Sick Games

 —  October 29, 2014 — 3 Comments

Every student got the flu… really bad.

This was the quick story I shared with our church’s youth pastor last week, right before we were about to do something short-sighted.

20141022_191640He’d be leading one of our student groups through a popular curriculum for the past few weeks. It just so happened that the suggested game for this particular week resembled a game I’d led 15 years ago in another youth group.

It involved teams taking turns sticking their faces into a tray of flour… to find sour gummy worms.

Back in the day, I did something similar (the only difference being that I used gummy bears, and we did it all as one team). Where I was short-sighted then?


One of the kids in our youth group had the flu. Within 24 to 48 hours, I learned that a majority of Our youth group had also started developing dramatic symptoms.

I’m not a doctor. I have no idea if the flu can translate that quickly, nor am I aware of any studies involving the transmission of germs involving healthy kids opening their mouths to sift through flour that a sick kid has also openly-mouthed. If such a case did exist, my guess is you’d find a short-sighted youth worker involved.

(Again, allow me to raise my own hand on this.)

Which is exactly why after our youth pastor explained the game and begin to move the trays to another table I covertly snuck up to him and explained how what we were about to do was not in the best interests of any of the kids… all ebola news headlines aside.

20141022_192120The catch? I didn’t want to make him look foolish in front of the students. My suggestion was the concept of the game could be saved with a simple adaption – plastic utensils. We gave the kids the option of a fork or a spoon, and the game played on… all the way right up to the takeaway of how sometimes finding the sweetness in life takes some digging.

His reply? “That’s one of the reasons why I love that you volunteer here.”

My wife’s reply, later on in the night? “There’s one more difference. This time, our kids are a part of the youth group. I’m a bit steamed this almost happened.”

Better safe than sued?

Take this as a lesson learned, however you’d like.

  • Where in your student ministry do you see little slips like this that could (if left unchanged) affect your overall credibility as a youth group or as a youth worker?
  • Any takeaways or stories on being confronted in private versus publicly on something?

– Tony / @tonymyles

PAS01If you use games for youth ministry then here is a free, easy-to-play game you can download today. Pick Sides is simply a game where you…

  • Flash up a slide
  • Each slide displays 2 options
  • Students vote which option they like by moving to a side of the room

Download the slides here. Hopefully they are a little funny, a little awkward, and a little thought provoking.

PRO TIP: This is an easy game to play to if you want to tie in your lesson. Just grab this background and pepper in a few “would you rather “question that have to do with your message.



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Had a little contest last week introducing a new backyard/beach game to many of you – one of our very favorite youth groups games ever is SPIKEBALL. Congrats to Robby Roate for scoring a full set compliments of the SPIKEBALL team. And remember, you can check out their website to see how the game works and use promo code DIVE35 to get 10% off if you want to get one of your own, too!




The makers of the backyard game of Spikeball are giving away a combo pack of the incredibly epic game to one lucky MTDB reader! It is honestly one of our favorite summertime games in our high school ministry! To get in on the action, leave a comment on this blog post and you’re in the running to get a full set. Never heard of the game? Check out their website to check out how it works and use promo code DIVE35 to get 10% off if you want to get one of your own, too!


Here is a promo video for an upcoming Zombie Night summer event coming soon in HSM. We’re going to have a blast playing a capture-the-flag style night! Trying something new, here we go!


I got a few free download codes for a new iPhone game called Group Games. Here’s a little bit about how awesome the app is from the youth leader who designed it!

Group Games is a growing database of over 100 games that you can browse through on your iPhone. Suitable for youth groups, kids clubs, holiday clubs, birthday parties, schools and many other types of groups.

Each game has an image, as well as quickinfo icons that allow you to quickly see important information such as how many people can play the game, how long it will take to play and how much time it will take to organize. This App is designed to help you find a game for your situation as quickly and as easily as possible.

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If you didn’t manage to get to these first … I’ll toss out another on Twitter today, too!


A little game called Spikeball is getting some serious traction in our youth group as of late. First at summer camp, now at some of our summer events. Kurt blogged about it last week, here’s a little video showing off the incredible new game.


For those of you who have never heard of the Tim Tam Slam- I’m sorry. I’m sorry you haven’t experienced this cultural, communal phenomenon. I’m sorry you haven’t tasted this creamy, chocolate bonanza. I’m sorry. The reason you don’t know about it is because no one has told you- and that’s against the rules. Wait, rules? How can a no-holds-barred-chocolate-bonanza have rules!? Calm down. There are only two:

  • Rule 1) You must tell people about Tim Tam Slam
  • Rule 2) Never slam alone

It’s not an exaggeration to call the Slam a communal experience. It’s an experience that’s meant to be shared, both in participation and awareness.

By most accounts Tim Tam Slam has Australian origins, but also has a strong tradition in the UK. To begin the Slam, bite a small corner off the chocolate cream cookie (said Tim Tam), turn to the other end and bite the other corner. You now essentially have a cookie straw to drink your hot chocolate (or tea in the UK). Dunk the Tim Tam into the hot chocolate and begin to suck. When the hot chocolate gets to your tongue you pop (or slam) the entire cookie in your mouth and let it dissolve without much chewing, if any at all. What ensues is a rush of chocolate intensity you’ve yet to experience. Clearly, this degree of chocolate consumption is not an exercise for the weak of heart!

I introduced the Slam to my high school students at our winter retreat a few weeks back. It was a strategic decision that went beyond just having some giggles with the students. There were 4 main reasons I wanted to do the Slam at camp:

1. Tradition- The students in my high school ministry love being a part of something bigger than themselves. Of course, this is not unique only to our group, but their level of commitment to tradition is one I haven’t seen before. I’ve commonly heard, “but we’ve always done ________” from adults, but here students love saying they’ve been a part of/dressed up for/planned/attended something for years. I knew by unveiling the Slam at camp we would be creating a new tradition for them to enjoy.

2. Buzz- Our winter camp was at a program camp that usually packs out with 400-500. Our weekend was particularly low in attendance and I worried some of the buzz or energy students get when they’re around hundreds of peers might be lost. My hope was that the mystery surrounding the Slam (“Tim Tam Slam? What is this madness? Tell me!”) could help create some anticipation that we could use as fuel for other camp activities.

3. Momentum- After what would have surely been a successful maiden of voyage of the Slam, our students would have bought into the tradition aspect and we’d have higher buy-in and more buzz for the next occurrence of the Slam (or more specifically the camp or event where it took place) therefore perpetuating reasons 1, 2, 3, and

4. Teachable moment- Remember those rules? Well, those rules in the hands of a wily youth pastor could turn the Slam into an illustration describing following Jesus, evangelism, things we’re passionate about, etc and how we’re supposed to share those things that change our lives and make us do goofy things.

Just to clarify, I’m not claiming ownership of the Slam, nor do I think its some sort of ministry miracle. It is, however, something that when used thoughtfully, can be used for the good of ministry. And anything that reminds us to be intentional, strategic, or thoughtful in ministry is a great thing.

I haven’t cashed in on that teachable moment yet, but the Sunday morning message moment is coming. It won’t be an earth shattering illustration, but hopefully one that students can immediately relate to, personalize, laugh about, and share…. or at least give us another excuse to do the Tim Tam Slam!

Matt Johnston is the High School Pastor at Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach, CA. He’s been alive for 26 years, in youth ministry for 8, and married for 3. The married part has improved the first two parts greatly- coincidence? He also enjoys slamming Tim Tams on occasion. You can follow Matt on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing.