Category | Youth Ministry

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Recreation is an incredible tool for youth ministry. While games may not be overtly spiritual, they are a very powerful teaching tool to condense many of the realities of life down into a short period of time. The way we respond in games often reflects how we deal with the realities of life. They reveal our attitudes, our strengths, our weaknesses, the ways we communicate and relate to other people, our ability to lead, the way we deal with challenges, rules, and difficulties. They show our approach to solving problems and maybe most importantly they show our REACTIONS to a variety of circumstances. When the pressure is on, what comes out, actions, words, mindsets, and believes often reveals the most about us.

As youth and youth workers work and play together, they learn to help one another, share possessions, overcome fears, draw closer to God, open up, and even risk sharing about themselves with the group. Hassles do occur but they serve as catalysts for growth and sharing and force individuals to move beyond superficial relationships. Regular sports and games often present many of life’s problems in capsule form. The factors of stress, competition, rules to be followed, success and failure, and cooperation in a team effort are common to sports, games, daily life and Christian living both inside the church and outside it.

As such, recreation should not be focused on the event., the program, the game. Instead it should be focused on the people and creating opportunities for them to grow spiritually and relationally. Relationships are of vital importance to God and should be an integral part of youth ministry. Its about people, not programs. When the programs become the focus they too easily become gimmicks to get people to come to the youth group.

Edward L. Hayes (“Recreational Activities” Youth Education in the Church. Moody Bible Institute, Chicago: 1978. pp 308-323) warns against using recreation as a “hidden persuader.” He says that when this occurs “recreation is cheapened, and the gospel is viewed as related to and dependent on gimmicks.”

In addition to nurturing relationships, recreation has emotional and psychological benefits to youth as well as the obvious physical benefits to their health. Recreation can help alleviate stress among youth. Highly charged recreational activities, which allow the youth to “cut loose,” may help get the attention of youth off their worries and onto God and spiritual truths. Poor Self-esteem or self-image is one of the most widespread issues facing teens today. Recreation can help alleviate problems of self-image by providing an opportunity for youth to express hidden abilities and talents.

Many games can also be structured to become metaphors for life and spiritual truth. Wet and wild games involving water can be used to springboard into lessons on the “Living Water.” In fact the concept of a race is explicitly mentioned several times in the Bible to illustrate spiritual truths. Games in which youth are blindfolded become metaphors on spiritual blindness. The possibilities are as numerous as the games people play.

Recreation can be used in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes:

    • Recreational activities can be an effective means to loosen up the group.
    • Recreation can help break up cliques and draw shy people into the group.
    • Recreational activities may help prevent discipline problems that usually are a result from boredom, misdirected energy, or unused creativity.
    • Recreation may be combined with fund-raising such as walk-a-thons, jog-a-thons, and even work-a-thons. Recreation may take the form of ministry to others as service projects and workdays.
    • High adventure outings are some of the most unusual but also most rewarding activities for youth and therefore merit special attention. They can be used to improved self-esteem, encourage cooperation, build trust, enhance communication, provide opportunity for introspection, provide a change of scenery, provide challenging activities, and enhance problem solving, spiritual awareness, and outdoor skills. High adventure outings create special group dynamics, have elements of stress and (controlled) danger, a “roughing it” atmosphere and long term effects on those who attend. The relationships built on such outings never fail to provide opportunities for ministry.

For more information on how you can use games and recreation in youth ministry check out some of these resources:


  • Mattingly, Don and Scott Werner. The Centrifuge Experience: Meeting Youth Needs. Convention Press, Nashville: 1987.
  • Rice, Wayne and Mike Yaconelli. Play It. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids: 1986.

Better yet, visit a local Christian book store and someone will be sure to point you to shelves of books with creative ideas and games you can use in your youth ministry!

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