This is a story I have shared before, but was talking about recently with several people and decided to share it again this Saturday.
There is an old youth ministry game that I am sure most youth pastors have either played while they were in youth group or have played with the youth group they lead. You may call it by another name, But I have always known it as mission: impossible.
Mission: impossible is a great camp style game. It’s not one you would play at any old youth group meeting, but if your having a lock-in, an extended youth night, or a retreat, its a great game to play and your students will love it.
The set up of the game is a big open space with an elevated platform where a leader or two can stand upon and people can ideally walk underneath of. Typically, if we play outside, we try and find two trees fairly close to eachother and have 2 leaders climb up them. If we play inside in our sanctuary, we go into the balcony we have.
The object of the game is for students on two separate teams to make it from a starting point to under the leaders without getting spotted by the leaders atop the platform who are armed with spotlights. When they make it under the leaders, a third leader will be waiting to sign a slip of paper as a ticket for the students, who then have to make it back safely to the starting point without getting spotted as well.
The game works best outside with a lot of advance promotion for students to come all decked out in camo and make a night of it. However, we have primarily had to play it inside with our current group, which means we basically just cover some of the pews with blankets to give more cover, stacks some chairs as pillars to hide behind, set up walls out of tables, etc..
Needless to say, I have played this game with 3 different groups that I have lead, and played it in 2 groups I was a member of in highschool. Only one other time has anyone gotten injured, and that was when I was in 8th grade and there was one of “those” students who decided to start throwing rocks in the middle of the game and hit a leader in the head.
But we played this game some time in January, and I am still hearing stories of different students/leaders trips to the hospital as a result of one little incident.
I had borrowed a new mag-light from someone and decided to use this since my spotlight was running low on batteries. The mag-lite was blatantly brighter than my spot-light, but also enabled me to have a much smaller area that the light would cover, making it much more ideal.
But at one point, I heard running to my left and shone my light, only to shine it right into the eyes of the runner who then tripped over a pack of three girls hiding and falling into a pew somewhat face first. At the same time, another student dove to get behind a pew without getting spotted and went head first into a certain part of one of our leaders.
I believe the end result bruised ribs on at least one of the girls, stitches on another and the blinded boy (not really blinded, just momentarily, just felt to throw that out there), a severe ailment on a certain place of our adult leader (didnt feel like sharing more details with me) and I believe thats it.
The sad, yet somewhat funny, yet somewhat bad part is that none of them told me until at least a week later. Its sad/bad because I had no idea any of them were seriously injured. But its funny because when I asked why they didn’t say anything, their answer was all because they were having too much fun with the game and didn’t want me to stop playing it or never play it again.
I have learned a few lessons from this experience, but what might not make sense to some, is that I still play games. At some point, I will play this game again. The harsh truth for some to take is that yes, some students got injured, but no, that doesn’t mean this game is dangerous or that game are dangerous. I still believe games are one of the key elements of a youth service, for a number of reason, I just hope I never have an experience like this again.