This week Brad and Brian Sitton, founders of Crowd Control Games, join hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to discuss the value of fun in helping spiritual principles stick.
Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk about the big ideas of kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, Brad and Brian Sitton, founders of Crowd Control Games, join hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to discuss the value of fun in helping spiritual principles stick.
Brian and Brad Sitton
Twin brothers Brian and Brad Sitton are interactive game designers. They founded CrowdControlGames.com in 2006 as a way to share their fun games with the world. From classrooms to churches to corporate events, their products have been enjoyed by such brands as: Walmart, Atlanta Falcons, Chick-Fil-A, NorthPoint Church, Passion, Youth Specialties, BigStuf, NAMB, and Home Depot. Student ministries around the world download their games every week.
Brad’s background is in video content design and Brian specializes in code. In other words, Brad makes it pretty, and Brian makes it work. Brian lives in Joplin, Missouri while Brad makes his home in Atlanta.
In total, they have two wives and nine kids.
DISCLAIMER: If you can tell Brian and Brad apart, you are a better human being than we are. For purposes of these notes, they will be collectively identified as “Sitton.” If you have a burning desire to know which twin actually made which statement, we invite you to visit their web site and heckle them shamelessly.
Kellen sets the bar high with his enthusiastic welcome. But today’s guests, Brian and Brad Sitton from Crowd Control Games, can top it with a pretty wild—
We’re talking about fun, party people. Serious fun!
Mike: In the church, sometimes we have the attitude – “We’re not here to have fun. We’re here to learn about Jesus. This is serious.”
1. Talk about why fun is so important for kids.
Sitton: I hear people say, “the goal isn’t to have fun. They’re here to learn about Jesus.” But fun can be a huge, incredibly useful tool in that process.
If you ask a kid about fun at school, they’ll talk about recess. Fun gives kids a good vibe about a place.
Building relationships is key. If kids are not connected with you, it’s herding cats. Small Group begins when those kids enter. Get on their level. When we start games, play WITH them. Become teammates, mentors, partners. The relationship will increase the value of the rest of your time together.
Gina: As a volunteer, it’s easy to assume a game is there to pacify. But instead it’s there to engage.
Sitton: At school, teachers don’t go play on the playground. Volunteers can feel like they’re in teacher mode. We want volunteers to be mentors, walking with them. We don’t want to just lecture, we want to walk with them.
Brian: You have fun because it shows your passion and draws people in.
Engagement is key. The point of games is to engage your crowd. Get the focus in to something purposeful.
Brain chemistry. As soon as you start having fun, it starts triggering dopamine. It helps you feel good, but it’s also one of the key chemicals that helps you remember things. So having fun actually hard wires you to remember. If you want your students to learn something, you want to pre-prompt their brain. If they’re not learning, they’re not having enough fun.
Gina: The fun factor can feel like a time waster. If you have limited time, the fun factor is usually the first thing to go.
Kellen: As leaders, we don’t want to do the games, because after they play games the kids are crazy and wild. We don’t want to deal with the wired 3rd grader. Leading and hosting a game well and transitioning well helps.
Gina: A lot of adults don’t know how to have fun.
Sitton: That creates a culture of “games aren’t fun.” If you put work into choosing and set up games, then they look forward to it.
What do you want your culture to be? Create an expectation of fun.
Sitton: I’ve heard the argument, “We don’t want winners and losers.” But boy, if you can help kids win well and lose well, that’s a win. “Here’s how to handle those emotions. Let’s practice now so when something heavy happens at school, you have the tools to deal with it.” Winning and losing is a real part of life. Let’s simulate that in a setting surrounded by loving adults.
Sitton: Consider the decline of mental health in America. Studies point back to 2007, the day the iPhone was released. But the real loss is that mental health problems have increased as playground time has decreased. Kids are not playing together and learning the dynamics of coping with each other. Basic social skills.
If kids are already losing fun in schools, why in the world would we do it in our churches? Kids need to have fun and interact. Helping kids process difficult circumstances at a younger age through healthy competition and fun can help them deal with mental health issues later on in high school.
Gina: We’ve taken away competition to protect kids. But when you bring back competition appropriately, you’re giving them a place to lose where the stakes are low. They can learn how to work through it.
