I was an athlete as a kid. Not a very good one, but an athlete nonetheless. I loved playing on a team: the high stakes of competition, working for a goal that was bigger than me, the connection with my teammates through big wins and painful losses. Playing games on a team shaped much of the man I would become.
But then I grew up and stopped playing. Kids play. Adults work and pay bills. At least that’s the impression we are often given. The truth is I did not stop playing because I grew old—I grew old because I stopped playing.
Here are five reasons why playing together will add value to yourself and enrich your team.
1. Playing assimilates new people quickly
Think back to a time where you were joining a new activity for the first time. Maybe it was middle school softball, or the debate team, or the chess club. You didn’t know many people, and they didn’t know you. Then you start playing. At first, it was all about the game. Who is the best athlete? Who gets what position? Who can do what well? Over time, relationships are made, and commonalities outside of the game become known. You start going to their house after school just to hang out. After a while, the game itself becomes less important and the person you are playing with becomes more important.
Walking into a church can make new members, volunteers, or even staff feel like they are the new kid on an already established team. Playing together allows new people to assimilate into your ministry, get to know people, and create shared memories quicker than any ordination will.
2. Playing creates trust and friendship
Try this: right before student camp this year, ask your students what they remember most about the previous year. After they give the “churchy” answers they will start to mention the bus ride where they watched five Disney movies, the A/C went out, and that girl threw up in the back. They will laugh about how old and gross the rooms were and how rubbery the food tasted. They will talk about how their team should have won the weeklong competition or how hard the ropes course was. Why do these things come to mind? Because those moments had a significant impact on the relationships they built. These shared experiences laid the relational foundation for deeper conversations later in the week.
Playing connects groups together to create trust—the currency of ministry. These two things allow you to hand over responsibility to others, receive feedback well, and not believe the lie that the weight of the ministry is solely on you. Fostering a fun environment ensures that ministry remains a calling with friends and doesn’t become just a job with co-workers.
3. Playing fosters an entrepreneurial, adventurous spirit
Every completion has an inherent risk. There are winners and losers, victories and defeats. The risk is what causes us to take chances, be adventurous, and maybe even try something we have never tried before.
Risk-taking is a part of any ministry. Launching a new ministry, vision casting a new direction, building a new building—all have risk attached to them. Many timidly shy away from uncertainty out of fear of failure. Playing games wars against our insecurities and fears to allow your team the freedom to practice risk-taking in a safe environment.
4. Playing allows people to be themselves
Every good team has natural leaders, strategic thinkers, hard workers, and those that just desire to connect people with one another. When roles are not assigned by title or position, people naturally fall into the role that God has uniquely gifted them in. A leader will emerge with the rallying cry of the team. A strategic thinker will develop an action plan to follow. A hard worker will take the plan to success. A connector will celebrate everyone’s wins and encourage any setbacks. Nobody assigned these roles. God gifted them. Playing games allows your team to draw out and exercise the ways God has uniquely wired them.
5. Playing leads to longevity in ministry
Let’s face it; ministry is hard. Let’s make it fun. If you are always on the frontlines of the battle then inevitably you will, from time to time, forget what you are fighting for (or Who you are fighting for). Playing takes you out of the battle for a moment, realigns your thinking, clears your head, gets the blood pumping and allows you to go back to the frontlines with new energy and excitement. Playing does not take away from ministry; it allows longevity in ministry.
6. Putting it into practice
“Playing” doesn’t just mean a sport or physical activity. An intense game of trivia where the loser must perform some ungratifying consequence can be just as effective in achieving the above goals as an organized softball game.
Here are just a few thoughts on how you can implement these ideas in your context:
1. Think about routines—what are we doing every day, every week, every month that we could turn into a game or competition?
2. Build time into the schedule. Start with something small (maybe 20 minutes of four-square) and then work toward something big, like a poolside barbeque or a sand-volleyball tournament.
3. Consequences for the loser(s) always make the game more interesting, and the memories that much sweeter. A good consequence should provide momentary awkwardness or discomfort, but leave no long-term effects—other than the rich memory everyone will share.
4. When you’re at CLC, find one of the Watermark staff and ask them to explain “farkleing” to you.
If you are in ministry, your team may be made up of church members, volunteers, leaders, and staff. You’re on a team. It’s time we started playing.