Playing on Purpose

In over two decades of ministry leadership, I have seen the benefits of game play in ministry from every angle. I’ve served as a camp counselor where lots of relationship building happened over multi-day games. I’ve organized and executed quick game play for Sunday school and mid-week programming. I’ve written dozens of games to coordinate with VBS themes. I’ve been the dad listening to my kids talk about a team building experience with their peers or a shared moment of victory during game play in ministry time.

I love games.

Most children’s ministry leaders incorporate games into a portion of their time with kids. And many of them might not even know why! But having a purpose and a plan for games, and executing well, can be one of the best tools you have in your ministry toolbox.

From an educational perspective, exercise provides much needed oxygen to the brain, releases “feel-good” endorphins, and resets the learning engine for another round of intellectual inputs to be absorbed. And on a more practical level, it helps “shake out those wiggles!”

Not every ministry leader feels gifted in preparing and organizing games, or leading a high-energy (sometimes large) group of kids in a successful game time. But with a sound “why” for games in ministry, some thoughtful planning, and organization, you can WIN at games!

Game Set Up

Think through the full game play. What equipment or props do you need for the game? A few items that will almost ALWAYS come in handy are:

  • A whistle
  • Cones to mark the playing field
  • Tape
  • Balls of various sizes

Game Instruction

When it comes time to play the game, make sure you start with careful instruction.

The positive energy of the game leader explaining the rules of the game is indicative of the level of student enthusiasm. Here are a few helpful techniques to build excitement:

  • Use people as props to demonstrate how the game is played instead of simply explaining how to play a game.
  • Be very excited and animated. • Vary the volume of your voice as a form of crowd control and clear communication. It is good to be loud, yet at very important points, consider using a softer voice.
  • Ask for questions from students to clarify the instructions. This can, however, turn into chaotic mayhem. Be brief in answering 2 or 3 questions, then save further questions to be asked after you try a round of the game.

You can build major amounts of excitement through statements like, “ARE YOU READY...? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! ARE YOU READY...? LET’S GO!

Game Play

It is important to have cones set out on the game area to establish clear boundaries.

It is your role to start games, end games, and start a new round of games when most or all participants are “out.” Be very aware of the time while the game is being played. It is your responsibility to end the game with enough time that participants can travel to rejoin with the group or Bible instruction. A whistle or megaphone is a good tool.

Remember, game time is a critical component to relationships between students and leaders. Having adult and student leaders play the games with students is a vital aspect of healthy relationship building and trust development.

Let’s Play!

As a game leader, you can take simple, classic games such as:

  • Obstacle Course
  • Tag • Dodgeball
  • Relay Race

And modify the rules or use “special” props to tie into a particular theme or even use wording or themes from Bible lessons in the modified game.

Here are a few game ideas to get you started.

Chain Tag


  • Cones
  • Whistle

This is a type of tag that builds human chains! There are two versions of Chain Tag.

#1: Two people start with linked arms and are “it.” Once this linked pair tags someone, the tagged person must lock arms with the pair, and it now becomes a three person chain. Once the chain reaches four people, it splits in the middle and forms two new pairs.

Example: O-O-O-O forms into O-O & O-O. This happens over and over until there is only one person left. Clap for the winner who did NOT get tagged!

#2: Two people start with linked arms and are “it.” The game works exactly the same as the previous version, but this time the chain does not multiply at all. The chain grows extremely long, and only the ends can tag people. This is funny to watch and hard for students to tag anyone as the chain gets longer.

Blindfold Maze


  • Whistle
  • Tape
  • Blindfold
  • Boxes or other items as obstacles

Create a simple maze by taping out a path in your game space. Start by choosing one person to be blindfolded and one person to be their guide. The guide has to lead the blindfolded person through the maze by giving verbal directions on where to walk and turn. In round two, add some obstacles to the taped path so that they blindfolded person has to go over or around them, as instructed by their guide. On the third round, choose 1 or 2 of the spectators to shout out misleading directions while the guide attempts to correctly lead the blindfolded person through the maze. Based on the size of your group, you may want to choose a new guide and a new blindfolded student for each round - instead of letting them do all three rounds.



  • Whistle
  • Cones
  • Balloons with a 4-foot string tied to them (1 per participant)
  • Scissors (to cut string when game is over)

Use cones to set up the playing field. Help each student tie the other end of the string around their ankle. Their job is to run around the field, trying to stomp on and pop the other balloons, while also protecting their own balloon. Once their balloon is popped, they are out. Last one left with an intact balloon is the winner. Players that go outside of the cones are also considered “out.” Spread out in the playing area and blow the whistle to begin.

You can access this entire magazine for free here: Edition 37

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