Gender Wars: The Unexpected Discipleship Game

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Young Men and Women Sitting Face to Face

This is a story about how the youth group at my church doubled in size over just one summer. I am not claiming that it is a foolproof plan, but the previous sentence is a fact – we really did double in size over one summer, and Gender Wars was the main driving force behind that.

Here is a common question: How can I not only encourage the teenagers that I work with to bring their friends but how can I do it in a way that gets them excited about doing so?

My solution? A little friendly competition.

Gender Wars is a summer long battle between the guys and girls in the youth group. You fight to score points for your team all summer. The winning side gets to design the T Shirt for that school year. The losing team not only doesn’t get to pick the shirt but they also have to serve dinner to the winning team.

There are four ways to score points in the competition:

  1. If you bring someone to an event or worship service whom I have never met and you bring them and introduce them to me personally, your team receives 2 points.
  2. If you attend an event outside of our regular worship service, you receive 1 point.
  3. If your team wins a Guys v Girls game at our regular worship service, you will win a certain amount of points depending on the game. For example, one week we did trivia which I told them was worth 25 points and one week we played capture the flag which was worth 15 points per round.
  4. The team that donated the most money by the end of the summer gained an extra 50 points (We had collection jars for each team. Donations went to support one of our church’s ministries).

 

Gender Wars promotes several different aspects of discipleship that many youth groups struggle to actively participate in. Scoring by bringing someone that I had never met led to evangelism and invitation on the part of the youth. Even if they were saying “Come to my youth group and you’ll help score me some points!”, they were still bringing new people to church. Scoring by coming to events beyond Sunday worship encouraged them to come to Bible studies and other events, and scoring by having the most donated money taught a lesson in giving.

Of course if you look at this closely, you may notice that the majority of the way people scored points was by winning games during our regular Sunday night worship. This added to our numbers in an unexpected way. It made sure people came to youth so that their team could have a fair chance in the game. I realized this when I saw the horror on the face of the guys when they counted and saw that there were twice as many girls there than guys that night. The game went on, and naturally the girls crushed the guys out of sheer number and collective brainpower. The next week, word had apparently gotten around because the boys came back and in greater number.

This excitement lasted throughout the summer. People were excited to be at church. They wanted to support their team. They wanted to give to the causes. They wanted to come to the Bible studies. They wanted to bring their friends, and quite often those friends respond to everything going on around them in a positive way.

And that responsiveness kept them coming back.

And that is how we doubled in size over one summer.

Image attribution: Fuse / Thinkstock

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Bill is an ordained Deacon in the South Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He obtained a MDiv from Candler School of Theology with an emphasis on Biblical Interpretation and Religion in the Academy. He spends most of his time watching Netflix with his wife Lindsey and his daughter Arden. Bill currently serves as the Associate Pastor at Mulberry Street UMC in Macon, GA where the majority of his duties center on youth and intergenerational ministries and seeks to help people move from spiritual baby food to solid food.

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