This coming Sunday, BMPC’s Youth Ministry will host our Rainbow Reindeer Games for the second time. During the pandemic last year, we had families begging for something fun and safe for their children to do. This event, Rainbow Reindeer Games, was our solution.
It turned into a gathering of around 50 different teenagers and volunteers, rocking white painter's suits, masks, gloves, goggles, and ridiculous Christmas-themed headbands. They played in Minute-to-Win-It games, competed in silly relays, and finished the fun with an epic 15 minutes of literally just throwing color powder at one another. It was an afternoon filled with laughter, upbeat techno Christmas music (it does exist… though I'm not sure if that's a good thing), and everyone getting to play.
The pandemic has made almost everything more complicated, including our spaces to play together. While we've long known the benefits of play for children developmentally, we've paid less attention to the necessity of play for teenagers and adults. Dr. Hilary Conklin, professor of education at DePaul University, notes how when teenagers "learn through play [it] not only fosters creative thinking, problem solving, independence, and perseverance, but also addresses teenagers' developmental needs for greater independence and ownership in their learning, opportunities for physical activity and creative expression, and the ability to demonstrate competence." And I think that even when youth aren't "learning" in the traditional sense, they still gain those benefits from play. Even for adults, play can relieve stress, improve brain function, stimulate the mind, boost creativity, and improve relationships and connection.
I've long believed that God designed us for relationship. We, as humans, were created to be in community with one another. And after this pandemic, I think I've added to that belief. Not only are we wired for relationship, but we are also wired for play, for the growth, fun, and creativity of play in a community.
I am so excited to put this event on again, now with the help of Jack Liskey, our Youth Director. If you see us running around in reindeer costumes and rainbow capes on Sunday, know that it's not some elaborate dare from one of my associates. Rather, we're leading some of the young people of God in the call of play.