Game Plan 2021: Developing Intentionality In Ministry Design
By Scott Wilcher • The UpStream Project • Charlotte, North Carolina
Imagine your group as a bunch of untrained puppies. You teach a lesson on house-training. But after your splendid explanation, the floor is still a mess. Frustrated, you love on the obedient puppies and avoid the slow learners. The obedient ones grow loyal to you; the slow learners hunt for approval elsewhere. You later realize that your house-trained group values compliance, but have little compassion for struggling puppies. You are alarmed and say, “That’s not what I intended to teach!”
Leaders must do more than teach content; they must train with intentionality, provide correct practice incrementally, move from simple to complex tasks, build confidence, faith, and values. With puppies, you move the paper toward the door each day. Obviously, with students, it’s more complex, but the idea is the same. Expecting kids to welcome guests, share the Gospel, lead a small group, or teach a Bible lesson without incremental intentional training is foolish.
For example, let’s say we hope students will have the boldness to stand in front of the entire church with a microphone and tell a concise story of the mission trip or an event. Hoping they will do well is not enough. Teaching a lesson called “How To Give A Testimony” is not enough; we must train them how to do it.
With that in mind, everything about your ministry becomes intentional. For instance, games are not icebreakers; they are training opportunities. Take a common game like “Would You Rather…” (students choose preferences and explain their reasons). After they give their answer, their team affirms them. No booing, arguing or trash-talking. Everyone learns the group is a safe place to speak, even if there are varied opinions.
The next time we play I’d use a microphone like a talk-show host. They talk into the mic to answer. The next time “my arm gets tired,” and I hand the mic to them. They are not up front yet, but they are talking into the mic – a step toward our goal.
We’d intentionally call students up front as visual aids or to read announcements to make sure they are comfortable standing there with no pressure. We’d make sure they get applause as they sit down. We want students to learn that “Up Front” is a safe place, so I NEVER play a joke on anyone who comes up.
Then we’d train them to be able to tell a story briefly with a clear beginning, middle, and end. We invented (stole?) a game called “One Time…” When his or her turn comes, each student tells a very short, interesting story beginning with “One time…”
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My favorite one-time story came from Maggie: “One time… I was at a sleepover on my friend’s boat, and I said, ‘Let’s watch TV!’ I tried and tried to turn it on. Then my friend said, ‘Maggie, that’s the microwave!’”
Or Matt’s classic: “One time… on a mission trip, as I approached a security checkpoint in a London airport, the guard held his arms out toward me. I thought he was welcoming me, so I hugged him. He was surprised. Then pushed me away and explained that I was supposed to stand like that to be checked for weapons.”
“One time” is fun, relational, and purposeful. It trains students to see the essence of the story without all the details or rabbit trails. A good “One Time…” story begs to be told in its full version and prompts questions that affirm the teller and the tale.
Because giving testimonials requires boldness, we have contests like “Pizza Scavenger Hunt.” With adult chaperones, teams get a greased pan and some pizza dough (available in the biscuit section of your grocery store.) They go door-to-door begging for edible toppings. Then they must find a home to cook it and share it. The team with the most ingredients wins. Students usually have opportunities to pray for someone they meet and extended time with the folks who cook it. The pizza is just an excuse to go out and get bold. Lots of games and service activities work the same way.
Finally, the group often intentionally met in the sanctuary on the platform up front. It is not a forbidden or strange place for them anymore. There on the platform, students gave testimonies into a microphone of how God is using their lives to build his kingdom, first to our group, and perhaps later to the whole church.
Step by step, we move them intentionally toward the outcomes we hope for. Only when they become student leaders do they learn that everything we do has a hidden purpose that reflects our values and desired outcomes. Their surprised response is exactly what we intended!