What Cain and Jesus Share

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A stained glass depiction of the births of Cain and Abel. Germany, late 14th Century.

What?! You’re comparing Cain, the first murderer, to Jesus? How dare you!

Follow me here. I was writing a paper about ministry with children and I suddenly discovered in the Cain and Abel story something I had never seen before…

You probably already knew that Cain was the first child to be born (remember, Adam and Eve were created). But what Eve said upon his birth is pretty remarkable. She said something that leads us to conclude that Cain and Jesus were both gifts of God’s grace, each in a unique way.

Here’s the excerpt from my paper….

When we look at Scripture, the first children in the Bible were Cain and Abel. Their parents, Adam and Eve, had already been banished from the Garden of Eden due to their disobedience and sin towards God (Gen 3:16-24). In this new reality of paradise lost, Adam and Eve conceived their first child, Cain. Despite having a broken relationship with God, Eve proclaims, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (Gen 4:1; italics mine). These are the first post-Edenic words spoken in Scripture, which I believe speaks to the significance of ministry with children. In this newly fallen world, our predecessor Eve viewed children as a gift from God. Even Cain’s name in Hebrew is a wordplay intended to sound like the word for “to bring forth” (Coppes 1980, 797-798). This means that God’s first gift of grace following our sin was a child. We turned from God, and the way he extended an offer of grace was through a baby.

Does that sound familiar? Thousands of years later, despite our sin, God gifted us all with the baby Jesus Christ as the ultimate gift of His grace.

This establishes the point that children are both a gift from God as well a means of God’s grace to adults (and other children, for that matter). Most adults in this world and in the church community understand that children are a gift, but how often do we view them as channels through which God extends His grace? When we view children in this way, we realize that as adults, we need children as much as they need us.

Citation:

Coppes, Leonard J. “Cain.” Theological wordbook of the old testament. Vol 2. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke eds. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.

Is Jesus Our Superhero?

A metaphor thWonderworldComics3at 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.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Psalm 86:10

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Talking to Kids About Martin Luther King, Jr.

The great thing about a holiday is not just the fact that many people get the day off, but it also carves a memorial into the annual calendar that commemorates something or someone that we as a society deem important. When children see that they have a day off of school and that people are celebrating something, many of them naturally ask, “why?”

That is why holidays are brilliant. They ensure that certain topics and values will be passed down through the generations. Even if the adults forget to cover a certain topic in raising children, the holiday topics will almost always come up (year after year) and the children will learn about them.

For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we are reminded of the great values of love, respect, diversity, overcoming the impossible, justice, faith, courage, community, and all sorts of other positive teachable topics. What comes with his story is also the harsh truth of sin and darkness in the world – topics such as hate, racism, injustice, murder, terrorism, and the like.

Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, DC.
Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC.

We told our daughter (who is five now) that there was no school on Monday because it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That sparked her curiosity about the subject. She had already learned a little about him in school recently, but she wanted to know more when we were talking about it in the car.

Here are some of the things she asked (progressively as I was answering each question:

“What did he do?”

“Is he still alive?”

“How did he die?”

“Why did someone kill him?”

“Where was he when he died?”

As you can see, she was very curious about his life and the circumstances of his death. I chose not to sugarcoat anything and answer her in a very honest matter-of-fact way. She may be five, but I have learned that even young children are ready to hear about the harsh realities of this sinful world in which we live. Of course I’m not graphic in describing how he died, but I tried to be straightforward about it – and she was able to understand and handle it well.

Before I show you how I answered, I wanted to jot down a few ideas on what I feel are helpful things to keep in mind when speaking to young children about tough, dark subjects. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m just sharing what appeared to work with our daughter…..

  1. Be honest – the worst thing we can do to our children is lie to them and make them think there is nothing bad or evil in the world. They will wake up to that reality someday and it is best if they hear it first from their parents.
  2. Be straightforward – I don’t see any value in beating around the bush or creating a fog of confusion in her mind by using ambiguous generalizations such as “we need to be nice to other people.” It’s better to be specific and use MLK Day (and every other day) to combat racism in its face and talk with children as early as possible about treating everyone with love and respect no matter their skin color.
  3. Be God-focused – we believe in God. So did Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, he was known for saying that the arc of the universe curves towards justice. And that curve is because of the hand of God. Full justice and love may not be evident at this moment, but God’s finger is pointing in that direction. We shall follow, and he shall lead.

