I have fond memories of my church youth group from when I was a teenager. My mom would drop me off every Wednesday evening at church for two hours of games, laughter, and Bible study. To be honest, I looked forward to the games as much as the Bible study. We’d kick off our time together with ultimate frisbee or charades, dodgeball or a card game. No matter what we did, there were always two rules: 1) everyone had to participate, and 2) the game had to be fun. By the time we got around to reading and studying the Bible, our cheeks would be aching from laughing, and our hearts and minds were primed to go deeper.
The games we played at youth group were the gateway for developing deeper bonds of trust and respect with one another.
I look at adult Christians now, myself included, and often wonder: Why don’t we play together more often as a church? Where did all the laughter and the fun go?
Somewhere between growing up, having jobs, and starting families, church became far more serious. For many of us, the games and jovialty of life together became replaced with a mundane checklist of teaching, preaching, discipleship, and evangelism. Now, everything from Sunday mornings to mid-week small groups and outreach initiatives are all work and no fun.
I don’t want to sound reductive. I know that the life of a church is complex. But part of me wonders if one of the reasons why we have so much fighting and divisions in the church today is because we’ve lost our ability to play together.
Our God is a playful God, and in shaping us in His image, He created us to be playful too. In the book of Ecclesiastes, it states, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15). God intended for us to take time to eat good food and drink together and just laugh until our bellies ache. God designed life to be full of joy. We were created to take intentional breaks from our work to be together, play, and have fun.
The Christian life, and by extension Church life, was always meant to be surprising, funny, and even, dare I say, at times silly. As Pastor Ondrej Szturc from Evangelical Christian Fellowship in the Czech Republic once said, “One of the signs of a healthy community is laughter and the ability to have fun together.”
Many of us feel burnt out these days. We’re tired and weary of each other and even the church at large at times.
What is the way forward?
Yes, we need the fellowship of Sunday morning services. Yes, we need to be taught and nourished by God’s Word through sermons and Bible studies. But what if the path forward for healing and deeper bonds also included a commitment to playing together more?
Perhaps you could invite a family from church over to play a board game. Maybe you could organize a weekly movie night or nature walk and offer an open invitation for folks to come as they can. You could also invite church families into your own personal celebrations. Birthday parties and cultural holidays are simple, easy ways to get to know folks better, while just kicking it over a delicious cold drink and some cake.
When we grow distant from one another, the remedy just might be food, games, and laughter. When a church is hurting (or when you personally are hurting), perhaps the best step forward is to cancel the regular program or meeting and just find someone to go out for coffee with. In the spirit of Ecclesiastes, we can pray for God to use that warm cup of coffee and perhaps a funny story (or maybe even a card game!) to be the medium to reconnect with a fellow brother or sister in the Lord.
Who knows if God might use that Saturday afternoon grill out to begin healing ethnic divides in your community. Who knows how God might use a game night to begin the work of reconciliation between two individuals or families who have grown apart. God can use a bowling match or a pool hang out or a cooking class to help fellow co-laborers in the gospel to also become friends.
Play is essential for us as human beings and as fellow believers on mission to live life together. The more ways we can find to laugh together, the healthier and happier we will be as we seek to advance God’s kingdom together.
Ruth Mills says
I love this! You are so right! I recently shared a meal with a friend who had been estranged from our friend circle. No deep conversations or dissecting why she become estranged just joy in a meal together after years of not seeing each other.
My husband & I also double dated with a former pastor & his wife just to be together. His being a former has wounds & controversy attached. Again we were with them to enjoy their company not question the whys of the hurts or what’s next for them. Some other friends were disappointed in us we didn’t grill them about their future but we did not feel compelled that that was needed, especially for them. The fun we had & future time together planned, proved our approach to be correct. Thank you for encouraging us! I am amen-ing every word!
I agree with what you did. It doesn’t matter the why. Those people just needed the companionship. Good that you did that!
Love this! Thank you, Michelle. Yes, definitely had fu. Times in youth group — as youth, then advisors. We established a bond through faith and fun during that season. I miss that!
A resounding AMEN!
Melissa Ens says
Yes!!!!! I love this, Michelle. I think this has always been true (yet neglected) and after the last couple of years it’s more critical than ever in our churches, communities, and families. Help us, Lord! Thanks for the encouragement!
BC from BC says
What a refreshing reminder to be present in these trying and uncertain times. Thank you for the encouragement to be there for one another! Our extended family, my extended family that have been there for me more times than I can count. Love this and encourage everyone to cling onto God’s promises, grace and peace.
Linda Ergo says
I think you are right. I also went to a very fun youth group as a teenager and one of those kids who was the pastor‘s daughter is still my dear friend today. I am now 65 years old.Having fun as adults and doing certain things was always out of bounds in my church. No criticism there but life could be very austere.
We both struggle with boundaries as far as being OK to have fun.
Thank you for what you wrote, I think you are totally right!
Pearl Allard says
Well this was refreshing! Thank you for sharing these thoughts! You’ve got my wheels spinning…
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Michelle very true what you wrote. I see so many churches being geared to young people. Do things like youth club Brownies Boys and Girls Brigade. They make it interesting to go to Sunday School at at the end of the Sunday School year. They have a bus trip away for the day. It lots of fun. Parents come too. Then when or young teenaged people and young adults get to the age they are too old for theses things. They become very disinterested in most churches. As they find them boring. Going to Church on Sunday no fun as they most of them find the sermon goes over there head. It just boring. They just don’t go or want to go. Parents will not make them go. So they stay at home. This were Churches like this need to change. Some do have a youth fellowship. For young people and young adults. To try keep them focus. They need to make them interesting and fun for all young teenagers and young adults and Adults. Or you could see the teenagers and young adults. Going in the ways of the world. Finding things there move appealing. Than their own Church. They would our young teenagers and young adults tell you that. Why should I go to be board. You not blame them. So we all have to pray for our Churches that they become places that are fun for young teenagers and young adults as well as adults. So as everyone enjoys going. Have fun in them for all ages. I found Church when I came to that age that all they had for me when younger. I got to big. Couldn’t go any more. Very boring. That I didn’t go that often. It pleased me my parents were not saved and still my Father not. Didn’t go that often if at all. So that got me out of going. So I was happy. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Stacey E. says
I love what you wrote. It is spot on. Blessings and Joy to you
Ariel Krienke says
This was such a great reminder. We can have fun as adults in God’s word. It’s great to find others to celebrate life with. Thank you my sisters.
Nancy Ruegg says
You are so right, Michelle, and offer many possibilities for increasing the joy of the brothers and sisters around us. Laughter is highly therapeutic for body, mind, AND soul. Play on, one and all!
Beth Williams says
Growing up youth time was Sunday night. We started out with youth choir, then play time, supper, & finally Bible lessons. Enjoyed playing things like egg toss, dodge ball. We even had “youth week” during the summer. We would do some service tasks to help people out & also play other games. One time we played treasure hunt. We were given clues & had to be driven around to find the items. We got to know each other & have fun. People think adults can’t have fun. We have work to do, children to raise, etc. Like you said Jesus knew how to have fun. He was at a wedding & turned water into wine “just to keep the party going” as Mark Lowry says. Let’s go out & have some fun.