same time. The players have to stay focused on the next ball coming! Again, time the group or have multiple groups race against one another.

For a very challenging variation, try passing one ball clockwise and another ball counter-clockwise around the circle. Or do that with multiple balls in both directions. Add these challenges accordingly based on the average age and skill of the people playing the game.

I’ll warn you that it is very easy for the players to pass a ball and then “check out” no matter how many times you remind the players to look for the next ball coming. It is an interesting exercise in “juggling” multiple tasks at the same time. If you play the game, you’ll find that you will get distracted by watching other balls and then you’ll miss one of them coming your way.

I like to use this game as a way to introduce the idea of juggling to groups in a way that everyone can quickly learn. It is fun and there will be a lot of frustration and a lot of laughter. Enjoy!

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A Brain Game for Ministry

I like finding neat science tricks and visual illustrations that can be used to help communicate Biblical concepts in teaching. I found this neat brain game trick which I like to call the “curved arcs” from Steve Spangler Science. He sells the pieces I bought below. But you can also make your own and he has instructions on his site. I made my own large versions out of wood. The pictures below are the smaller cardboard type.

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At first glance, one may look smaller than the other.

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You can especially notice how they appear different lengths when you position them like this.

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This is the two pieces switched. Now the yellow one is “longer”!

But when you stack them (seen below), you realize they are the same size!

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Most adults pick up on this pretty quickly. Kids take a little longer to agree with you, of course. But no matter your age, it is still a fascinating reality. Two objects of the exact same size can appear to be different lengths depending on how they are positioned relative to one another.

Clearly our eyes and brains can play tricks on themselves. And that is one of the points I like to make in teaching kids about the Bible. There are several connections you can make here.

One that I make is that we as humans are all equally fallen sinners before God. We might compare ourselves to other people and think, “Well, I’m not as bad as that person!” The truth is, all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When you put the two arcs on top of one another, you realize that they are the same. We are the same as humans as well in terms of our guilt before a perfect and holy God.

What metaphors or illustrations would you make with this brain game? Have you used any in the past? Let me know if you have any ideas!

Super Easy Scripture Slides and Images

I recently stumbled upon a fast and free way to make Scripture slides for Children’s Ministry (or any other ministry, for that matter) with an array of free and attractive backgrounds.

And it may already be in your phone/device.

It’s built into one of the popular apps out there – the free YouVersion app of the Bible (they’re not paying me to post this, btw 🙂 I just really like this feature and want to share about it).

I was using the app recently and saw a button I had never seen before. So I clicked on it. What I found was amazing. It was an option to make an image of any selected Bible verse over any background of your choice (your own or from their library). The settings make it easy to change the font, the font size, the colors, etc. Below are some steps and pics to show you how to do it.

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  1. First, download the app. Search “youversion” on your app store.
  2. Once you familiarize yourself with how to find a certain verse (which is intuitive), select a verse by tapping it. It will underline the verse with a dotted line and then give you a selection of options on the right.
  3. Then tap on the orange button (of a photograph), which will lead you through the step-by-step editing process.
  4. Once you have your slide, share it as you like! See the images below for a more detailed look at how it works.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right - the one with the image of a photograph.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right – the one with the image of a photograph.
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
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When you’re ready, tap “save.” Then you will see this image. Tap the “share” button to see your sharing options.

Then you can share the image by email, message, or social media. You can also save the image to your device and hence drop it into any slide show you are making (such as Keynote or ProPresenter).

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I love to use it to share a quick verse on social media or as a slide when I’m speaking or teaching about the Bible. It’s super easy to use and best of all, it’s free!

Bonus: Many of the most popular Bible verses (John 3:16, for example) have special pre-made images with artsy fonts and backgrounds. Those are fun to discover and you just have to stumble upon them when you go to those verses and then go to this “edit image” process.

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Here are some slides I’ve made since I found out about this……

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Bring Me Game Ideas

What do you do when you have a room full of children causing havoc (or could potentially do so) and need to engage them in a way that is both fun and simple to execute? Well, education is a good idea. But perhaps you’ve taught and they’ve learned all day and it’s time to kick back and play a good old-fashioned group game.

Play the “Bring Me” Game!

The Bring Me Game concept is simple and the variations are endless. You, the game leader, should stand up front with a microphone (or not if your group is small enough) and ask for random objects/items. I’ve got a list to get you going below.

The first person or group or team to produce the requested item and bring it to you gets a point for their team. WARNING: Kids tend to RUN a lot in this game. So make sure you remind them to not trample one another or trip over anything in their effort to bring the items up to you. You can decide how long to play (such as “first team to ten points wins”).

