Church Games

800px-ChildrenI’m glad I ceded my usual spot to our guest post this morning because what she had to say about mediation was I think very valuable.  I am not part of the Ordain Women movement and did not attend the walk to the priesthood session.  I do believe that the ordination of women would be a good thing for many reasons.  I hope that it happens in my lifetime.  This week it has been very hard to witness the open conflict between church members online.  It seems that every time I log in I see something that upsets me and my response has been to withdraw and refuse to engage.

When I am unhappy, stressed or depressed often my response is to defuse the tension with humor, often inappropriately timed and unappreciated by others.  Maybe that will be the case today as well. However, I’ve decided to go for it anyway and make a post about the silly games my mother and I used to play in church meetings when we got bored or antsy.  After a week like this, we could all use a good laugh.  Lest you think I don’t have a speck of reverence in my body I will say that in general I pay attention and get things out of my meetings, but we all have our days.  Next time you’re at the back of stake conference sitting on the hard chairs for what feels like eternity, why not play one of the following little gems?

If you had to eat a member of the bishopric, who would it be and why?

This game can really only be played once per bishopric, but it works equally well for the stake presidency, one of the speakers, one of the deacons, someone on our pew etc.  Popular reasons include an analysis of the quality of the meat or who you would miss the least.  It is bad form to let any of them know you play the game.

Cast the musical/film/play of your choice

Do you wish we still did roadshows? Do you think the Elders Quorum President would make a fabulous demon barber of Fleet Street? Why not pick the show of your choice and secretly cast it from amongst the ward members?  What sickly tot should be Tiny Tim? What crotchety High Priest should be Scrooge? This works particularly well if you’re in the choir so you can gaze out at the congregation and seem to be thoughtfully taking notes while you’re actually just blocking scenes.

Symbolism Sleuthery

Have you ever sat through an object lesson in which the teacher ascribed spiritual significance to commonplace items (often around holidays) and you just couldn’t buy it? Instead of rolling your eyes, why not join in the fun? This is a great holiday game and can also be played around the dinner table.  Consider the Easter basket – the purple of the peeps symbolize royalty. The non-biodegradable eggs symbolize eternal life. The search for the Cadbury egg in the midst of all the bulk jellybeans in the basket symbolizes the search for the pearl of great price, or how the pressures of the world distract us from our goals, or how we need to focus on the best things, not just the good.  Instead of bewailing the crass commerciality and thinly veiled paganism of our traditions, why not co-opt them? It makes the tackiest claptrap significant.

The True Meaning of…

This game is closely related to Symbolism Sleuthery.  It seems that every year we get a talk about the true meaning of Christmas.  Why stop there? I vote the next person asked to give a talk in October remind us all of the True Meaning of Halloween.  Remember, if you go the traditional route about remembering the dead, you aren’t getting into the spirit of the thing.  We are like Jack-o-lanterns.  The Lord picks us out of the field, removes what is ucky inside, including the seeds of wickedness and guilt and creates us in a new image to let His light shine from within. (I actually sort of like this metaphor).

The many candy bowls proferred by smiling neighbors represent the philosophies of The World.  Each bowl may contain parts of the Truth, as symbolized by my favorite candy bars such the Snickers of Baptism, the Butterfinger of Prayer or the Twix of Revelation.  Interspersed with these, however, are the Smarties of False Priests, the Mr. Goodbar of Infant Baptism and the Mike & Ike’s of Moral Relativism.  How do we know to choose the right? We go to a house that has only the good candy bars/eternal principles (like my house) without any of the Milk Duds of Apostasy thrown in.

I spy a Nephite

This is simple.  My mom taught us that the Three Nephites always sing in the Tabernacle Choir in General Conference.  Your job is to spot them.

My Terrible Affliction

The scriptures are full of terrifying diseases we don’t really see anymore, like leprosy.  Testimony meeting can also feature descriptions of appalling physical ailments.  What is your terrible affliction? Mine was a scalp infection that consisted of glow-in-the dark elves that run around and keep you awake with their light and their scampering.

Lord of the Rings

Are you as tired as I am of sports metaphors? Your job is to come up with gospel metaphors based on other cultural touchstones, for instance the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Write them on your program and pass back and forth, suppressing giggles as best you can.  Examples might include “follow the prophet, like when Gandalf led the charge in the battle of Helm’s Deep” or “redeem the dead like when they go talk to the dead kings.”  This game carries the added advantage of preparing you to give an original and engaging talk.

What games do you play in Sacrament Meeting?  I hope that the age of texting and phone fiddling has not put an end to more creative ways to keep adults quiet.


  1. I forgot to note that I believe I actually heard that pumpkin metaphor in Relief Society a few years ago. I cannot credit the source as I forgot who said it, but I don’t think that gem came from my fecund imagination.

