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Jonathan's "Seven Deadly Sins" of Game Leading
What's the Trick to Leading Games?

The Seven No No's -
Do these seven things and your games will stink!

Back to top 1. Tell the crowd that you're going to play a game!
7 Sins of Game Leading Best way to ruin a game is tell kids that you're going to play a game! Youth groups across the nation consistently use this pathetic transition: "okay, we're going to play a mixer now!" First of all ... does the average jr. higher off the street know what a mixer is? Yeh! It's the thing their mom uses to stir cake mix. When starting a game ... just start doing it. For example: "hey, before we get started today I want everyone on this side of the room to scoot one foot that way while my staff run this rope between you ..." Just start it. Ten minutes later kids will be looking at each other saying, "hey ... we're playing games!"

Back to top 2. Don't be prepared
Time is always crucial because attention span is short. In this fast food, microwave, quick cut, MTV, minute rice, Taco Bell generation, kids are used to having what they want, stimulating their eyes, ears and mouth EVERY SECOND. Now if we stand up to play a game that required two marshmellows with a piece of string tied around them ... if you walk up with a bag of unopened marshmellows and uncut string that is NOT ALREADY TIED ... you've already lost. Have everything ready.

If you've never done the game before ... test it. So many times I thought I was the "Game Master" and all of a sudden I'm up short in front of a bunch of kids. Not a pretty sight. Test it!

Back to top 3. Don't have your staff playing with them
Hopefully your staff are there to hang out with kids, not to be just a chaperone. Chaperones are no fun and no kid wants a relationship with one. Your staff should get on the teams with the kids and participate as much as possible. I have students to this day that still remind me of times we annihilated another person with Q-tips when I was on their team during a Q-tip war. Fun memories make lasting impressions.

Back to top 4. Explain the game for more than 30 seconds
As we talked about above on #2, time and attention span are short. Part of being prepared for a game is knowing how to explain it quickly. Give the basics, maybe with a visual example and jump straight into "ready, set, go!"

Don't be afraid to start a game even when some are still confused. Your staff can help push these people along once you start.

Back to top 5. Take more than 30 seconds to divide teams
Same principle as above. Have a quick tactic planned to divide teams fast. Always try to use natural divisions: grade levels, gender, half of the room, etc. Only # off as a last resort!

Back to top 6. Have someone without ability or even a personality leading the game
Game leading isn't something you should just throw on a new staff member. They should be trained in the basics and given an opportunity to lead a game every once in a while. You'll find that some people just aren't gifted in being up-front. Don't use these people. A key to a successful program will be putting staff people in areas that they are gifted and feel comfortable.

By the way ... if something goes wrong, play it off. Games will go sour- it's a fact. If they do, use the opportunity to make fun of it. If a game goes wrong and the leader is funny about it, kids will still have a good time ... and that's the point, right?

Back to top 7. Make sure the crowd can't see those playing the game.
"Of course" you say. But how many times have I seen some cool crowd breaker where a kid is getting dowsed with syrup or a girl is about to suck a jelly bean out of some jello and ... I couldn't see cause some stupid game leader was standing right in the way! If you're leading a game ... STEP ASIDE! If you're in a level room and you have a visual game ... elevate it somehow! You get the point.

If you like this quick little article you'd love the entire chapter. This article is just a piece of a chapter in Jonathan's hit book THE TOP 12 RESOURCES YOUTH WORKERS WANT! The book goes into much more detail and gives examples you can follow. The book also includes the top games, events, ideas and discussion starters that youth workers want.

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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Comments on this post

   Dee Dee Costello         8/30/2016 3:18:25 PM

Thanks, Jonathan. I appreciate your straight-forward advice. Starting up a youth group in our small church after about 7 years of not having one.This info will help.

   Donna Weir         8/11/2016 1:22:47 AM

Excellent tips. I'm a fan.

   ahmad         5/30/2014 10:35:01 AM

games sins

   Gordon Goodman         1/25/2014 4:05:44 PM

I'm old - 67 but love getting the messsage across to young people. I am amazed at how the games may be up dated but they are the same old games - I just needed reminding.

   hjel         9/3/2013 4:57:27 PM

Love this website and your tips. I am young and in my youth group but have taken over games. Do you have any very simple and fun games for us to play on wendesday nights. the advice would be grastly appreciated.

   Tenaj Ram Narain         3/21/2013 11:29:09 PM

Sorry forgot to rate...

   Tenaj Ram Narain         3/21/2013 11:26:58 PM

Thank you for sharing this with us, you have helped me get my youth excited. As a new youth leader this is my resource. May God richly bless you in everything. May His favour fall over your life for being kind enough to share. God Bless.

   gale         10/31/2012 12:08:53 PM

This site has saved me many ,many times I love it. Great information, easy to use., I am so THANKFULL

   Ray         3/19/2012 7:24:08 AM

I've shared this with my junior high students and adult leaders and they loved it! It's bang on!

   Justin Pack         3/16/2012 9:27:37 AM

I never realized how many of the deadly sins of gameleading I was guilty of committing. I had to go forward on Sunday morning and repent!

   April Teves         3/16/2012 8:03:07 AM

I now realize that I am doing at least 3 or 4 of these every time we play a game! Ugh! No wonder some of the games flop. I am a frequent visitor to you site and utilize the game ideas! Thanks for the inof!

   Andrew Dear         3/15/2012 11:00:08 AM

Excellent article that really helped me and my volunteers!

   Clevern Mcbride         12/16/2011 12:40:43 PM

Great points!!! Thanks for all the help!!!


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