Food Games, Fart Jokes, & Youth Ministry

Food games are the “Fart Jokes” of student ministry meetings. Actually, fart jokes are the “Fart Jokes” of student ministry meetings. Food games are the Adam Sandler of student ministry meetings. They appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Food Games & Fart Jokes

Somehow, instinctively, we know that they will work—they’ll be a hit. But just like every Adam Sandler movie after Big Daddy, we also sense that they are truly terrible. This seems like a good time to say, I’m about to get on a soap box. I’d apologize, but I’m already kind of worked up.

The Temptation to Be Relevant

Henri Nouwen warns Christian leaders of our need to put on a show, because we are terrified of ministering from a place of vulnerability. Appealing to the lowest common denominator is one tool we have for proving our relevance. We demonstrate our power by soliciting a predictable response from students; we know we are good because we can get a laugh, or a teardrop.

This temptation rears its head in the bowels of every Hell house scaring kids towards repentance and in the perfectly timed slick production of our laser-light worship bands. We need to know we can do it, and pandering affirms that we can.

Either our group has kids in it whose homes don’t have all of the food they need or our group has no kids who have ever wanted for food. In the first case, playing food games is callous to their needs. In the second case, we are teaching them to be callous and unaware of the suffering of others.

This is a matter of our insecurity, it’s about us needing to know we are capable. When we follow our insecurity down the rabbit hole, we end up compromising our integrity. Our issues get projected towards our group, and everyone suffers. This is sin—we need to deal with it.

Now, onto the food games.

On The Scarcity of Provisions

I once stopped eating meat for two years because of a John Wesley sermon. He laid out some air-tight logic in a 250 year old argument about the price of bread-corn. It goes like this:

IF:  People (in England) are starving
AND:  The amount of corn being distilled into alcohol contributes to food scarcity
AND:  Scarcity is driving up food prices
AND:  The high price of food is a major factor in people’s suffering
THEN:  For God’s sake let’s stop drinking alcohol, and give the people their corn!

He goes on to make the same argument for a number of staple crops:

Oats are fed to horses, let’s raise fewer horses and replace them with pigs and chickens. Then we can eat oats, pigs, and chickens at lower prices!

I said I was getting on to food games. I am.

Don’t Be Evil

No lie, I was once leading a game where we covered a student’s face in whip cream and threw cheese balls at him. A kid in the back interrupted the game and said “I could have eaten those cheese balls” and he was not kidding. I had no idea our stupid game would affect that kid, I just wanted a laugh. In trying to break down walls, I was building them.

Either our group has kids in it whose homes don’t have all of the food they need or our group has no kids who have ever wanted for food. In the first case, playing food games is callous to their needs. In the second case, we are teaching them to be callous and unaware of the suffering of others.

We play food games because they work, and kids laugh, and memories are created. I get it. I played food games, for years. But the bottom line is wasting food is irresponsible. Find a better way, revel in your vulnerability as a leader.  Shoot higher even if you miss more often. Create memories, make kids laugh, break down walls; but for God’s sake quit wasting food.


About the Author: Tyler Fuller
The only job I have ever pursued is vocational ministry. I spent over a decade doingtyler fuller Young Life and church Youth Ministry. I am now the Missions Pastor at a mega church in the panhandle of Florida (who still gets to work with youth every day!)

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