Games can be wonderful teaching tools! However, sometimes they do not work as planned and because of unforseen circumstances, they become impossible to use in class. Therefore I came across some challenges with games in Children’s ministry.
One reason a game may not work is because of the size of the classroom. Some games require large rooms so the students can move around freely or run and play. These games won’t work for churches or schools with only small classrooms, no gymnasium and/or no yard.
A second reason a game may not work is because there is an unworkable number of students in the class. One example of this happened to me when I taught a primary-age Sunday School class. The curriculum included a game I thought the children would enjoy and it went along with the lesson them so I decided to try it.
For the game, the curriculum included a small game board, and you moved the different players’ pieces around on it. The problem became apparent when I tried to squeeze ten students around the board which I had set up in the center of the table. There was not enough room for the students to gather around the game board and still be able to see what was going on. Some of the students began complaining about not being able to see, some started quarreling as they tried to nudge their way into a better location with more visibility, and others became increasingly bored as the activity progressed.
In an attempt to try for a workable solution to the problem I pinned the game board to a bulletin board in the front of the room so everyone could see. This failed because the markings on the game board were too small for the students to see. We finally gave up on that game and found something else to do.
On another occasion, with a smaller class, we had a game that was impossible to play because there wasn’t enough students in the class.
Over the years, I’ve encountered the following problems with using games that were included in various curriculums:
1. Companies that make curriculum do not include enough game pieces or cards to make the game work for the class.
2. The game board and/or the writing on it was too small to see and it is too small for a class of students to gather around.
3. The game lasted so long that it took too much class time and did not allow enough time left for the lesson.
4. Students get bored when they have to sit and watch for a long time in between their turns.
5. The games occasionally have nothing to do with the Bible lesson.
6. Some games require too much room or activity or nice weather which may not work for a class.
7. Some games do not consider that their may be students with multiple ages or abilities in the same class.
I understand that curriculum designers/writers can’t possibly know about every situation that will arise in classrooms using their materials. But why don’t they make games that can be used in classrooms of all sizes? Why not include a few extra game pieces just in case the class is large? Why not make games boards with large print on them? Why not make game boards on transparencies, plastic or media so the teacher can make them large enough for the class to gather around and watch the activity?
I love using educational games to teach Bible and the students generally love participating in them. Why can’t we come up with more games that help teach God’s word to students of all ages?