This past weekend, I filled in as a host for our Kindergarten and First grade environment.
The script called for a riff on the game of Twister. Rather than the typical spinner, I took suggestions from the audience who shouted out combinations of side, body part and color. From the suggestions, I chose what the players would actually attempt. Last player standing, won the game. Excellent game in theory, right? Kids would get all twisted, they’d fall, it’d be funny!
As the three kids came up onto the stage, something very important crossed my mind:
Many five and six year olds don’t know their right from their left.
I quickly realized I needed a base-line. When they got on stage, I asked them to raise their left hands. And wouldn’t you guess: three right hands raised in the air.
“No, your other left! How about we do a little left hand / right hand training? This is your left hand, see how it makes an “L”?
People laughed. It was fun. But inside I just kept thinking, “This is so not gonna work.”
“Right foot on purple” – Woo Hoo! Good job!
“Left hand on blue” – Hooray for left hands!
“Right elbow on red.” – That’s your knee, but sure, that’ll work!
The clock was ticking, we had to get the worship leaders on stage, and all three kids were still standing. Sure, they were all twisted up, but they were nowhere close to falling down.
“Man are these kids flexible, or what?!”
All I could do was laugh, incite a huge round of applause for the kids and make them feel like rock stars from coming on stage even though there wasn’t a clear winner.
The point wasn’t really about winning anyway, it was about the kids in the audience making a difference in the outcome of the game, much like God uses them to make a difference in the outcome of a given moment in their day.
But next hour, we used small group leaders.
When you’re leading a game that’s not going as planned, there are few ways to respond.
You could respond the wrong way, get frustrated and sarcastic towards the kids and the game. You think this won’t happen, but I’ve witnessed this. It happens when the host is more focused on getting the task done his way rather than using the task as a tool to engage the kids. It didn’t end well then, and if you choose frustration, it won’t end well for you either. Don’t do it.
You could stop the game short, review the directions, and have a huge do-over. Sometimes this really will be the best option. Some stage games are just hard to explain. Even when the kids don’t have any questions and think they know what they’re doing, games don’t go as planned. As long as you keep the mood light, calling a do-over will help the kids win at the pulling off the game.
You could make the best of it and just make sure the kids are having fun. The game is there to get the kids engaged in large group, if what’s happening on stage isn’t so off from what you intended, just run with it. Have fun. Encourage the kids to do their best. You’ll still accomplish your original goal.
In hindsight, I do wish I had trouble-shot this scenario ahead of time and pulled small group leaders the first time around. (I was sorta kicking myself.) But at the end of the day, the contestants were smiling. The audience loved being part of the game. Everyone in the room was engaged.
WIn. Win. Win.
I’d love to hear from you! Tell me about a time when a game went wrong and you need to make it work in the moment. I can’t be the only one this has happened to, right? Right?