  2. When my husband was in the bishopric, he and I used to play a version of “testimony bingo” every fast Sunday. We would flip a coin ahead of time to determine who would pick first, and then we would alternate choices until each of us had a list of five people we thought would bear their testimony that day. The guy in our ward who wore a homemade badge because he thought he was a CIA agent was considered “the free space” and was off limits as a choice because he got up first at every testimony meeting. The best part of the game was that it allowed me and my husband to share a little “moment” together from the pew where I sat with our kids across the chapel to where he sat on the stand. That moment could be one of triumph if someone from one of our lists got up to bear their testimony or it could be one of disappointment if someone on one of our lists stood up in the aisle but went out the back to go to the bathroom (or wherever) instead of going up to the stand.

    • Fun! I would have thought it would be testimony cliché bingo — you could probably laminate those cards. It could have fun phrases like “fiber of my being” gratuitous use of the word “even,” etc. That could actually be fun for General Conference too. In our ward we could also add haiku — the Bishop asks us every month to bear a haiku testimony — short and powerful. Often members preface their (long) testimonies with an admission of their inability to be pithy or have a haiku testimony.

    • Ok we TOTALLY played this game growing up, but we made a whole Bingo card. Whomever was conducting the meeting was the free space, since obviously he’d be bearing his testimony. There was a family of rather odd children (we nicknamed then the Herdmans from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”), and scattering them out strategically through your card was always key. We had code names for many of the ward members (Saint Sarah, Mr. Rogers for his doofy resemblance to the children’s show, etc.) we’d use to fill out the rest of the card.

      The hardest part was repressing the urge to yell BINGO! when you’d won. Definitely helped us all through some pretty bleak meetings.

  3. My dad and I always tried to make up inappropriate alternative lyrics to the hymns. My favorite was always the chorus to “Carry On” #255 – “And we hear the buzzards singing.. carrion – carrion – carrion!”

    And then there’s “No toilet paper here” instead of “no toil nor labor fear” … I can’t remember any others at the moment, but we giggled about it often enough that my mom asked to be released as the organist so she could sit with us and keep us in line.

    • We ALWAYS sing “Love at home” as “Home alone.” I sit on the back pew and my friend and I always make up a complex set of hand gestures to go along with hymns that pretty much only the bishopric can see (and the older ladies who sit on the overflow pew in the very back). For some reason the music people in our ward have a love affair with “Let us oft speak kind words” — that hymn should get airing time about once every four years in my book, and we sing it way more often than that. I like it for its hand gesture potential though, with warbling birds and the murmering of cool, pleasant fountains. The more I write the more irreverent I’m realizing I sound…

    • I’m a little late to the party on this one but my friends and I in primary always altered the words to “Love is Spoken Here”. We used to sing “and I am thankful love is smokin’ beer”.

  4. I really love that Jack-O-Lantern metaphor, and the “I Spy a Nephite.”

    When my siblings and I were small, and could not really engage with General Conference, my mom quizzed us on General Authority’s ties: what color they were, which ones we liked, etc.

  5. How I miss sitting with Em and entertaining ourselves with these occupations. Now I am reduced to reading or writing in journals. I will testify that Em’s family actually played all these amusements, and more. Invisible pictures comes to mind, and drawing punny cartoons on the program.

  6. I know this sounds crazy weird, but I used to be in a ward with this funny couple who would play “If Polygamy Comes Back” during boring meetings. They would negotiate and bargain until they could agree on who would be a second wife. Sometimes they’d switch it around and make it about finding a second husband. It was hilarious to listen to them.

    • I just laughed aloud at this, which in my case is a very loud donkey bray of a laugh that has earned me angry scowls in church. I wonder if we’re secure enough to play this game. Certainly I could play matchmaker for other people in the ward. I’m so glad I’m not the only irreverent one…

  7. I. Love. This. Post.

    Your games are far more creative than our’s. My husband recently taught our nine-year-old to add “in the bathroom” at the end of the title of every hymn a few Sundays ago.

    They both had to leave the chapel for a bit to compose themselves after, “The spirit of God like a fire is burning in the bathroom.”

  8. My husband and I take bets on sacrament meeting: we each guess a song (Lord, I Would Follow Thee), a speaker (Sis. Jones), and a subject of a talk (temples!). If just one of us has at least one correct guess, the loser has to make the winner a dessert of their choice when we get home. I know it seems dumb, but it actually makes me more excited about going to church.

    Sometimes I play a game with myself where I try to open the hymnbook to the exact page I want on the first try. I’m actually pretty good at this. My husband and I also do stupid secret dances during certain hymns. How can you not? Some of them totally sound like drinking songs for pirates or communist anthems.

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