VOICE OF THE YOUTH MINISTRY NATION POWERED BY Powered by simpleyouthministry.com

The Middle School Pastor who invented 9-SQUARE-IN-THE-AIR!

 —  August 22, 2013 — 3 Comments


Scott Rubin is back with another post:


This post will sound like I’m “advertising” something, which I sort of am, but I promise I’m not getting a dime for saying good stuff about this game.

If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for activities that just about every middle school student can participate – and that aren’t lame!   9 Square in the Air might be just what you’re looking for.   Not only that, the inventor is a middle school pastor!

If you haven’t heard of it, you really need to check out this web site: http://www.9squareintheair.com.  I’m fired up about this because our students have been playing it every week for the past 2 months, and the intrigue just continues to rise.   Seriously – it’s fantastic… and easy for almost every middle schooler to play, whether they’re super-athletic, or not-so-much!

We introduced this game to our students at our summer camp in June.   It’s become such a huge hit in our middle school ministry that I decided to call the guy who invented it — and found out that he’s been a youth pastor for 15 years, and the last 10 of those specifically working with Jr. Highers!

His name is Steve Otey, and his church is in a suburb of St. Louis.  A number of years back, he had a group of students in his ministry who loved to play volleyball … and another group of students who loved to play 4- (or  9-) square every week.   Every time he tried to get the volleyballers to play 4 square, or vice versa, he got resistance – so he hatched the idea of combining the 2 games.

Even though I think this invention makes Steve Otey a little like the Steve Jobs of youth ministry games, he says that his passion is really all about youth ministry – which is very clear as you talk with him.

He tells his students “if you can put 2 hands above your head… or even just let a ball bounce off your head… you can play”!   And for me, it’s been a blast to see a 4’6” middle school eliminate a 6’6” leader.    Every week for the last 2 month, students are lined up to play.   We even had a parents-open-house one week, and parents jumped in, too.

You already know that a good game can be a great “connector” for middle schoolers & leaders.   If it fits in your budget, you’ve gotta check this thing out.   (or use Steve’s “kit”, and make your own, like we did!)

Kurt Johnston

Kurt Johnston


Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

3 responses to The Middle School Pastor who invented 9-SQUARE-IN-THE-AIR!

  1. We love this game. The set up / tear down is slick and the students love it. It really works great when you have that one leader or student who is the “guy to beat”
    Thanks Steve!

    • … and every leader has that “guy to beat”, don’t they Phil! It’s most fun when it’s a little 6th grader who knocks them out.

  2. Hi!

    I enjoyed reading about the evolution of Nine Square but I wanted to ask where you can get Steve Otey’s “kit” to try to make one of these. Looks like a great group activity!


Leave a Reply


Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>