Sometimes team building can seem like a daunting task. The truth is building a strong team takes work. But what if you could get together with your team to accomplish a task which could act as a catalyst and propel you forward? What if there was an activity that your team looked forward to? Something you could use to teach leadership lessons and apply to your ministry?
Well, there is. It’s called “Escape Games.”
Escape Games, or “Escape Rooms”, as they’re sometimes called, are designed as a giant sequence of interactive puzzles housed in an enclosed space where those inside must solve the clues in order to get out. Typically the participants have sixty minutes to work together and solve the puzzles to complete the mission. Escape Games are usually themed and incorporate those themes within the clues. For participants, the thrill begins upon being locked in the room. That’s when everyone must either do their part to get out—or fail in their escape.
Taking your team through an Escape Game will be an adrenaline-filled hour that can change their and your leadership forever. To date, I have participated in 3 Escape Games and continue to apply what I learned. Here’s what to expect when taking your team through this activity, as well as some practical ways to apply these principles to ministry.
…3-2-1…Go! (You have 1 hour to escape)
As your team arrives on site, they will be greeted and given the paperwork to get started. The host will explain the basics of an escape game, lay down a few ground rules, and give important information related to your specific mission. There will be some people in your crew who need fewer instructions and are eager to start. Others will be wishing the host would explain far more details concerning what is expected and about to take place.
You will need to be conscientious of the important information and rules you are sharing, especially the way “unspoken” details increase as you are adding new people to your ministry team. Some new teammates will have no idea what to expect and might feel uncomfortable or anxious. Some new teammates will have no idea what to expect and might feel uncomfortable or anxious. This may contrast with other, who are more familiar with the church or ministry or who have a “Let’s do this!” attitude. They might feel excited and eager to start. Pairing a rookie kidmin worker with a veteran who can come alongside them to help them get started helps acclimate them to the team.
When the game begins and the clock starts ticking, it quickly becomes clear that while your team is working on different tasks, everyone understands the ultimate goal and together everyone is working towards the goal. The goal is Systematic, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely (SMART), and you have 60 minutes to escape.
This phase of the teamwork has a practical application to your team’s approach to the Sunday responsibilities. Do they understand how their individual tasks on Sunday morning work toward accomplishing the ultimate goal? It also calls Proverbs 29:18 into play: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” When it comes to your ministry, do the leaders on your team know when they are winning?
As your group solves their first clue there will be an eruption of celebration. These celebrations will build momentum and excitement for the task at hand. Celebrating wins is equally important in building momentum in your kid’s ministry. How do you celebrate when a first-time guest returns the following week with a friend? When a child is lead to Christ, how does your team celebrate this victory?
Communicate! (Your escape depends on it)
While the pressure builds, it is vital to keep the communication flowing steadily. Too little communication means others might not see the clues that you are seeing. You may hold the missing piece to the puzzle they are trying to solve. On the other hand, too much communication means your team may get locked up in information overload and become frustrated. You might find you have too many moving pieces and need to designate a mediator to keep all of the individual puzzles moving in the right direction.
Communication can make or break your escape. Therefore, your plan needs to include how and what you are communicating to your ministry team. To handle growth and the added complexity it adds, you will need to create a system that includes middle managers who can communicate and care for those on their team.
While trying to escape, your team may simply get stuck. That happens in the heat of the game, and your group might need to step back or re-evaluate or change the task to gain a fresh perspective. You might need to ask the host for a clue.
If your team gets stuck, you’ll need a leader who is willing to take charge and make something happen. You’ll need to identify someone who’s willing to take a risk not knowing the outcome. For you, as the team leader, this could be one of the best learning experiences you receive from the game. It will show you how your teammates react under pressure, who rises to the occasion, how they lead disciple the difficult situation, how they lead despite the difficult situation, how the leader communicates, and if the leader gets the group’s buy-in before making a move. Then, hopefully with a new perspective or the needed clue, your team will continue working towards the goal.
Sometimes in an Escape Game, just when you think you are finally getting somewhere you discover instead that you’re only getting started. You may solve all the clues in the room only to discover there is a second room! The same happens in ministry. Your team will discover that definitions change. Words like “big” and “busy” have shifting definitions that you will need to clearly articulate.
The Heat is On! (will you escape…?)
As the clock winds down, your team will face the reality that they either are going to escape to victory or face defeat. Both winning and losing should be met with evaluation and reflection. When your team gives their full effort towards accomplishing the mission, winning or losing become an emotionally charged, shared experience. As your team members begin to calm down, you can start to digest the past hour and reflecting on things you could have done differently.
Similarly, evaluation and reflection can propel your ministry team to their next level. When you share with them the things they did great as well as the things they can improve, you’re helping them sharpen their skills for future ministry.
When you escape from the mundane team-building activity you will find both immediate and long-term benefits. People appreciate being a part of the great adventure, and a shared experience like this builds relationships. They experience both quality time and quantity time as they solve the clues to escape. Long-term, you will learn about your team members’ personalities and gifts, and the relationships that were built will bond your team together.
Want to do this with your own team? Simply search “Escape Room” online and find a game in your area!
(Originally posted in the Kidzmatter Magazine July/Aug/Sept 2017 edition)