Lee Barnes



What could possibly go wrong when you give everyone two whiffle bats and toss in a ball or two? Have you ever seen a game scroll across your Instagram and you hit yourself in the head wishing you had come up with it first? That’s the way I feel about JohnBall. This game is really the sport of youth ministry royalty. I first saw it about five years ago, and was between youth groups at the time so I convinced a friend of mine to try it at a Fall retreat he was having. (Thanks Rob) They tried it and fell in love with it….and you will too.

The game is essentially dodge ball with one ball and everybody has bats to knock the ball around.

I know. Scary stuff but I have NEVER been in a game with an injury. The official rules/videos can be found at but we play it this way:

Game Play:

  • Begin with everyone in the center of the room with a bat in huddle (see picture).
  • The ref throws a ball into the circle and the game begins.
  • You can only hit the ball with a bat and if you are hit by the ball for any reason you are out.
  • If you hit a person with a bat you are out and are excused from game time for the night.
  • From this point there are two options of specific game play:
    •  Eliminator-All on All- One the ball is thrown in the center the game does not end until there is one winner.
    • Team Play-Divide the group into teams and have them play until one team is eliminated
      Have fun with it! (If you really want to mix it up add a few more balls as the game goes on!)


  • Everybody gets two official whiffle ball bats. You can play with one per person but gameplay is faster with two.  (Pro tip: Spend them money on the bats. Lesser bats will break quickly in the game)
  • The best ball(s) for use are the ones that they keep caged at Wal-Mart and Target. Set some of those free, bounce them down the aisles, and get them to the church.

I have to admit it. I am a spoiled youth worker for many reasons, but the biggest one is I live in an area that is densely populated with active youth ministries and youth workers. For the last ten-plus years I have met monthly with a group of youth workers that have prayed for me and encouraged me in life and ministry. The main group we are a part of was started back around 1992. It has had an ebb and flow members move through it since, but I think there are many reasons that make this group one that has stood the test of time:

In our group there is a healthy respect for youth ministry veterans and a healthy respect for youth ministry rookies. We understand that we must learn from each other. Some of our most “wellseasoned” members are volunteers that have served under many youth workers at churches for upwards of 15 years.

Another great aspect to our group is the idea swapping that goes on. We have annual meetings about discipleship/self-care, games (A Highlight!) to Medical/Release/Covenant forms to “How to exactly work Google Forms…” and we all walk away with new ideas of what to do…..and what not to do sometimes. During these times of sharing I am amazed what aspects of ministry have stood the test of time and the trends that have not. The youth workers and volunteers new to our group breath new life in our group as they share new ideas and concepts while the veterans bring constant concepts that have been engaging youth for years.

The BEST aspect of our group is the “life to life sharing” that has grown naturally out of the group. The times when we set the meeting agenda aside and “do life” with each other. As with a great youth ministry we celebrate holidays, marriages, births, loss of jobs, and the finding of new jobs all together. The ups and downs of ministry life are kindled upon as we gather together.

As you start new things for this upcoming new season of ministry, do something for you. If you are not a part of a group, forming a group is easy. Just reach out to the youth workers in your town/area and offer your church as a place to meet up. (When we meet up the majority of us Brown-Bag it) Pick a topic. Let the sharing begin. You never know what your group will grow into.

Mr. Wesley instructed his pastors to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.  If he were giving instructions to the women and men delivering the Gospel message today he would only have them use one hand, because that is all we need to work a smartphone.  It also leaves the other hand open for the caffeinated beverage of our choice. How do we as influencers of the lives of youth teach and live our lives on and off our screens that guides them to a closer walk with Christ and making wise choices with technology?  To find the answer to this question we need to look to three general rules Mr. Wesley gave his early followers:

Do no harm.

Do good.

Stay close to God’s heart.

Ten words formed by 33 letters that when practiced properly can change the tangible world and the virtual world.

Do no harm.  When this rule is practiced it simply means that a we will pay attention to our words, actions, and silence in order that none of these things will  harm anyone in any way. It can simply mean “don’t hit people” to a child but to a youth using social media can mean, “Before I post, text, Snap, blog or vlog this gif, Meme, picture, idea or quote I will consider if it shows God’s love?”  Another way of putting this can be found in the Movie “Wonder” when we are taught the mantra, “When given the choice to be right or kind, choose kind.”

This practice is not easy.  We can easily pass it off by saying that it requires too much time and attention to the details of our fast-paced on line lives.  But consider this, if we think it cannot be done then it cannot be done but if we believe it can be done with help from God and the community we live in it can be done.  Another thing keeping us from making this type of change in our social media life is we are afraid of the consequences. “What will my life look like or what will my online community think of me if I begin to practice this ‘do no harm’ lifestyle?”  We will begin to look a lot more like Jesus and I thought that was our goal in all things anyway.

Do Good

This rule is best explained by living in a way that we extend hospitality and goodness to all we meet in the tangible word and online.  3 John 11 says, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God.” This is a specific call the Christ followers of that time and to our time in the tangible world and the virtual world.  If what your students are about to post does not involve one of the fruit of the Spirit found Galatians 5:22-23 ( But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law) then it might not need to be posted or shared online. This verse provides a great formula/proof to make sure an online communication fits the nature of a disciple:  Self-Control = Love + Joy + Peace + Patience + Kindness + Goodness + Faithfulness + Gentleness. By living out this formula we put others first in all ways and model the nature true community online.

