‘Fun’ thoughts Vol. 1: When people hear “we have chucked out sport or the silly games in our youth program” why do they hear we have also gotten rid of fun?

I have run or helped run a number of youth groups. Other than my very first experience (where I was committed to a Friday night of games and mayhem in the name of Jesus), I have tried to get rid of the straw in our program and build with gold (1 Cor. 3:10-17). When I tell people that we have “tried to eliminate purposeless games in our youth group” they seem to hear me say, “and we have made our group boring as well!”

I have had this experience many, many times. No matter how many times I try to explain the simple concept of having Christian fellowship where “the fun stuff was Christian and the Christian stuff was fun”. People just keep hearing me say… “boring is better”. In fact, I’ve even had one parent say to me (a few years back) “We are surprised that our daughter loves youth group so much—even though you don’t believe in having fun!”

Maybe I can take a minute or two and try to bring a touch of clarity to this issue…here’s to hoping.

5 Common misunderstandings of running a “Bible-based, we are trying to be a Christian community that has done away will those old purposeless games program”

 1. Getting rid of ‘fun’ means we can be lazy or boring.

Just the opposite in fact! Running a program that is committed to being a Christian community that is built on spiritual disciplines like Bible study and prayer is not an excuse to be boring. In fact, it must cause us to be super creative and diligent as we craft a creative, enjoyable program. We must always be thoughtful of our target audience—youth! This means we need to get to know our group, and put together a fast-paced, interactive, solid in content program. It also means we need to think think THINK!

2. No sports or games ≠ no fun.

A good thoughtful Christian program can (and should) be more fun than one built with sports and games. There are many young people that want to be involved in a Christian program that don’t enjoy sports or crazy games. We have not spent the time we should in developing enjoyable, interactive, Christian programs. Nor have we learned to think creatively when it comes to building true Christian community.

3.     Following on from that, having a Christian program does not mean that you never have socials or retreats etc.

A healthy program will include four key elements: the main weekly youth gathering, discipleship groups (small groups), regular socials (going out as a group together for a ‘fun’ activity), and retreats/camps. It does mean however, that you will not hold a social EVERY week, as a social program is not your main focus. One social very four to six weeks or so is a good amount. Also, hanging out after youth group or Bible study is a must. If the youth want to shoot some hoop before or after youth group, great. If they want to hang out and eat—fantastic. Just don’t make playing basketball and part of the program that everyone must participate in. There are plenty of youth who just don’t want/need to do that.

4. Do what you like as long as you use the Bible.

This is a common myth with my friends from more conservative circles. The thinking goes like this: “We have a good solid time in the Bible. This frees up the other part of the program to do things that kids like to do like play games or sport.” The Bible is not an insert or appendix to your program. It informs both your message AND your program. Furthermore, the Bible gives us a number of activities that we can do when we meet together (Acts 2:42-47, Eph. 5:19-20, Col. 3:16, Jude 20). Again, we must learn to do these in a youth friendly, enjoyable way.

5. A non-Christian youth ‘outreach’ event must not have too much spiritual content.

This is all too common and simply doesn’t need to be true. Did the early church reflect this? Is this the model of Jesus and the Apostles? Clearly being Christian, and showing this world that Christ informs whom we are and what we do is the best way to reach out. Let’s put on programs that are enjoyable, creative and clearly designed to impact the lost around us.

(P. S. There are two books that may be helpful here. One is Creative Christian Ideas for Youth Groups. Sorry about plugging one of my own but it may be helpful. Another is Craig Steiner’s Moving Forward by Looking Back. While he spends a little too much time, in my opinion, advocating games, it is a solid book on creative programming.)