Here is the gist of the answers I gave:

“What did he do?” A lot of people are mean to other people just because of the color of their skin. He challenged those ideas and gave a speech about a dream he had. He had a dream that little girls of different skin colors would hold hands and play together in the playground. And guess what? That dream came true (I said that not to say that all is well, but to point to the example that she knows, which is the fact that she does play with and hold hands with children of different skin colors). Now there are no more laws that black people need to use different water fountains or bathrooms than white people. (We will continue to explain to her that not all things are completely better between people of different skin colors and there is still a lot of work to do to make sure there is equality and community amongst our diversity in this nation).

“Is he still alive?” No. 

“How did he die?” Somebody shot him with a gun and killed him.

“Why did someone kill him?” The man hated him and did not like what Martin Luther King, Jr. taught and wanted to keep doing things that were very bad for black people.

“Where was he when he died?” I think he was on a balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

I added, “We believe that God made all people – and that he made all different colors of skin. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor who believed in God and that God was going to bring justice to this earth over the course of history.”

Let us press on in every fight against injustice and trust in the grace of God as we follow Him on the journey towards justice.

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Longest Celebrity Marriage?

Celebrities, including Hollywood stars, music icons, and famous people around the world have a reputation for short and numerous marriages. But there are always examples to the contrary, and I write this to show that lifelong monogamy is still possible. I personally believe it is only possible by the grace of God.

I think I may have discovered the longest, if not, the longest current marriage between two television/movie/stage celebrities. And I cannot find their names listed on any “longest celebrity marriages” lists around the internet.

I was listening to the soundtrack of the musical 1776 (about the founding fathers and the events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence) on my computer and was impressed by the performance of John Adams played by William Daniels (who also played Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World).

So I searched his name to learn more about him. I discovered that he is married to a woman named Bonnie Bartlett, who is also an actress. They have both won Emmys for their work (on the same night too).

Photo by Alan Light
Photo by Alan Light

They got married in 1951. That was 65 years ago.

Can you find or name any couples where both are celebrities who have been married longer? I know “celebrity” is a relative term, but in this case they both won Emmy awards for their acting roles, so I think “celebrity” is a fair term to use for both of them.

I would love to interview them and ask them questions about having a long marriage in a culture that has a reputation for the opposite. I’m thankful for them and their example.

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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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.

The Interrobang as a Metaphor for the Hypostatic Union

If you have no idea what that title means, that’s OK. It is actually fairly simple to explain those weird words, which I will attempt to do. The “hypostatic union” is an important theological concept to understand about the person and work of Jesus Christ. It basically says that Jesus Christ is one person, two natures (divine and human). The interrobang is a punctuation symbol that I believe is a helpful metaphor to understand the hypostatic union.

The interrobang is a lesser known punctuation mark. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a punctuation mark ‽ designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question” (“Interrobang,” Merriam-Webster). This means that it unites both the symbol and function of the exclamation point and the question mark into one character. For example, instead of “You lost the dog?!” it is also acceptable (and more economical) to write, “You lost the dog‽”  In fact, you can still see the shape of both the exclamation point and the question mark in the interrobang as the two characters are superimposed on one another. Here is a larger look at how they merge:

! + ? =

This is a visual metaphor for the hypostatic union. This is the theological doctrine that Jesus Christ is simultaneously fully God and fully man. In Christ, the two natures (divine and human) are united into one person (hypostasis) (McGrath, 1998, 56; Oden, 1992/2001, 165). This can be a potentially difficult point to explain to children (and adults as well). But when a simple visual metaphor such as the interrobang is used, the ability to grasp the concept is increased. Not only that, but it also helps learners experience and understand what for them may be a new spiritual reality in their hearts and minds, which ideally helps them draw closer to God. This is the generative nature of metaphors in spiritual formation.

Note that in the interrobang neither the exclamation point nor the question mark are absorbed or lost into the other. The reader can still clearly make out the fullness of each punctuation mark – and they are artfully merged to co-exist in one typographical character. So also is the character/person of Jesus Christ. He is one person who embodies the union of total divine nature and total human nature. Just as you can make out the entire exclamation point and entire question mark in the interrobang at the same time, so also does Jesus have the entirety of divinity and the entirety of human nature at the same time (John 1:14; Phil 2:6-11; Col 2:9, 3:15-20). The author of Hebrews adds that though he was like us in every way (human nature), he had no sin (Heb 4:15). That is because he was also fully God and it is impossible for God to sin (James 1:13; Heb 6:18; Psalm 92:15).

Why is the hypostatic union such an important concept? It has to do with the very foundations of Christianity – salvation by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If Jesus was merely a man and not God, then he would be less than perfect and his sacrifice would not be sufficient to atone for sins against a perfect and holy God. If Jesus was God and not also human, then he would not be able to offer himself on behalf of humans (human sin against God demands that the atonement must also come from a human – see Anselm’s argument at The Christian History Institute).

