Getting teenage boys to discuss repentance might be a terrible idea, but I figured “why not give it a go?”
We got mixed results, but the best takeaway was that getting out of your comfort zone is awesome — and how you get opened-up to greater things than yourself. If you’re thinking about tackling the idea of the Kingdom of God and how to open people up to it, this is the topic worth broaching. All of the games we played were about getting people as far outside of their comfort zones as possible. Our guys aren’t much into sports stuff at all, so we ended up playing some of the best and most obscure arcade sports games out there.
Wayne filled in for Vince as my assistant since Vince had family stuff to attend to. He picked up Tyler because Tyler was so committed to coming, but lacked the automobile to make that possible without walking the five miles to my house. Wayne was able to pick up Tyler while he was less than halfway to my place at least. Alex Carter, Alex Hively, Jason, Seth, Greg, and Tim all made it over to my place without attempting to walk five miles.
We asked questions that explored the idea behind that unattractive word, “repent.” First we asked,
1. Can you name a game or experience you thought would be lame that turned out awesome?
Greg said GAMECELL. He really didn’t think it would be fun. But he’s been here he could since he first came. Wayne said our church, of which he’s now the pastor. Seth said the 18 South Youth Center, which he absolutely loves and comes to every chance he can. Jason also said GameCell.
2. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Repent?”
You could tell by their faces that it wasn’t everybody’s favorite word. I shared how it made me think of people waving signs and yelling at passers by. Tyler provided a textbook answer of turning from sin and turning to God. Wayne tried to use a videogame metaphor of coming to a dead end and going to look for another path. I mentioned how we do that all the time in Fallout 4 to find our ways through dungeons. Tim took this and told several Fallout 4 stories. Then he asked if we were playing Fallout 4 tonight. Jason eagerly asked to do so, too. I told them we did that last time and that this was about something different.
TEXT MASTER: Mark 1:15.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1: 15
We made Seth the TEXT MASTER who read the verse in question before we asked our crew what they thought this meant. Jason and Greg literally melted into their seats and hid their faces because they were so not into this part. Reading this line from the Bible didn’t seem to really spark any imagination in the rest of the crew, either. If I could have gone back, I would have just taken the text and told the story using all my joy, passion, and gusto around the text, trying to frame it for the guys. But like I said, I forgot to do that. Since I couldn’t seem to get them to engage with the Text, we just moved on to the next question.
3. Can you tell a story about a time you got outside your comfort zone?
Greg shared the time he went camping with our youth center crew. He was really not sure about the whole camping experience, but he loved it. Tyler talked about going out to Iowa for trucking classes and getting his CDL. Alex and Tim also had great stories to share.
4. How might getting outside your comfort zone open you up to an alternate world – a greater reality?
Tyler mentioned how trucker school was far and wide outside of his comfort zone, but he was able to make strides in developing the career path he wanted. It opened him up to a world of career paths outside of making pizza. Greg mentioned how GAMECELL was like a thing that really opened him up to new games and new topics he wouldn’t ever think about or discuss otherwise.
Our games stuck to this theme of repentance, or “getting away from your comfort zone.” For that, we picked games that seemed the least likely to be things that they’d love. This was our list:
- Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings
- tennes (itchio)
- The Beginner’s Guide
- Minecraft Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series
- Ninja Pizza Girl
- Invisible, Inc.
- OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood
We played Super Mega Baseball first to get as many people playing as possible. The crew opened up to the idea of a baseball game once they figured out who was actually batting and hitting. It was a little hard for everybody to pick up what what going on, and how the fielding worked. But when they got it, everybody really really got into it. The whole room held their breath when Alex Carter hit the ball really hard. Then when it went over the fence, the room erupted in cheering, even those of us who got scored on. It was intense. And a good time.
Most of our crew isn’t super into Minecraft, but those that are didn’t know how a “Story Mode” would translate into a gamecell experience. I assured them that this was nothing like playing regular Minecraft. At first, seeing the boxy characters talking felt weird, but the voices drew us in and got us into the story. Tim took the controls and did a great job fielding the input from the crew on which dialogue choices to make. We played to the intro credits scene, and by then, they all wanted to play more and see where it went. But I assured them it was the best place to stop in a pretty long game. A few days later, Tim asked me, “can we play more Minecraft: Story Mode?” This, from a guy who “doesn’t like Minecraft.
When most of the crew thinned out, we played the plainest looking game about one of the most boring-looking sports, tennes (“tennis”). The simple graphics and old sport framework conceal this incredible smashy-fun game of one-on-one that won-over a few key players. It was a fun and fast way to end the evening on a great note.
Debrief & Reflections
I’m not sure if the “repent” thing worked or not. But that’s kind of the thing with Jesus’ delivery of the concept too. I doubt the idea gets through to anybody when they first hear it. I think it’s one of those things that just grows after being around Jesus for a while. You only come to understand the full gravity of turning away from comfort when you’re on the other side. I think that idea is one of GAMECELL at large. It’s why a lot of our guys thought the idea was lame until they came and tried it. And I think that’s part of formation at large. So even though there were lulls in the evening, I think the idea of “REPENT NIGHT” is worthy. And it grows within folks after experiencing it.
Considering a REPENT NIGHT of your own?
Here’s a revised outline that considers what we learned from the evening and tries to improve:
- Can you name a game or experience you thought would be lame that turned out awesome?
- Jesus started his ministry saying “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15) What do you think he meant by “repent?”
- Share a time you got outside your comfort zone.
- How might getting outside your comfort zone open you up to an alternate world – a greater reality?
Games for REPENT NIGHT should be very different from what your crew is used to, but still focus on the two things that make for great GAMECELL games: (1) Great group games to play together (2) Great solo games for groups to watch and experience together. We played arcade sports games like Super Mega Baseball and tennes since our crew isn’t really into sports. And Minecraft: Story Mode worked great because point-and-click adventure games are super captivating for a group who can made choices together. Other adventure games can be a great pick for this one too such as Broken Age, Her Story, and The Shivah. These games and this topic is appropriate for folks of all ages.