The 'Aha' Moment
It was time for the next session to start, but our speaker was in another room with a student and the group leader, giving some additional counsel. The rest of the middle-school group was getting restless. Our five minute water break had already stretched into ten minutes (an exasperating length by any grade-school standard). A few more minutes and we’d lose their focus.
“What do we do?” One of the staff members asked me.
Would you know what to say at this moment? For some people, this is the kind of scenario they live for--it puts them on an accelerated energy high. Others, are sweating profusely just thinking about that first paragraph. I tend to lean towards the second group of people (not by much, just enough that my stomach flutters a bit in these types of situations). However, I’ve learned that with preparation you can be equipped to know exactly what to do in these times.
“Divide everybody into two teams,” I said and made for my backpack.
I pulled out two rolls of tubular webbing and with a water knot in each made two Raccoon Circles. From there the games began. Shortly afterward, the speaker and group leader were back and we got back on track with the evening’s program.
In this occasion, we were able to take a situation that would have resulted in bored Middleschoolers wondering why they had to be here and turned it into an interlude of engaging activities that served to create memories and strengthen group dynamic. All it took was two 15ft strands of tubular webbing and a short list of games that I always keep in mind for moments like this.
It can be a scary moment when a snag happens in your program. That’s why it’s so important to have a short list of games that can be played at any given moment to buy time and keep the group engaged. You may already have games coming to your mind that could form just such a list, things like Ninja, Mafia, Themed Charades. Those can work. The important thing is that they are games that you yourself are interested in--the facilitator’s tone sets the tone for the group.
I have two major resources I pull from to make (and continually refresh) my list. They are Jim Cain’s “Find Something To Do” and “The Revised and Expanded Book of Raccoon Circles” by Jim Cain and Tom Smith. The first book is nice because it primarily describes games that require no props; the second is nice because you only need one backpack of raccoon circles to play around 200 games.
The game I played in this scenario is called “Grand Prix Racing” and can be found in this free PDF from Teamwork and Teamplay.
Raccoon Circle Activities
I walked into the room with my bag of supplies. Sitting it on the ground, I reached in and pulled out a soccer ball and asked, “What is this?” Everyone exchanged a few quizzical glances before cautiously replying, “A soccer ball?”
“Not quite,” I responded, as I placed the ball on one side of the Sunday school room. “This is an egg of the rare Giant Texas Lizard. It’s eggs look like this simply for camouflage. We’ve been tasked to assist in the saving of this poor little Giant Texas Lizard egg. Specialists have determined that a very localized climate change is coming to this side of the room (pointing to the side where the ball is deposited). It will kill the baby Giant Texas Lizard within this egg. We need to move it across the room to this synthetically modified organic reproduction Giant Texas Lizard nest (points to the other side of the room where towel has been arranged to look like a nest). Now, this egg is extremely fragile, so it cannot be touched or handled by humans. We’ve been given a special material (produces the raccoon circles) to use in the moving of this egg. What we must do is use this material to move the egg over to it’s new nest without touching it or letting it touch the floor! Everyone has to be involved in the solution. Go!”
Groups will often build a sling to carry the ball or a road to roll it down. My team went with weaving a sling and carrying the egg to its new home. Afterwards, my group decided they could accomplish the task with one single raccoon circle so I let them try this as well (they also succeeded in that).
After some further discussion, I could see that they had enjoyed the activity but were struggling to see how this had anything to do with Scripture (since that’s kind of what Sunday School is about).
In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul encourages Timothy to hold to “sound doctrine” when sharing with others the teachings that Paul had imparted to him. When we seek to communicate with others about God it is imperative that we do so through sound doctrine, so that we do not give a false representation of God. This was the core idea I was trying to communicate with my college age Sunday school class. I wanted to bring this lesson to their minds through the use of experiential learning. So I used the game described above which I tweaked from the game called “The Giant Texas Lizard Egg” from Jim Cain and Tom Smith’s “Book of Raccoon Circles” page 32. (Others may know this game as “Toxic Waste”)
“We see in 2 Tim 1:13-14 that Paul was impressing on Timothy the importance of sound doctrine in sharing biblical truth. (I walked over to the place the egg had started at) Paul had given this knowledge to Timothy (pointing to the ground where the egg had been) and now wanted him to pass it on to others (pointing to the other side of the room where the egg now rested). However, Timothy needed to use sound doctrine (holding up a raccoon circle) to share these teachings otherwise he may (putting a hand on the egg) put his own ideas into it, or (drops the ball on the ground) may drop things along the way.”
-1 bowling ball (I used a soccer ball)
-Any number of raccoon circles (fifteen foot length of tubular webbing, or just rope)
Move the ball from one end of the room to the other without touching it or letting it touch the floor.
-Cannot touch the ball
-Ball cannot touch the floor
-Everyone must be involved in the moving process.
Riley Peak grew up in Ocoee, TN. His love for experiential learning as a tool for sharing God’s Word with others was kindled at the local camp he grew up attending. Since his teen years, Riley has been crafting environments and lessons where people can learn Biblical truths in an interactive way. He is the Director of Edgeway and currently lives in Cleveland, TN.