David and I serve as volunteers in AWANA at our church. AWANA is a Bible-based program for children from four years old through the sixth grade. The children meet each Wednesday night and spend ninety minutes singing songs, listening to Bible stories, playing games, and learning Bible verses. Once a month we have a special event like Backward Night when everyone wore their clothes backward and the schedule for the evening was reversed or like Campout Night when we made S’amores. This week we had a scavenger hunt.
The last time I went on a scavenger hunt, it involved going around town and knocking on doors to find items on a list. You can’t really do that in ninety minutes with a bunch of four-year-olds in tow, so our hunt involved photos and was limited to the ten-acre campus of our church. The adults had been asked to bring cameras, but I was worried when we counted cameras and came up short. Silly me! As we prepared to divide the kids into teams, our leader called out, “Who has a smart phone?” About half the fifty kids in attendance held up their hands, including a lot of the first and second graders. We had plenty of cameras.
Once we were divided into groups, we were given a list of twenty-four photo ops. Number five on the list was simple–take a picture in a bathroom stall. Our all-girl team was a little dismayed when I herded them into the men’s room, but the door had been propped open so I knew it was unoccupied. Some of the suggestions were a little more complex, like the one that said to make a human pyramid. It was simple enough to put the bigger kids on the bottom and the smaller ones on top, but a four-kid stack looks more like a square than a pyramid. The photo we had to take under a pick-up truck was probably the most fun, even if it was just a little bit scary.
Our team finished in second place. We would have won except David and I couldn’t keep up with the kids when we had to go to the far ends of the property to find the dumpster, the pond, and the church sign. All the teams finished a lot sooner than expected. The instructions said the winner would be the team that finished first or the team that finished the most photos when time was called. By the time all the teams reported in, we had almost forty-five minutes to kill. So we did what all good twenty-first century babysitters do–we watched a video.
Our tech man went to a Christian website, pulled up an animated short about Elijah, and projected it onto the screen at the front of the sanctuary. The kids settled down to watch, and all was quiet for a few minutes. Then the video stalled, and the tell-tale buffering circle appeared in the middle of the picture. The audience groaned and probably would have thrown popcorn if it had been available. In a minute or so, the story continued, but the spell had been broken. Restless kids whispered, switched seats, and asked permission to go to the restroom or to get a drink of water. Before long, the video stopped again, and although it re-started in a few seconds, it continued to stop at increasingly shorter intervals. Finally, our AWANA leader came walking down the center aisle like an old-time theater usher looking for patrons who had sneaked in the back door.
“Okay,” she said. “Who’s on Wi-Fi? That’s why we’re having problems.”
At least a dozen little screens went dark, and a dozen smart phones were slipped into pockets.
Some of our special event nights have not been what you would call a smashing success, but the scavenger hunt is one we’ll repeat next year. I know David and I enjoyed it, even if it was a little more high-tech than the hunts of our youth.