What do you think about the interrobang‽ Is it a helpful metaphor? What are some other metaphors that may help us better understand the hypostatic union?

 

Works Cited:

“Interrobang.” Merriam-Webster. online article. http://beta.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interrobang (accessed December 17, 2015).

McGrath, Alister E. Historical theology: An introduction to the history of Christian thought. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

Oden, Thomas C. The word of life: systematic theology: volume two. Peabody, MA: Prince, 2001.

 

Five Ways to Redeem Halloween

pumpkin-heads-965566_1920As a Christian who grew up in the church and in a Christian family, I have seen many various ways that Christians respond to the cultural phenomenon that has become Halloween.

Like many things in life, there are extreme ways to celebrate (or not celebrate) something. Some Christians avoid Halloween and anything having to do with it altogether. Others celebrate the not-so-holy “holi”day by jumping in with the rest of culture like it’s no big deal.

Instead of saying that I fall somewhere in the middle, I would rather like to view Halloween from the larger Christian perspective of redemption – and say that there are ways to redeem (which literally means “to buy back”) Halloween.

First of all, Halloween is like Mardi Gras – it celebrates the day before a Christian holiday and tends to diametrically oppose the Christian holiday in some way shape or form. Mardi Gras (“fat tuesday”) is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. Since Lent is a season that many Christians fast from something, Mardi Gras has turned into a celebration of the excesses of worldly pleasure before taking time to fast from something.

With Halloween, it sits the day before All Saints Day (November 1st). In fact, Halloween literally means “All Hallows (Saints) Eve,” which gives us “Hallow-een.” While All Saints Day celebrates the great cloud of Godly witnesses who have gone before us, Halloween has become a celebration of the opposite – the evil dead, the spirits of the wicked, and all sorts of other accompanying themes like demons and witches.

I find it interesting that both celebrations (Mardi Gras and Halloween) are secular responses to an original Christian holiday, not the other way around. Both are only there because the Christian holiday was there first. So as Christians, I feel that we can approach both of these celebrations in a redemptive way – knowing that Halloween simply means that we are about to approach All Saints Day and Mardi Gras means that Lent is right around the corner.

I also believe that we as Christians can participate in many of the cultural traditions of both celebrations without selling out our faith. In fact, I think both are opportunities to “buy back” the days and engage our communities with the redemptive love and message of Jesus Christ.

So do I think it’s wrong for your child to dress up and ask for candy – of course not. I think the general consensus (including among Christians today) is that playing dress-up and asking others for candy is harmless (except for the whole sugar-overload thing). But I do believe there is a line that we as Christians should draw in terms of not exposing our children (or ourselves) to images, costumes, and activities that celebrate evil, wickedness, and horror.

So here are some practical suggestions as to how we as Christians can “buy back” Halloween in such a way that I believe points to Jesus instead of evil:

  1. Reverse Trick-or-Treat – I heard of this idea years ago from the Cincinnati Vineyard Church. They would encourage their congregation to use Halloween night as a great chance to meet neighbors door-to-door and give something away (like bottles of water or even candy) at each house along with a neighborly greeting. They would encourage people to simply say something like, “Here’s a bottle of water. I just wanted to show you God’s love in a practical way.” No pushy sales talk. Just loving your neighbors (isn’t that what Jesus told us to do?).
  2. Historical Figure Dress Up – I just heard of this from a Christian school near my house called Veritas School. They had the students dress up as their favorite characters from history – whether Biblical or otherwise. They had everything from Jonah to Thomas Jefferson. What a great way to let your kids have fun and learn the stories of fascinating figures from history.
  3. Trunk-or-Treat – You have probably heard of this. A church or other organization will have a big tailgate party in their parking lot and each car gets decked out in decorations and candy. The kids can then go from car to car and get their spoils. This is a great idea for community outreach since it is safe and open to the wider community. Some of these events also include ways for people in the community to learn more about the church and the message of God’s love for them in various ways.
  4. Fall Festival – This is also very common. It is a great way to throw a big end-of-October party without calling it “Halloween”! Kids don’t care and won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything because they still get to dress up (sometimes with a “no scary costumes” caveat, which is fine), ride hay rides, bob for apples, and walk the cake walk. Celebrate the season of God’s provision of the harvest!
  5. Just-Hang-Out-On-Your-Front-Porch – I made this title up. But it is the idea of being present with your neighbors in a culture when most people just drive into their garages and never even wave at their neighbors. Halloween is a great opportunity to do something revolutionary like meet your neighbor. You can’t love your neighbor unless you first meet them. Chances are that they will drop by for a moment while their kids ask for candy. Take the opportunity to greet them and love them with the love of Christ. Chill on the porch and enjoy the opportunity to build a bridge with people that you usually otherwise may never meet. I would recommend having substantial gifts and treats that represent generosity!