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One major thing to keep in mind when playing the game and coming up with ideas is the fact that nearly everyone has a device these days (even youth). If you’re at an event where most everyone has a device on them or at least some representatives of each team (such as adults in mostly-kid events) have devices, then make the most of technology in your requests. The internet is an endless supply of “scavenger-hunt” challenges. Just ask for a picture of BB-8 from Star Wars or a map of the country of Malaysia or any other fun idea they can search for.

The types of things you call up will vary depending on the size and the average age of your group. For example, not many kids will have a credit card on them if you ask for one. So be creative with ideas that fit what you think is out there in everyone’s pockets, purses, and accessories.

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Here is a list of ideas to get you going. You can come up with your own ideas by thinking of other things similar to or related to items on this list.

  • two different shoelaces tied together
  • five different socks bundled up in a ball
  • a selfie on a device
  • a photograph of exactly ten people on a device
  • something edible
  • chocolate
  • something that has a picture of a rainbow on it
  • a double-A battery and a triple-A battery
  • something that is completely blue
  • two people wearing glasses doing jumping jacks next to one another
  • two unrelated people with red hair
  • a human hair
  • a non-human living thing (this will usually be a bug or insect found on the floor)
  • lipstick
  • chapstick
  • nail clippers
  • six people forming a human pyramid
  • a red pen or marker
  • something with a disney symbol or character on it
  • two unrelated people with braces
  • a nail file
  • a one dollar bill, a five dollar bill, and a ten dollar bill (exactly)
  • a penny, a nickel, a dime, and a quarter (exactly)
  • a liquid
  • something that feels cold
  • something that feels warm
  • something that lights up (that is not a phone or tablet device)
  • ten people in a line that goes from tallest person to shortest person
  • a pencil
  • a tissue
  • a crumpled up piece of paper
  • something silver
  • something gold
  • a person wearing two different kinds of shoes
  • a rock
  • a visible piece of dust/dustball
  • something sharp (and if it is a dangerous/forbidden object, you can confiscate it 🙂
  • something conical
  • something circular
  • something in the shape of a cube
  • a ball of some sort
  • something chewable
  • five breath mints
  • three different kinds of breath mints
  • a picture on a device of the White House in Washington D.C.
  • a picture on a device of a mother and a son
  • someone who can say the alphabet backwards (for real, not someone saying, “alphabet backwards”)
  • pocket fuzz/lint
  • a device playing the United States’ National Anthem
  • a device playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
  • a paper towel
  • a circle of exactly twelve people holding hands

I posted about this back in 2012 with more ideas you can use as well!

Please share your lists and ideas in the comments below and we can have a trove of items for people to say “Bring me……!”

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Overcoming Stage Fright

I performed at a company holiday banquet on Sunday night in Pennsylvania. As I was eating dinner with the owner and his family, one of his children asked me, “Do you ever get nervous before your shows?” My answer was a quick and simple, “Yes.” Then I explained a little more.

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Looking out at my audience before going on stage for my show at the Weaver Markets banquet in Pennsylvania.

Yes, I still get nervous before my performances even after nearly years of on-stage experience (which is most of my life) and over eight years of full-time one-man show performances.

Why do I get nervous? Frankly, I’m afraid the audience won’t like me. I’m afraid I’ll let down their expectations. I’m afraid I’ll mess up. I’m afraid I’ll injure someone. I’m afraid that it will be the last performance of my career for whatever reason.

And then I do the show…and they love it. I love it. Everybody has a great time. I realize that it was all in my head. And here’s a key thing to consider: Is that really a bad thing?

I would suggest, “No.”

Call it nervousness, call it stage fright, call it butterflies. We all know the feeling. And I believe it is a very normal and human thing. It is the desire to pursue excellence and to deliver something that is beneficial to others. And there will always be the risk of failure. I believe that if we don’t feel at least a little fear or nervousness in the things we strive for in life, then we might not be challenging ourselves enough.

But the fright is still there. Knowing that it is a very common feeling does not make it go away. How do we overcome stage fright?

I think that’s the wrong question.

The question should be, “How can we use stage fright to our advantage?”

So here are some things that I do in order to work through stage fright and use it to my advantage…..

