Working and Playing Together3 min read

When I was growing up, one of the things that I heard my grandma say often was: “Never argue with friends or family that ‘I’m right!’” For a girl with a healthy sense of fair play and competition, this was a tough pill to swallow, especially when there was a younger sibling or two who always seemed to bend the rules. Family game nights tended to end in frustration as we tried to work through broken rules, under-the-table deals, or accusations of cheating (I still maintain that I’m simply gifted at Mario Kart). Even though we were not always kind or full of grace while playing games, we did not stop playing games altogether. Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around playing games … The Game of Life with extended family at Christmas … learning how to play 500 with my parents … Catchphrase with too many people packed in a small dorm room … Settlers of Catan and Quelf in a humid, messy camp staff lounge … broomball on a frozen lake … and many more. When I look back on those games, I can’t remember who won, or what the final score was, but I remember the people who I was playing with. When I cared about the people I was with, I didn’t keep score.

Fred Rogers once said that “play is really the work of childhood.” When children play, they learn how to survive and thrive in the world. As we grow up, however, we slowly learn to forget to play. We give away our board games, because they never get used and are missing half of their pieces. Heaven forbid we even pick up an Xbox controller.

[Tweet “When children play, they learn how to survive and thrive in the world.”]

In order for any group to function well, they need to have an equal sense of both play and purpose. Those groups focused solely on play get nothing done and lack direction, while those groups focused solely on purpose are often stagnant and lifeless. A group that has a healthy balance between both purpose and play is a group that gets a job done while caring for and nurturing the people doing that job.

[Tweet “For groups to function well, they need to have an equal sense of both play and purpose.”]

Teaching is not always an easy vocation, but being able to joke, laugh, and build relationships with other teachers helps us rebuild ourselves so that we can continue to serve. The early Christians “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Fellowship and play, along with worship and prayer, is so important to teachers because it helps us build relationships with our students and with each other. As Paul says, authentic relationships built on love “keep no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). The school staff that both works well together and plays well together serves their church and their community so much more effectively than they would otherwise. When we’re focused on building authentic relationships with others like we have with Jesus, we forget about keeping score, and simply care about the people we’re serving with … even if they occasionally cheat at Monopoly.

[Tweet “Authentic relationships built on love “keep no record of wrongs””]

Photo courtesy of Elisa Schulz Photography

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About the Author

Erin Rudolph is a native Minnesotan and former camp counselor who also loves teaching middle school. When she’s not listening to the ridiculous things her students say, she is usually reading something, creating something, quoting The Office, or watching Minnesota baseball/hockey. She currently teaches 5th grade at Trinity Lutheran School in Clinton Township, Mich.

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