I love games. I love playing them. I love leading others to play them. As a youth pastor, I have led games for all age groups, and I was always looking for new creative ways to have fun.
Some of them worked great – like “glow-in-the-dark bouncy ball catch” Some of them didn’t work out so great – like when I tried to adapt ‘squirrels and the trees’ to middle school students. [Imagine 125 student running around with pool noodles hitting each other. Trust me – it wasn’t pretty]. Regardless, games can be helpful at any age to build community, and create fun.
As I work with emerging adults [18-25 year olds], I continued to use games to build community. However, playing games with emerging adults is not the same as a middle or high school students. So here are some things that I have learned when adapting games to emerging adults:
I rarely let students not play, but now that they are adults, I allow them not to play. They are not kids, and should have the opportunity to choose whether they want to participate. Most who opt out will still participate by watching, or talking with a friend.
No one wants to be picked last, and we have all heard the scarring stories about the kid who gets picked last for kickball. As I work with emerging adults, I allow them to divide themselves into teams. They understand relationships, and will usually watch out for the feelings of others in the group. As they divide, it allows them to be with the people that they want to be with, and allows for group autonomy. If tension or awkwardness arises, you can always step in or process it later with members of your group.
The good news about playing games with emerging adults is that you no long need to be the rule keeper. Hanging up your referee whistle will allow you to sit back and enjoy. Let them self-manage the game. Rules may be broken, but allow them to decide whether rules are important or not. The game may not be how you would do it, but you might discover that this way leads to even more fun.
Use older games that have tradition in your community, but put a new spin on them so they better fit an older age group. For example, if your youth play Mafia – find a new version on the internet that will attract their attention. Avoid games that require a high level physical activity, or nuance them [because few emerging adults really want to break a sweat].
Games are not longer needed for entertainment, but should be seen as an experience. As you work with older kids, they rarely need to be entertained. I find that when they need something to do, the group will find something to do [even if it is something as simple as bottle-flipping]. This process allows them to choose something that fits their needs, and allows natural leadership to rise from within the group.
Emerging adults may not love every game you present. But they all appreciate fun. So whatever happens, make it fun.
DR. G. DAVID BOYD is a forward thinker, a collector of Marvel Comics, an avid gamer, a radical follower of Jesus Christ, a father of three boys, and a husband. David is the managing director of EA RESOURCES, a faith-based non-profit organization dedicated to equipping parents and churches to understand emerging adulthood. He’s also the founder of the EA Network, a network that connects those who minister to the needs of emerging adults. Hear more from David about the development of EAs at NYWC in November!