  1. Just do it – Nike was right. When I just get up and do my show, all the jitters go away. The jitters are usually the worst right before I go out on stage. But within a few seconds of starting my rehearsed routine, I’m all good. Speaking of rehearsed….
  2. Practice – It sounds trite, but the more you practice, the less you need to worry about them not liking you. If you practice a ton for your presentation, you’ll do great. And even if you mess up, the audience will easily forgive you because they have a sixth sense that knows whether you’re practiced up or not. They can tell when you’ve worked hard on something and that they probably couldn’t do it themselves anyway, so they will appreciate you. Believe me, audiences are a lot nicer than we as performers usually think they will be.
  3. Look out at the audience before your performance – This may not be the right ritual for everyone, but it helps me. If possible, peek through the curtain to see who you’re about to perform for. Or at least get as good a look as you can at people as they come into the event. The more I see who I’m playing to and the more I gaze into their eyes and expressions, the more at ease I become because I realize that these are normal human beings who just want to enjoy a performance. They’re not out to get me. They’re not out to boo the performer off the stage. They’re on my side. And that helps me tremendously.
  4. Transfer the nervousness into energy – This is easier said than done. But it really it a mental exercise. Tell yourself that the nervous jitters are going to help you do great because you can go out there with excitement and anticipation for a great show.
  5. Pray – I am a person of faith who prays. I am part of a larger community of faith that supports me and prays for what I do. I can say from experience that prayer does amazing things – especially when it comes to stage fright and gearing up for presentations. Knowing that God made me and has called me to this vocation helps me focus my thoughts and energy on Him rather than myself. I believe that life is not about me anyway – it’s about bringing glory to God. If you have any inkling in you that there is a God (or even if you don’t believe in God), give prayer a chance and see what happens….
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Having fun up close with my audience at the New Year’s Eve masquerade in Williamsburg, VA.

One Body, Many Parts

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800px-Haeckel_Siphonophorae_37When I spoke at Camp Dixie last weekend, I was given the theme “Submerge,” which was focused on God’s deep love for us. As I was pondering some topics to go along with that, I learned a little bit about the creatures of the deep ocean. By the way, scientists say that we know more about outer space than we do about our own ocean. It is so deep and vast that it will take a very long time to chart it and discover it the way we have our own land.

There are creatures found in the deep ocean called Siphonophores (an order of Hydrozoa). They baffle scientists because while each one appears to be a large creature (some get up to over 150 feet long), the large “creature” is actually a colony of many individual animals playing different parts and roles in the whole “creature.” This is different than say, our bodies, which are made up of different parts and cells. These are entirely individual creatures working together to form one large creature!

That got me thinking about when Paul says that we are one body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12). The siphonophore is a great metaphor because each animal has a particular part to play and is a part of something bigger than itself. In fact, “most of the zooids are so specialized, they lack the ability to survive on their own” (Siphonophorae, Wikipedia article, 2015).

I happen to be a juggler and a public speaker. But there are many things I cannot do or cannot do well (like shoot a basketball or perform surgery or cook a turkey). Sometimes I wish I could do it all, but then I remember that God made me with certain gifts and not others. It is my responsibility to pursue excellence at the things God has gifted me with and celebrate and encourage the many gifts in those around me. When we come together, there is an unstoppable synergy that becomes the force of Christ’s body on earth advancing the Kingdom of God.

I hope this encourages you today.

Here is what Paul says to the church in Corinth…..

1Cor. 12:12   The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.  13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1Cor. 12:14   Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?  20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

1Cor. 12:21   The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,  24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

1Cor. 12:27   Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?  31a But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Expect the Unexpected

11828673_1048182708539131_942068545964325553_nI tried a new trick at Highland Lakes Camp near Austin, TX this week. I did an illustration where I tried to explain how we are weak by ourselves but when Christ is in us, we are strong (because it is no longer us, but Christ who lives in us – Galatians 2:20). I finished out the teaching by nailing a cross together and then balancing it on my face – for a very long time. It was a moving moment for me as I stared at the cross for so long. But I found the unexpected when I took the cross down: over eight hundred preteens on their feet praising God. I have come to expect the unexpected. God always has gone before us in life and my prayer is that I will follow Him down that path. He does amazing unexpected things along the way!

Watch the video here: https://www.facebook.com/highlandlc/videos/1047515955272473/

Not Your Ordinary Vacation Bible School

Starting tomorrow, I get to share at the “Not Your Ordinary VBS” at the First United Methodist Church in Monroe, LA. My family is able to join me for this trip as well! Please come if you’re anywhere near central Louisiana. Programs are in the evenings for the next few nights and start at 6:30pm. Thanks for all your prayers and have a great rest of your summer.