Practicing this rule online also comes with its hardships.  Giving up the stance of having to be right and putting others needs first presents many obstacles when perceived by the world’s eyes.  What if I get rejected by my friends by showing grace online to someone they deem unworthy. This is a chance you take but it is well worth the taking.  Finally what if we are perceived as having a weak faith and no one looks out for me online. In our youth ministries we are good at cultivating community in the tangible world at church and school.  Our next frontier is cultivating these communities in the online world of social media and other forms of online communication.

Stay Close to God’s Heart  

The final instruction of Mr. Wesley is far easier said than done.  Staying close to God’s heart is the practice of daily habits that keep us in close orbit of God so that they affect how we live offline and online.  The best example I have heard of teaching this point is to have youth take their pulse on their wrist or neck and then read them the story of the Last Supper told in John 13.  John is “reclining” on Jesus’ chest and can hear the very heartbeat of the Savior of the universe. Our own heartbeat echoes HIS. How can we get it to be the same as His.

The practice of this rule is a clash of cultures but is one worth clashing over.  We have to teach our youth, leaders, and congregations that Bible Apps, Devotional Apps, and Online Discipleship tools hold that same value as holding a physical book.  While there needs to be monitoring, reading the Bible on your phone in youth group or small group has to be seen as an accepted practice. Also smartphones should be allowed at youth group so that youth can send pictures out of the great time they are having to friends who do not come and post what they leaders say in times of devotion or small group.  This type of digital evangelism is a great way to reach out to youth who are members and are not attending and to the youth that follow that youth who might not have a church.


This game is best played with LOUD alternative Christmas music like Lost and Found’s Christmas Album or Relient K’s Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand.  Yes, it is old school, and that’s why it rocks!  Here are the basic instructions, step-by-step.

  1. Divide your group into two sub groups and make a circle of chairs for each group with one chair absent for the total number in the circle.  Then the game is on.
  2. Blast the music and have the groups rotate around the circles until the music stops.  At that point everyone tries to sit down.  As they say in sports, “let them play .”
  3. There will be one person left standing and that person is out.
  4. Then pull another chair…..and so on.
  5. Play until there are two players left in each of the circles then combine the groups and play until there is a single winner.

Variations to increase the fun:

  • Try playing with blindfolds… takes the “full contact” to a whole other level.
  • Remove the chairs and use a circle of Candy Canes (or Blow Pops) instead.  Whoever doesn’t pick up  a Candy Cane is out.
  • Turn the chairs facing the middle, but keep the line on the outside so that they have to climb over the chair to get to it.
  • When you divide into sub groups at the beginning divide them by gender or by Middle School and High School.
  • NEVER forget to encourage your adult leaders to play the game.

But wait, there’s more!

To finish out the game, or your lesson for the night, play “I Celebrate the Day” from Deck the Halls, Bruise our Hand.  It is one of the BEST contemporary Christmas songs to get youth talking about what they believe about the Christ coming as a baby at Christmas.

Ready, Set Quiz!  We have the perfect opener for your Sunday School Class this week.  This is a Christmas Quiz that will test your group’s knowledge of what of the Christmas story comes from the Bible and what comes from somewhere else.  Need a lesson too?  We’ve got your back:  here’s two quick Christmas discussion lessons.

  1. Christmas has always been celebrated on December 25th. True or False
  2. What mode of transportation did Mary and Joseph use to get to Bethlehem?
    1. Walked
    2. Donkey
    3. Joseph’s Carpentry wagon
    4. None of the above
  3. When Mary became pregnant, she and Joseph were married. True or False
  4. When Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary were married. True or False
  5. What was said when Joseph talked to the innkeeper?
    1. No Room in the Inn
    2. There is this stable in the back
    3. A and b
    4. None of the above
  6. The actual birth of Jesus took place in a…
    1. Barn
    2. Cave
    3. Manger
    4. Unknown
  7. In the Bible, what animals witnessed the birth of Jesus?
    1. Cows, sheep, goats
    2. Cows, donkeys, sheep
    3. Various barnyard animals
    4. None of the above
  8. How many angels actually spoke to the shepherds?
    1. A “multitude”
    2. One
    3. Five
    4. None of the above
  9. The “Star in the East” was seen by whom?
    1. Three Kings
    2. Mary and Joseph
    3. Shepherds
    4. None of the above
  10. A “heavenly host” is defined as?
    1. An angel choir
    2. An angel army
    3. The angel at the gate of Heaven
    4. The angel in charge of catering in Heaven
  11. The angels said what to the shepherds:
    1. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
    2. “Alleluia”
    3. “Unto us a child is born…”
    4. “Get ready…”
  1. What was special thing does the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
    1. A star over Bethlehem
    2. A baby that does not cry
    3. A baby in a stable
    4. None of the above
  2. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
    1. The angel
    2. Caesar Augustus
    3. Herod
    4. Mary’s Mother
  3. The Holy Family went to Egypt because…
    1. To show him the sphinx
    2. A dream said to do it
    3. To be taxed again
    4. They did not go to Egypt
  4. What was the exact number of wise men that came to see Jesus? ___

Answer Key

#1 False #2 D.Bible does not say #3 False. See Matthew 1:18 #4 False. See Luke 2:5. # 5 D. No conversation with an innkeeper in the Bible. See Luke 2:7. # 6 D. Not enough Biblical information. See Luke 2:7. #7 .D The Bible doesn’t specify. # 8 B See Luke 2:9. #9 D The wise men did (they were not kings). See Matthew 2:2 #10 B #11 A See Luke 2:14. #12 D See Luke 2:12. #13 B See Luke 2:1, 4 #14 B See Matthew 2:13 #15 No one knows. See Matthew 2:1