There are a few questions I’ll always answer yes to. Do I love my wife and daughter? Do I want a piece of cheesecake? And do I want to play a board game? Anyone who knows me knows that I love to play board games, and I’m always eager to teach someone a new game. One of the reasons this is the case is that I’m certainly a nerd, and board games fit that part of my personality. But there are a few other reasons I love tabletop games (both board and card) so much, and I think there’s some application to youth ministry. Allow me to share.
Board Games and Why You Should Care About Them
I’m not sure exactly what your experience playing board games is, but I’d be surprised if you’ve never played a game in your life. While I’m a big fan of designer board games, I’m not one of the pessimistic gamers who looks down on people who like the mass market games. So whatever level of board games you enjoy, I hope these reasons resonate with you. (And I’ll be using the term board games for simplicity, but I mean to include all kinds of tabletop games)
- Board games get people together to do something in person
One of the most common grumbles of the culture today is that people are always on their cell phones. (This is usually aimed at younger people, but people of all ages are guilty of this) One possible solution is to get people together to play a game. Do you want to get your family together and off of their phones? Play a board game. Do you want to get the teenagers in your life off of their phones? Play a board game. It’s a little interesting that sometimes people will look down on board games as if they’re a trivial, childish thing, and then they’ll play a game on their phone. Get people together, in person!
- Board games can bring all different kinds of people together
This reason is connected to the previous one. Board games are not only good for getting people together to do something in person, but they can also be good for getting people together who would not normally be in a group. Now this is not true of all games – if a game is too complex or competitive, it might have the opposite effect. But the available pantheon of board games is so deep and wide that there is a game any combination of people can play together. Board games are an awesome way to build bridges beyond the usual social barriers and can even be a great tool for teambuilding.
- Board games can help us learn and grow
As I’ve been a father for 6 months now, this reason has become more prevalent in my mind. As I look forward to when my daughter can play games, I’m excited to use them to teach her things like counting, planning, strategic planning, etc. In addition to being fun, board games can be a great way for us to learn and grow, and to keep our minds sharp. There’s a reason that some teachers use them in the classroom, and the list of things that can be learned from games is almost endless. This is where I’ll add in my 2 cents about the mass-market games. They can be fun, but are sometimes lacking in this area, especially the roll-and-move games. My encouragement to you is to branch out! Board games are fun, but they can be formative as well.
- Board games are a way for us to celebrate joy and excellence
This post has been a little bit of a departure from the theological, but there is something to be said about how board games are an opportunity for us to see the creativity that God has placed in the human heart. We can see them as a chance to celebrate well, to create joy, to recognize excellence. The design, art, and worlds (like Tolkien, etc.) of some games can be so amazing that they are opportunities to glorify God – in a similar way that we might glorify him because of a literary classic or a masterpiece of film. This might drive a little deeper into how sharply we divide the sacred and the secular, and how we should interact with culture. Either way, board games are an avenue for it!
What does this have to do with youth ministry
As the teenagers in my youth ministry can attest, I love board games and am always getting them to play them. In part because I like board games and enjoy sharing them with others, but also for the reasons listed above. All 4 of those reasons (with the possible exception of the educational one) are absolutely applicable to youth ministry. We want our teenagers to be on their phones less and building relationships with others who are different than them. Board games absolutely can have a place in youth ministry, and I think it can be an awesome thing to see teenagers love games they’ve never heard of before.
So that’s a little bit of the reasoning behind my obsession with passion for board games. In addition to the loads of fun that they are, they have several benefits for our everyday lives and for our youth ministries. If you are not inclined to board games, I would love to recommend a few to you and help you get your toes wet. Drop me a comment below and let’s talk!
I do have a few more general recommendations. Here are some of my favorite games that I’d recommend for newbies-medium level board gamers:
Small World Suburbia Catan King of Tokyo
Sushi Go Party! Pandemic Onitama Ticket to Ride
I also highly recommend The Dice Tower, a series of videos and podcasts about board games (a few of the guys have been youth pastors as well). Also, Team Covenant is excellent, especially in their core values that focus on community. Lastly, if you’re ever curious about anything board games, check out boardgamegeek.com. It’s pretty exhaustive haha.
So, there you have it! If you know me personally, I hope this helps you understand my enjoyment for board games a little more. And either way, I hope this encourages you to look at board games in a new light!