Monday, May 16

The Game of Life

This is a HUGE activity. You may want to combine with another ward or two if you have a small youth group. It is a carnival setting with two types of games: the usual carnival type, where kids win candy and little prizes, and church games. In a nutshell, you allow the kids to play the games for about half an hour. As they collect candy and prizes, they will put them in a brown paper lunch sack (with their names on it). After awhile, a leader will start quietly pulling kids out of the carnival and taking them to the R.S. room. They have to leave their bags of candy outside. After all the kids are gathered, talk about the games, and how this "game of life" is like real life.

Here's how it goes: set up a carnival in the gym with things like hoop shoot, bean bag throw, ring toss, you know... fun carnival games- and lots of them. The kids will win candy and silly prizes for playing the games. Make sure that the adults who man these booths are loud, outrageous, and will literally pull the kids to their game. They can even make wagers with the kids for candies or prizes they have won. They need to be over the top! They also should be luring the kids to their carnival games, even taking them away from the "church" games, making fun of them for being at the "church" games, etc.

Around the carnival games, set up the "church" games. These need to be basic- a table and chair with someone quiet attending the game. The person manning the table will not ask the kids to come play. They will wait for the kids to come to them. Games will be things like Seek, name that prophet, name that hymn, Celestial Pursuit, scripture chase, etc. They might even have to wait a minute for another person to come play the game with them. Do not let the kids try to coerce others to come play these games. Just wait patiently. The kids will get nothing for playing these games. Just a smile from the attendant.

When the kids are all in the R.S. room, and their candy has been taken away (they'll get it back later, which is why their names need to be on the bags), have someone give a talk about how life is like a carnival: all loud, full of fun and games, with people willing to grab them and try to get them to play - leading them away from the "church," getting them to give away what they have for more and more of what they think they want. Tell the kids that they will collect a lot of things in life (money, cars, homes, "toys") but in the end, they can't take it with them. The church is always there, waiting for them to be part of it. The church won't force you, coerce you, or give you things to make you come to it. The church is always "in the world, but not of the world," and you'll find it amidst the crazy carnival of life, quietly waiting for you to take advantage of what it offers. In the end, it's the blessings we get from our membership in the church, our testimonies, our families, and our relationship with the Savior that we take with us.


Carnival Games


Jackie Foulger said...

The carnival of life game is the worst activity I have ever seen the mutual play. On all levels, this game teaches misguided information to the youth and is supported by good leaders.
Here is what is wrong with this game.
1. We send kids to mutual to sometimes have fun. Sometimes having fun means being loud (like a volleyball game or a swimming party). It is confusing when, in the carnival of life, we "reward" them for seeking out only the quiet, religious, soft spoken games. Only the kids who have this game figured out will go to the quiet games and be pious.
2. This is in no way like life and a beehive or deacon age child can't figure out the difference since they think in concrete terms. They get candy for playing games and then it is suggested that the loud games were "not like our church or testimony." Maybe a young scout age boy doesn't like quiet games. We, as adults know that there is "candy" out there that is o.k. and having a quiet testimony is o.k. too.
3. Guilt is the driving force at the end of the activity. Should we send kids to Mutual to feel guilty when they are so wonderful and don't need to feel that guilt? In the carnival game the kids are told that you won't be coerced to do good the church is quietly there for them, yet THEIR leaders are trying to get them to play the loud games. Have you seen the eyes of a nonmember or less active child when they find out they were having fun, but being quiet was the cooler thing to do at mutual tonight. The better best choices in this game are highly subjective. Frankly, the quiet games suggested in the "carnival" are not very fun compared to the "loud games and the candy." That isn't right. The church is fun and families and the church sometimes make noise. We laugh!
4. It is not doctrinally sound. Christ does not love someone more because they chose a "better, quieter, church oriented" game. We can have it all. Fun and spirituality and He loves us all. Some people make better choices (more candy, and less candy) in life, but this game is a poor representation of that.
5. Ditch this poor example of true, quiet membership in the church vs the "evils" of the world. Find a temple and go there with the youth.
Shame on short sighted leaders for needing a "fun" activity for Mutual.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. This is a great way to show the vices of the world and how they are hidden in everyday things. The Savior taught with parables and this is nothing more than a live action parable. Let the kids live the parable just like we let them live the experience of a pioneer trek, learning what it was like to be a pioneer. We let them suffer a little to help them feel a glimpse of just how hard it was for the pioneers without the kids getting hurt like the pioneers did. This activity gives them a safe way to see what it will be like if they choose the vices over the virtues. IE kissing booths instead scripture chases. Without them suffering the real lasting effects of making the actual choices but still seeing the outcomes, the consequences the will come once this life is over.

Anonymous said...

Someone did this activity for us in my youth, and it was terrible. Some girl pawned off all her "bad" tickets on me (we used tickets instead of candy) just before an angel took me away. I ended up in the Terrestrial kingdom. It taught me that others could pawn their sins off on me, and that my leaders felt I was only "second best." For a kid who had just gone through an emotionally abusive environment (in sports), this was devastating. Teenagers already know the plan of salvation, and this doesn't really drive any of that home.

Also, as Jackie mentioned before, fun is very much a part of this life. Reverence is too. There is a time and a place for both. In a carnival-type setting, fun comes natural so it's hard to get into the more reverent activities.

If you feel you must do a carnival, instead have the youth serve the children. Each class could put together a booth so the children can go around and win prizes and have fun. This gives them the opportunity to plan something and serve someone. Or, if you're trying to teach the plan of salvation, put something together more like the game of "Life" where they have choices they can make along the way along with prizes they can win. You can still do the judgement thing at the end (or part-way through), but it will be more obvious to them what concept you're trying to teach from the beginning, and less chance of someone pawning off their stuff. (There should also be opportunities for them to "repent" at any time by turning in all their bad marks.)