We’ve all been in situations where games don’t work. Some games are just lame. Let’s talk about 9 ways to lead games well for your group.

1.) Match the game to the group. Not every game will work for every group. Some groups are more athletically inclined, some like games with a “gross factor”, while others would prefer a board game or brain teaser. Thou shalt know thy group! I’ve seen college interns make this mistake when working with Middle School students at my church. Ultimate Frisbee is a great game, but it will fail most times if the group is over 50% girls. Why? Because most of the girls will cluster together in groups of 3-5 all over the field and talk, while the boys play the game. Matching the game to the group is critical to leading games well.

2.) Use (good) music. Have you ever noticed how much music impacts the movies and shows you watch? It’s amazing the power that music has to change the tone of a situation. The same is true for leading games. For most games, using fun, upbeat music will encourage participation and increase the fun factor. This is a great element to pass off to a student. Ask them to create the playlist for the game. As a leader, be sure to review and approve the list well in advance. It’s best to choose songs with either no lyrics, or well known songs so that kids can sing along.

3.) Prepare. Nothing sucks the energy out of a game faster than not having all the supplies ready to go, or having a leader realize mid-explanation that they forgot a key game element. Make sure to gather all supplies beforehand. (And make a list of the supplies so you can delegate game prep to someone else next time!)

4.) Think it through. If it’s a new game to the group (or to you), think thorugh all the elements of the game before you try it. Do you need score keepers? What supplies do you need? What safety elements do you need to address?

5.)Explain it clearly. If you finish explaining the game and students aren’t crystal clear on what to do, you’ve failed. Explain it clearly and briefly, and illustrate it if possible. A common phrase among preachers also applies to leading games: “A mist in the pulpit will become a fog in the pews”.

6.) Narrate it. If you have the gift of gab, or have a volunteer who does, narrate the game! Use names and comment on what’s happening. One of the best 9 Square in the Air tournaments we did with our youth group involved two high school guys with microphones narrating the game like an ESPN event, complete with player interviews, commercials and color commentary. It was amazing!

7.) Take pictures. Games create incredible opportunities to take pictures of your students, and post them on your group’s social media to create camaraderie and fun shared memories.

8.) Be fair. This speaks for itself, but if you aren’t fair, students won’t want to play. If you announce “30 seconds left”, end the game in 30 seconds instead of stretching it out for another 5 minutes. Don’t manipulate the score to influence the outcome. Being fair reflects integrity. Demonstrate it for your students.

9.) Make it fun. If you aren’t having fun, neither will the students. Be jovial and energetic while explaining the game, and participate in the game yourself if possible.