Sitton: We don’t need to protect the next generation: we need to prepare the next generation. It’s overprotection that is killing these kids and not preparing them for what they really need.
Mike: We want to create a culture of fun where our kids want to participate. But fun for fun’s sake is not the goal. When you look at the statistics – everything points back to fun being a vital part of ministry for connection and learning.
Scripture constantly talks about having fun and being joyful. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
2. Practically, what does fun look like? How do you host and run a game?
Sitton: Number one: The host must believe in the game.
Sitton: Set the premise. Let them know the kind of game. What zip code are we in? Trivia? Run around?
Then, tell them how you WIN this game. –All you have to do is answer these questions.
Then you can start with the rules. –You have to do it blindfolded, standing on one leg. Give the obstacles.
Then you give them tips: “If I were you, I’d…”
That’s the role of the host. The host wants you to win; they’re not a dictator.
RULES OF GAME HOSTING
- Set up the premise.
- Answer: “How do I win?”
- Give the rules as you go.
Bread crumb instructions. Don’t tell all the rules at once, or you can lose the room. Only tell as much info as they need to get to the next step. Give details on an as-needed basis, as you go.
Make it conversational – not a lecture.
It’s good to have clear teams. If there are two people on stage, divide sides of the room to each cheer for one individual.
The host’s job is to make sure the crowd knows who to cheer for. Facilitate the journey for them.
Draw out the tension in the game: “She only needs three more to win!” Play by play maximizes the journey for the kids.
Kellen: Hosting is vital: managing the crowd, focusing on getting everyone excited about the win. If you’re thinking: “I don’t have this outgoing energy” – find people who thrive on this and teach them these three points.
Sitton: We don’t want to force them to get excited; we want to engage them.
TOOLS FOR CROWD ENGAGEMENT
- Create competition by splitting the room.
- Use a timer to add tension.
- Use a scoreboard to let kids know progress
A scoreboard can be simple – screen or just a white board.
Gina: How much time would you say is an appropriate amount of time to spend in set up on those three points?
Sitton: Each game will be a little different. But if you can say it in one sentence, do. This generation wants to watch more than listen.
I’m going to give instructions as we’re playing. Mario Brothers worked so well because it didn’t need instructions. You learn by experimentation.
You’re hosting as you’re walking them through it. If you’ve got 10 minutes for game time, no more than one minute should be set up. Play is the goal, not them learning a new game.
If they’re not playing the game perfect, let it go.
Don’t change the rules on the fly without practice. That can totally bomb a game.
Brian: We’ve seen a different between games in corporate and ministry settings: corporate will work a huge amount of time to get the script for a two-minute game.
Clarity is kindness. Know the game so you can explain it in two sentences.
3. What’s your all-time favorite ministry game?
Mike: One Arm, Two Arms, None (Crowdcontrolgames.com)
I’ve seen that game played for a decade. Everywhere, kids love it.
Kellen: Freeze Tag, if you have space and environment. It always wins. If you’re frozen, you have to sit. Give them a short time frame. We do it outside.
Gina: Gorilla Man Gun is Rock Paper Scissors with your body.
Head Shoulders Knees and Cup. Whoever grabs the cup wins.
Sitton: Flappy Crowd. (Digital game.) The louder the crowd, the higher the bird goes.
Sitton: For a big family night – Family Feud
For a quick game – The Eliminator
Big gym – Tusker Monster
RPS Dragon – If you beat that person, they join you and make a dragon. The heads of the dragon fight at the end.
RPS Name – If you win, that person becomes your cheering squad and follows you chanting your name.
Mike: Check out crowdcontrolgames.com to find the digital games mentioned in this episode. Also, if you use Jingle Jam (Orange’s Christmas Family Experience), all the games you get come from Brad and Brian.
- Take a few minutes this week to think through your Sunday morning experience. Where is the fun? What could you do to add one more engaging, fun element – or to make something you’re already doing more fun?
- Do a quick refresher on game basics with any staff or volunteers who host games. (Or just sent them this podcast!)
- Set up the premise.
- Answer: “How do I win?”
- Give the rules as you go.
RESOURCES FROM THIS EPISODE
- Brian & Brad’s Website: CrowdControlGames.com