When my son was 8 years old he found something called Redemption cards at our church bookstore (1). We tried to figure out how to play with the rulebook and had fun but we didn’t quite know how to play correctly. We learned online that the 2002 Nationals was in Rochester, MN so we went because my wife thought she would like to go shopping there. We found the tournament and stayed about 30 minutes. While we were there, we met Chris Bany who invited us to come to Rochester for their regular tournaments and game nights. Chris had a tournament every month and a game night on Fridays the weekends they didn’t hold the tournament (2).
Nathan and I started going whenever we could and soon got hooked on the game. I taught Sunday School at our church and the director of children’s ministry’s asked us if we would lead a Mini Camp (3) during the summer to teach other kids how to play Redemption. The director told us she knew of a family named the Alstads (4) who’s kids also played Redemption and suggested that they could help us at the Mini camp. Nathan and I went over to the Alstad’s house to meet them and play a few games of Redemption. We thought we would limit the number at Mini Camp to 20 but 40 registered so we held two that summer, one at each church Campus. The church store that sold the cards also happened to be in the same building that our church’s elementary school was housed in so a lot of kids had access to by cards (1).
Chris started bugging me to possibly host a tournament at our church. He would help me run it and bring all the supply’s needed (5). I ask our church’s Children’s Ministry if they would like to sponsor Redemption. They sent me to Youth Ministry, who sent me to Evangelism, who sent me back to Children Ministry who finally agreed. It took 6 months but there were many benefits to having Redemption be a part of the church rather than just using the church (6). After a year we developed a regular schedule of 2 game nights a month and 1 tournament a month (2). We were on our way to developing a strong playgroup.
Here are the takeaways from those early years:
- Cards have to be available to purchase
- Regular time and place to play
- Mini Camp was a great way to teach new kids to play. We meet for 3 hours a day for 4 days, with a tournament on the last day.
- Need others to get involved who are willing to help out.
- Need some one to help you run your first couple tournaments
- Being sponsored by a church meant no cost for using the facility
The Perfect Storm
In the Twin Cities we hit the perfect storm. It had to be God working. I was a teacher and liked to have fun and play games. I felt that this was a ministry worth putting some time into. I was just obedient; God did the rest.
Cards were available to purchase. Besides any Redemption event, cards were available at the six Northwestern bookstores throughout the Twin Cities and our church’s two bookstores. Chris had us help deliver cards on a regular basis to the Northwestern Book Stores so all the cards would be in stock. I delivered cards to our church’s bookstores whenever they called and told me what they needed.
We had regular times and places to play. The year Minnesota hosted the 2005 Nationals you could play in a tournament any weekend of the month. 1st Saturday at North Heights, 2nd Saturday at Rochester, 3rd Saturday at one of the Northwestern Bookstores and 4th Saturday at Burnsville. It was Redemption Heaven. Chris had taught Ben in Burnsville and myself to play and then encouraged us to start running tournaments. He helped us the first couple times and also brought or supplied the cards we needed. One time we had 70 players at a local tournament. I was overwhelmed; luckily Chris showed up with a couple players from Rochester and helped me run the tournament. I learned that it is good to involve parents for registration and food. You can’t do it all yourself. Matt Brinkman or one of the Alstads could easily host a tournament if I couldn’t for some reason. It really has been a group effort.
One of the biggest reasons why our playgroup kept going strong was doing special events, especially Mini Camp. We would have 40 kids show up every summer and 15 older players to be the helpers. I could never teach that many kids to play by myself. The helpers did most of the work I just had to show up and bring the cards. They received free cards and got to play a lot of Redemption. The daily 3 hours usually turned into 5 hours as some stayed to get in a few good games with each other. The kids would pay $25 for the four days and would end up with a lot of cards, new friends, and a good understanding of how to play the game and how to trade for cards fairly. The church did all the advertising and registration, even provided a snack every day. It was a great chance to build scripture into others using Redemption. We had a character of the week and had a bible quiz about them, complete with prizes, as well as prizes for memorizing scripture.
We also ran a summer Sunday School for a few years, hosted numerous Redemption birthday parties, taught home school co-ops how to play, held a New Year’s Eve, invite-only booster draft for the older players for 5 years, started “Type A” at our tournaments for the newer players and hosted a Type-2 Only Tournament to promote Type-2 and to provide more competition for the Type-2 players.
Being able to host the events at North Heights was a real blessing. We tried to make it easy for the custodians so we would always set up and take down when needed so it was not a lot of extra work for them. A lot of the kids that came to events at North Heights were not from our church. Parents felt comfortable leaving their kids at an all day tournament. Usually they would stay the first time and then just drop them off and pick them up. We did not have to pay anything for using the facilities and Children’s Ministry would advertise in the church bulletin and on their web site.
Well 14 years later the kids still keep showing up so we keep sponsoring the events. A lot of kids age 6 thru 60 have come to Redemption events over the years. A lot of good friendships and good memories. Numbers have gone down a bit but its much easier running a tournament with 20 to 30 than 40 to 60. The church bookstore at the school closed down and the Northwestern Bookstores were bought out and they no longer stock Redemption cards. Not as many kids are being exposed to the cards. We might have to start a Redemption news letter and get an email list going for better communication.
Rules For Playgroup Leaders To Live By
Galatians 6:4&5 is a bible verse I try to live by and I think it applies to leading a playgroup.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. – The Message
- Be yourself
- Dive in, others will follow
- It’s not about you, you will be greatly blessed for those you meet through Redemption
- It’s a big responsibility, build good things into their lives
- Be creative and have fun
- Let your light shine
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