As we think about the new year, resolutions, or goals, come to mind.
Even though this may be truer for adults than for middle schoolers, there is no doubt that these students could use a good mid-school-year check to see how they are doing at following God’s guidance for their lives.
This game will help them get a visual on the importance of how little moves – or steps – in their everyday lives connect with God’s big plans.
-Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry
JUNIOR HIGH GAME: CONNECTIONS
Written by Mike Sheley
Bible: Proverbs 16:9; Psalm 119:105
- Three “Connect 4” Game Sets
- Three extra sets of checkers that are a different color from the two colors in the Connect 4 sets
- Most checkers come in black and red
- Some new game sets for Connect 4 include a yellow set
- If you need a different color for the third set, you can search Amazon or just collect old checkers or purchase some new ones and use paint to make them whatever color you want
- Six Chairs
- Background Music
For the lesson portion, choose two students to read Scripture during the devotion at the end.
Have pre-printed copies of Proverbs 16:9 and Psalm 119:105.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Divide your group into three teams and have them line-up in three single-file lines.
Let each group know which color checker represents their team.
Have a rectangle table set up with three “Connect 4” stands sitting side-by-side.
On each long side of the table, have three chairs with each facing one of the stands.
For this game, the first two people in each line will have a seat at the table.
They cannot sit side-by-side or across from someone on the same team.
The main game here is to connect as many checkers in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally of their color.
Defensively, their goal is to block as many connections from the other two teams as possible.
Players can only use checkers of the color assigned to their team.
When the music starts, they will take turns putting in one checker at a time. You can only drop in one checker at a time. You have to wait for your opponent to drop in a checker before you can add another one.
This all sounds pretty familiar. But, of course, we are spicing things up a bit.
When the music stops, everyone must move one seat to the right.
If you are on the farthest seat on the right, you go to the end of your team’s line and a new person from your team takes the empty seat on the far left.
When the music begins, play resumes.
At the end of the game, the team that has the most connections of four or more checkers of their color in a row will win. If there is a tie, the one with the longest connection(s) in the tie will be the champion.
Say: Ready? Go!
Have someone play peppy music in the background.
Randomly stop the music at intervals of 10-30 seconds.
Congratulate your champion!
Remember to look at all three boards.
Whichever color has the most connections of four or more in a row will be your winner.
If there is a tie, then see which one has the longest connection in a row.
Many of you have probably played Connect 4 before.
But, I doubt any of you have played it like that!
As you know, we’re starting a new calendar year.
For many people, this is a time to set goals or “resolutions” for the new year.
That’s because, for adults, a new calendar year is a big change and a chance for a fresh start.
As students, it may feel like your “new year” happens in the Fall when you start the school year.
So, let’s take this opportunity and view it like a pit stop or half-time.
It’s not the end or beginning of a year for you.
But, it is a good time to check-in and see if the steps you are taking lead you towards God’s best for your life.
Read Proverbs 16:9.
This proverb is a bit of a warning at a time of year where so many people are trying to figure out what they can do.
It’s basically saying that we can make all the plans we want, but God shows us each step along the way.
So that makes me wonder: If I want to follow God’s lead in my life, how do I know which steps he wants me to take?
Think about the game for a minute.
It would have been awesome if I gave you a picture before the game of how the completed stand full of checkers was going to look and you could just drop in your checkers where they needed to go.
However, what if I had even shown you where to drop the checkers for each individual round.
That would have been more like me helping you one step at a time.
Check out this next verse where we find out exactly how God does this for us.
Read Psalm 119:105.
The author of this Psalm, or song, in the Bible says that “God’s Word,” or the Bible, guides us.
He emphasizes it by saying the same thing a little differently – It’s a “lamp to guide my feet” and it’s a “light for my path.”
Some of us wish God gave us a big spotlight.
Maybe you’re an eighth grader and you’ll soon be planning out your schedule for your first year in high school.
Or maybe you’ve just entered middle school.
And a bunch of you are somewhere between.
God doesn’t tell you those kind of big picture plans.
He does help show you how to live your everyday life, one day at a time.
The “lamp” or “light” in this passage is like a modern-day flashlight.
God shows us in the Bible how to live our lives one day at a time so that no matter what our big plans are, we’ll live in such a way that we honor God and help others get to know Him.
Following God’s guidance and making wise choices in our everyday lives is like making connections in the game and getting checkers lined up in a row.
Or you could compare it as a positive version to streaks on social media.
How do you get a long streak of connecting what God wants you to do multiple days in a row?
You spend time in the Bible so that you will be able to see how God is guiding you, one step at a time.
So, let’s commit to at least accomplishing one goal or resolution this year: to spend more time reading the Bible so that we can live more days the way God wants us to.
Close in prayer.
Written by Mike Sheley, who is the Middle School Pastor (5th-8th grade) at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 17 years with most of that time focused on 5th-8th graders.