How To Win With In-Service Games Pt 1

At Oneighty, one of our favorite ways to keep our programming fresh is to play a game as part of the service. The reason we love games is because they allow us to get students involved, show some personality, and just have some good old-fashioned fun in church. In-service games are nothing new to youth ministry, but simply playing a game is not an automatic notch in the win column for your service. We have all been a part of a game segment that completely flopped, or resulted in a phone call from an angry parent.

The bottom line is that when we play a game, we want to win. So over the next few weeks, we will be talking about some filters that we have created when planning a game segment.

Is it Fun To Watch Or Just Fun To Play?

The truth is a game can actually work against you and kill the momentum of your service if it isn’t engaging to the crowd. Just because it is fun for a contestant to play doesn’t mean it will be fun for a crowd of people to watch. For example, Uno is a great game to play in a Small Group, but a terrible game to play on stage. Here are some things that we consider when deciding whether a game will provide enough entertainment to be worth playing in a service setting.

Is there any tension to keep their attention?

Some games are structured in a way that one person could jump out to an early lead and there’s no way for anyone else to catch them. The tension of “who’s going to win?” is already resolved, but the game isn’t technically over. In these cases the host has to work to keep the crowd interested, which is hard to do. As much as possible, we want to make sure that there is some sort of tension that isn’t resolved until the end. The tension doesn’t have to be about the actual outcome of the game. It could be about what prize they will win. You can accomplish this with a “prize wheel” that they spin after a win to determine the prize, or just a random draw like at the final round of Wheel of Fortune.

Does the crowd care who wins?

At camp the entire crowd is on a team, so even if they aren’t participating they are cheering for their teammate to win. This keeps the crowd fully engaged. Take that same game and play it on a Wednesday night, and unless it is their friend up there playing they have no real dog in the fight, so to speak. As a result, the game falls flat and the energy you were hoping to replicate from camp simply isn’t there. One thing we can do to combat this and keep them interested is not let them know how many rounds we will play or how many prizes are up for grabs. If the audience believes that they could be picked to play next, they will stay more engaged throughout the game.

Can they play along in their seats?

Trivia games are a great example of this, provided that the questions are interesting. The audience stays engaged because many of them are mentally playing along, competing with the contestants in their mind and guessing the answers.

Is the scale of the game appropriate for the size of the crowd?

If the game is too big for the room, it is uncomfortable for the crowd. If it is too small and only the front row can see what’s happening, it’s boring for the crowd. Find ways to scale the game up or down, depending on the size of the audience. Sometimes we do this by utilizing the screens in a bigger setting, or by making it feel more personal and casual in a smaller setting.

Those are a few thoughts we have when trying to plan a game that will engage an audience. What do you do to ensure your games are fun for the whole room?

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