by Kurt Goble
The chaos is organized. The spontaneity is planned. The lesson is prepped. But your preteens will not notice. They will be too busy having a blast during this experimental lesson in resolving conflict. Preteens love the spontaneity and excitement of this event.
This is one of my favorite preteen events. The sleepover is designed for a group of ten to eighty students, but you can make adjustments for larger or smaller groups. It is a fellowship and discipleship event, designed to build relationships between students, connect them to the church and help them learn something about resolving conflict. It will work differently according to your facilities and volunteer staff, but I will share how it plays out in my ministry setting.
The sleepover is actually billed and promoted as two simultaneous events. We do not call the even Gender Wars. We plan a “Boy’s Night” sleepover in one area of the church and a “Girl’s Night” in another area. The boy’s event is advertised as a night of pizza, soft drinks, games and movies. For the girls, we advertise a low-key evening with dinner, movies and baking cookies. When our students arrive, they are greeted in separate places by separate volunteers who are leading “separate programs.” Little do they know that their paths will cross in fun and exciting ways throughout the evening.
Without the knowledge of our preteens, the volunteers who are working with the girls and boys have met for over an hour beforehand. We have reviewed the schedule and planned out every step of the way. We have discussed how we will stay in communication via text messages. We have coordinated our plans for who will go where, when they will go and what routes they will take. Everything is carefully planned. But the kids will never know it.
The First Strike
When the boys check in, they are told to leave their sleeping bags and pillows in the lobby. Thirty minutes later the boys will be downstairs eating pizza.
Meanwhile, the girls are at the opposite end of the campus finishing dinner, when one of the volunteers has an idea, “Hey girls. You know how the guys are sleeping over too? I just saw all their stuff in the church lobby. Let’s go hide it in the kitchen! Then we can leave a note saying they have to do something for us if they want to find out where it is!”
Another volunteer suggests, “Let’s make them sing us a song!”
At this point the girls are really excited. They make the “ransom” note, put it in the lobby and move the boy’s bags to the kitchen; running and giggling the whole time.
When the boys finish their pizza, they are told to go grab their bags and bring them downstairs. Of course the boys come back two minutes later without their bags. One of them is holding the note. They are excited. Jumping up and down, they exclaim, “The girls took our stuff! We have to sing a song to get it back!”
Boys Strike Back
We decide what to sing, and practice it a few times and then head off to find the girls. There is lots of laughter as the boys sing to the girls. After the performance, they tell us that our stuff is hidden in the kitchen.
But on the way to retrieve the guys’ things, I have an “idea.” I share it with the boys and they get ready for their revenge.
I show up by myself in the girls’ area five minutes later. “Hey girls! Where did you really put our stuff?”
“It is in the kitchen.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is, we left it there, we promise!”
“Okay. You will have to show me, because I looked and it is not there.”
The girls lead the way to the kitchen and when they step in, the boys ambush the, with Nerf guns (silly string or squirt guns work as well. Just be prepared to clean up afterwards).
The girls run out and, of course, begin to plan their lighthearted “revenge.”
The evening continues with a series of harmless pranks. Leaders are planting ideas in the students’ minds while squelching ideas that might not be so good. As the boys play their games, and the girls make their cookies, they intermittently go back and forth “getting” one another. We will send a couple boys to sneak in and turn off the lights in the girls room the girls will put marbles in the boys pillowcases. The boys will jump out and startle the girls as they make their way to another area. All the pranks are harmless, fun and coordinated by the volunteers and staff.
Finally it is time for bed. At least that is what the students think. Leaders announce to the students that it is time to get ready to go to sleep. When kids are quieted and in their sleeping bags, it is a great time to have an “impromptu” discussion.
“That was fun wasn’t it? It was like our own little war between us and the boys/girls!”
“What was your favorite part of the feud?”
“What was the best trick we did to them?”
“What do you think is the best one they did to us?”
“Okay so that was fun. But have any of you ever been involved in a real feud, where someone kept doing mean things to you and you just kept it going? (Encourage the kids to share their stories about people they struggle with)”
“Real feuds are not much fun are they? This makes me think of a couple of feuds in the Bible. One of them happened when Paul was upset with Peter. Peter was not treating some Christians as well as others, and this made Paul angry. We can see what happened in Galatians 2:11.”
Galatians 2:11, NIV: When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
“How did Paul handle the situation? (Point out how Paul confronted Peter directly, and stated his problem. He did not complain to others or gossip or treat him badly. He had enough respect for Peter to state his problem so they could work it through together)”
“How can we learn from Paul’s example?”
“There is another story about how King David tried to resolve a feud with King Saul. Saul was jealous of David, and trying to kill him. We are going to read 1 Samuel 24:1-17 to see what happened…”
“How did David resolve his conflict with Saul?”
“How can we repay good for evil?”
After the discussion, a volunteer will have another “idea.” “You know what would be fun? Let’s come up with a peaceful way to resolve our feud with the boys/girls.”
A girl volunteer adds, “Hey let’s take the boys some of the cookies we made.”
Another volunteer adds, “We could make them a treasure hunt with clues to lead them to the cookies. They will think we are trying to get them again, but they will find cookies instead!”
The girls have a great time making clues and hiding them.
The boys decide to share their extra soft drinks with the girls (We happen to have lots of extra cans of soda in an ice chest). They make notes to attach to the ice chest that say things like, “You girls rock!” and “Let’s be friends.” They deliver the ice chest to the girl’s area of the building.
After a good night’s sleep, we gather all of the kids for a big breakfast before their parents arrive to pick them up.
For this event to be a success, the concepts and details must be highly adapted and customized to your own church setting. The schedule and pranks will have to work for you. This event requires a lot of preparation and planning. But the experience that your preteens will receive will be well worth it!
Kurt has made more mistakes than anyone in the history of Children’s Ministry. But he loves sharing what he has learned from all those mistakes. For thirteen years Kurt has served as Children’s Pastor at First Christian Church of Huntington Beach. He is a graduate of Bethel College and a curriculum writer. He and Heidi are happily married with two kids.