I’d bet you have at least one game planned for your children’s ministry time this Sunday. That’s great! Games are important to include in your children’s ministry time for a variety of reasons. But have you ever thought about how game-ifying your teaching time could increase its effectiveness?
All kids love games, but digital native kids (the generation we serve now who don’t know a world without the existence of the internet and smartphones), in particular, consider games to be the preferred way to learn. They enjoy the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge when it’s presented as a challenge to overcome rather than a list of facts to memorize.
According to research, using games in teaching can help increase a child’s participation and foster social and emotional learning, something all kids need after 2 years of a worldwide pandemic that left us all isolated and socially distanced. Kids are able to engage with the lesson (rather than just listen to it being told to them) when gamification is involved, and games can help keep their attention and focus. Game-based learning gives kids ownership over their spiritual learning and development, which improves both enjoyment of the learning process and overall retention of what they learn.
When I say “gamification,” I don’t mean adding another game to the schedule of your children’s ministry time. I mean incorporating game-like elements into the teaching itself, like goals, obstacles, and learner-chosen cause-and-effect options. Can you give kids a goal or specific task to accomplish at the beginning of the lesson that requires them to participate, engage, and explore during the lesson in order to meet that goal? What markers, checkpoints, or points can you provide to let kids know how they’re doing on their quest to accomplish that goal? Will they need to work together or “play” individually?
Use role-playing games during your teaching time to encourage kids to use their biblical imaginations and explore different perspectives. Turn the Bible lesson or review time into a competition between small groups or halves of the room. Set up a simple points and rewards system for kids who complete certain tasks (many leaders already do something like this with Bible Bucks or a Bible Points store!). Beyond the in-church experience, point kids and families to Bible games online and other Bible apps they can use at home.
So whether the lesson itself becomes a game or you gamify the review time, finding ways to incorporate play into the learning process will help us better connect with the kids we teach and will help the kids we teach retain more.
Gamification in your ministry CAN be taken too far and turn into a toxic or counter-productive element. We don’t want kids to think that their faith is only a rewards-based system where God will grant us X if we accomplish Y. And if you forfeit biblical depth in the name of gamification, it’s gone too far. Jason Tilley from Ministry Accelerator has some great ideas for using gamification in a positive and productive way in your ministry.
Full disclosure: I’m still exploring and experimenting with this too! If you have any ideas that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them!
Ready to utilize games for teaching in your children’s ministry? These resources may help:
- 6 Reasons to Include Games in Your Children’s Ministry
- Ultimate KidMin Game Bundle – complete with a GAMES rubric to help you evaluate the games you play.
- 10 Bible Games for Kids – Subscriber access only
- Bible Games Central
- All of our favorite games for children’s ministry
- More Than a Game – Gamifying Your Ministry (article from Ministry Accelerator)
- The Impact of Gamification on Your Children’s Ministry (article from childrensministry.com)