RULES FOR GAMING in SUNDAY SCHOOL
The following was compiled based on an older discussion here at our site about GAME RULES and the issue of "competition" in Sunday School.
Games by definition involve competition, whether against yourself or an opponent. They involve the possibility of setback or momentary failure. They create an artificial stress, such as, being timed, or racing, or losing a turn. Primarily, however, they focus on reward.
While some eschew game competition in Sunday School, the overwhelming majority of Christian educators, teachers and pastors supported its thoughtful use.
Why We Use Competition:
- The brain is wired for remembering through positive and negative reinforcement.
- The body is chemically designed to sharpen its attention through stress and excitements.
- The memory assigns a higher value to content and activities where an emotional sense of achievement is attached.
- Fun helps us focus and remember, and want more of it
- Positive feedback and outcomes in games stimulate the release of endorphins, -the brain's natural "feel good" hormone, which creates a sense of accomplishment, well-being, and self-esteem. This emotional content helps with memory formation.
Bible Games help hold students accountable for what they are learning. Game reward paying attention. Games reward participation.
Game teachers need to be VERY aware of how his or her students are reacting to the artificial stress we create by game rules and competition. Some children do not react well to "not knowing an answer" or "coming in last". Some don't react well to competitive stress. Some don't have the learning or memory skills that others have.
In front of their peers...
-We should strive to promote the biblical values of a sense of well-being and fair-play ahead of their sense of individual achievement.
-Our game content and rules should promote the fun of knowing the answer and learning together, rather than individual achievement or failure.
-We cannot allow our teaching and classrooms to be hijacked by those who behave badly.
Gaming is an important opportunity for adults to model and teach life skills and biblical behaviors. Through our demeanor, words, and rules, we can teach students how to learn, how to recall, how to apply lessons, and how to respond to competition and fellow competitors.
It's not bad to come in third place, if everyone feels like a winner, and no one has been made to feel like a loser.
Good games have elements of grace and forgiveness built into them, as well as, reward.
Good game teachers adjust game conditions and rules to their students. In doing so, students often learn about the biblical values of grace, fairness and helping.
Good game teachers doing things that address individual needs, as well as, the group's needs. For example, turning the shy kid into the question reader, rather than, putting them on the spot as an answerer. Or, telling "the smart kid" in a quiz bowl that they have to "act out their answer" instead of say it.
All good games have an aspect of randomness built-in to them that helps level the playing field. And some games need that randomness or quirky-ness accentuated to strike the right tone.
Bible trivia and knowledge games about PAST content should recognize that infrequent attenders need opportunities to learn the right answer and be rewarded, if they were not there for the lesson, instead of merely be told they are wrong.
Follow up with certain students after a game or competitive situation is an opportunity to teach and perhaps learn something important about a student's life and needs.
Humor is one of the greatest tools for keeping games fun and positive for all.
Never let the students pick sides.
Change game conditions if the game starts to get lopsided.
Bring in a "cool" teenager to play the game with younger students who think they are "too cool" to play.
Allow children to sit out. Most will finally join in when they see others having fun.
Theme your game props and team names to fit the story you are teaching.
Avoid games of pure athletic ability. Always tweak such games to include an element of luck.
Have something a "sore loser" or "shy participant" can do to feel like they weren't left out.
Considering using teens as team leaders who can add a sense of goofy-ness and make sure their team takes winning or losing "tongue in cheek".
Some kids have a bad attitude about competition, winning or losing. Over time, talk with your students about God's definition of winning.
For competitive games, warn the kids ahead of time that the "winners" will get to choose a "prize" but that some of the prizes may be something funny, rather than riches. Over time, your kids will come to appreciate such fun tweaks, and they take the pressure off the competition.
Your suggestions welcome.