Is Your Youth Group Playing Dangerous Games?
Youth groups play a huge role in our congregations and are vitally important. There is an issue today of youth walking away from the church, and a big part of that is not teaching them the truth and showing them how to live a life in relationship with Christ. Part of what youth groups do to bring in teens and keep them captivated is play fun games, which is a great way to bring in teens who would otherwise be uninterested in coming to church!
Benefits of Playing Games
Playing games allows our teens to release energy that could otherwise distract them from the message that our youth pastors want to deliver. Not only that, but these games encourage them to take positive risks and encourage a team mindset among their peers. These games allow the teens to interact with people they may not have otherwise thought of talking to because they are assigned the same team and objective!
Where is the line?
There is nothing wrong with having fun, but it is important to make sure that you’re not risking unnecessary injury. Some games are dangerous and can cause injury or reveal embarrassing revelations that a teen may wish to keep private. It goes without saying to avoid sharp objects and fire, but some liabilities are a little more sneaky. There is a popular “mummy relay race” where you wrap a teammate in plastic wrap and have them run to the finish line. This sounds fun and harmless right? Well by wrapping the student, you are restricting their ability to catch themselves when they fall which can result in a concussion, broken teeth, or worse.
So while the line may be easy in some cases like fire, plastic wrap hardly sounds like the most dangerous object in the world. It’s important to think about the worst case scenario and gauge whether the end result is worth the risk and also evaluate just how likely that risk is.
How do you find the line?
We strongly recommend you test the game to see where the risk is before you play any games with your youth. There may be ways to limit the risk by creating new rules or maybe just omitting the game entirely.
How to Stay Clear of Risk
Whether you’re trying to keep 1 teenager or 100 in order, it can provide lots of challenges. Here are some small steps you can take to minimize risk.
- Remember that you’re the adult. They may be persistent and keep asking to do something that is dangerous, but it’s your role to never compromise when they could be putting themselves in danger. If you see a scenario where someone could get hurt, step in immediately – don’t wait for injury to occur.
- Keep your student to staff ratio small. The more adults in the room the better. You don’t want a situation where teens are left alone because you have to assist someone in another area. Make sure that before youth events, you and your team are all on the same page. It’s important you don’t assume that your staff knows your rules or how to handle situations. Leave as little as possible for interpretation.
- Be role models for your students. As the adults, the youth will look to you for answers and how to behave. Whether it’s how you talk to one another or how you dress, make sure it’s how you would like to see your students dress and act.
- Always be prepared. You would be surprised at some things that happen at youth group. Have as much emergency clothing available as possible. Everything from a shirt to underwear and socks should be kept on hand. This can not only keep a student from being embarrassed, but prevent them from having to go home and miss your message.
- Plan ahead of time. Planning is very important when organizing anyone. Not only can people tell if you’re “winging it,” but you’re opening yourself up to risk because your team may not be on the same page.
- Be sensitive to your students’ needs. Keep in mind that some students may be uncomfortable with contact games. Avoid making games mandatory if you can and instead allow someone on your team to sit with those that don’t want to participate and talk with them to build rapport.
Check Out These Resources
For more information on youth games and youth safety, check out these resources:
Best-Ever Games for Youth Ministry: Les Christie’s book shares over 200 games that are easy to pull off and field-tested with teens in many settings. It includes suggestions on how to lead games, select games, and save games gone bad.
BrotherhoodMutual.com: Search through free articles on youth safety in the safety library.