5 Fun and Easy Summer Camp Games

Millions of kids across the country are participating in some sort of summer camp experience this summer. Camp is such a meaningful time for kids because of the memories they make, the friends they meet, and the fun they have. Since I travel to many camps each summer, I get to see a lot of great camp ideas and a sampling of what works and what doesn’t work. I have also developed some of my own games and activities and have learned which ones work through trial and error.

And while many camps have plenty of planned activities throughout the day (pool time, zipline, lake time, climing wall, organized field games, etc.), it is important for leaders and volunteers to have an arsenal of back-up games in the event of rain-outs or other unforseen schedule changes (which happen more often than we think). For example, I was at a large camp in Texas a few weeks ago with about a thousand kids in attendance. Tropical Storm Bill came right through the camp on Wednesday and the kids were couped up in the cabins for much of the day. I traveled from cabin to cabin (not all of them) and led the kids in some fun activities that helped pass the time and make the day fun for them. There are also times where the kids may be waiting in line or in a room for the next activity and you as a leader want to do something fun with them until the next scheduled event. Here are some ideas for those “rain-outs” or in-between times….

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1. Heads or Tails 

I have called this “The Easiest Large Group Game Ever” and still stick to that title. All you need is a coin. And then the fun begins. You flip the coin and tell the kids to pick heads or tails before you flip it. If they’re right, they stay and play the next round. If they’re wrong, they’re out. Keep flipping until you’re down to one winner. You know who picked what by telling them all to stand up and put two hands on their head for heads and two hands on their behind for tails. If they are ever wrong, they have to sit down. Last person standing wins. A fun variation is to give each player two lives. The first time they are wrong, they have to stand on one foot. The second time they are wrong, they “lose” the other foot and therefore are forced to sit down. I don’t know why or how, but kids LOVE this game.

2. Flag Tag

This can be played indoors or outdoors. You need bandanas or flag-football flags (one per player). You wear the flags (tuck the bandanas partially into the belt area) and play tag. Create a boundary of some sort (a large circle or square) in which the players must play during the game (or else they are out). Instead of touch-tagging, the players have to pull out flags. When your flag is pulled, you must sit down in place. When you’re down, you can still pull flags from players who are still running around; you just have to stay seated and in place when you do so. I found a youtube clip that has some footage of this game, starting at 1:41 in the video and going until 1:55. There are a lot of variations on this game – such as….

  • every man for himself
  • red team vs blue team (or whatever colors you have)
  • adults vs kids
  • boys vs girl

3. Freeze Dance 

All you need is a fun song on your music player and speakers loud enough for all the kids to hear the music. Play the music, the kids have to dance. When you stop the music, the kids have to freeze. Repeat those two steps (dance, then freeze, then dance, then freeze….). I like to have a little fun with it and give the kids instructions to follow for the freeze times or the dance times. Here are some ideas….

  • play dead (for the freeze)
  • touch a friend (for the freeze)
  • touch an adult (for the freeze)
  • make a large conga line (for the dance)
  • do the shopping cart/lawnmower/sprinkler/[whatever your favorite dance] (for the dance)
  • stand on one foot (for the freeze)
  • pretend that you are your favorite animal (for the dance or the freeze)

4. Nine Square 

Many people have heard of Four Square, but Nine Square (aka Nine Square in the Air) is relatively new on the camp scene. You need a pipe apparatus that creates a three by three grid above the head height of the players. Each square is protected by a player and play starts in the middle with the “king” or “queen” and basic volleyball rules apply (one hit per person per square at a time). Instead of telling you all the rules, allow me to direct you to the 9SquareInTheAir website to read all about it. In my opinion, it is a close second to Gaga Ball in ranking the kid-favorite (and leader-favorite) games of camp these days.

5. Speaking of GaGa Ball

If you haven’t heard of this game, then either you have not been to a summer camp in over a decade or the one you go to is seriously missing out on the world’s best camp game. The set-up is the most elaborate of this list (you need to build an octagonal-walled ring) but the payoff is the greatest you will find these days in terms of how much the kids love this game. It is a form of dogeball played in a walled pit and the ball must be hit (not thrown) towards other players using an open palm and only below-the-waist hits count (which makes it much safer than traditional dogeball). Trust me….invest in a GaGa pit and watch the kids play the day away. I found some helpful links that explain the rules of the game as well as provide building materials for the pits….

 

I hope this list helps you with some camp game ideas this summer. Have fun and let me know if you have some great summer camp game ideas for others to read about!