Two couples we knew from church drove through the intersection where my husband, Dave, and I and several of our friends were stopped at a red light.
"Where do you think they are going?" Dave asked in a kind voice that belied the anxiety he was feeling."I don't know, but we are on the right track," I replied with false confidence.
As we waited for the light to turn green, a heavy silence filled the car. We reviewed the printed words one more time to confirm we were driving the right direction and then, almost on cue, we began to laugh. "Arrgh!" Dave laughed as he went through the intersection and turned right at the next block. He hurried to get back to the street and head the direction the other couples had been driving. "They were going the right way!"
When we arrived at the destination, the occupants of the car we saw earlier were milling around a picnic shelter. Some of the people were down on their hands and knees, while others were looking in nearby bushes with a flashlight. We joined their frenzied search.
Trying hard not to give away their discovery, the two couples in the other car walked briskly to their car and sped away.
Just then, another car arrived on the scene, their headlights illuminating our search. Before they had even gotten out of their car, we had located the white index card printed with the word that directed us to an envelope to open next.
A treasure hunt, not for a large chest filled with ancient gold coins, but for community. Armed only with one brown paper bag filled with envelopes, a car, a flashlight, a phonebook, and a cell phone, six of us from our small group searched high and low for clues that would lead us to dinner. We laughed; we yelled; and we experienced both victory and failure as we worked together toward a common goal.
This month, consider challenging several other small groups in your church to a treasure hunt.
- Form a team of several people who will coordinate the event (choose a route, write clues, help those who become lost, take digital photos and/or video, etc.).
- Select a date
- Send out invitations to small group leaders to share with their group members. Encourage group members to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members. Include RSVP.
- Secure a restaurant or home that will accommodate the estimated number of people for dinner.
- Determine a theme —Back to school, travel, construction, exploration, etc.
- Compile a list of words that correspond with your theme (for example: if your theme is back to school you could use the words teacher, fall, books, study, recess, etc.)
- Develop a route —Begin at your church. The total number of clues should not exceed ten due to time constraints. Ten clues could take up to two hours to complete.
*Tip: Call the police department and let them know your plans. Be prepared to give them your route. If they receive complaints about people snooping around with flashlights, they can tell them what is going on.
- Write the clues —clues can be puzzles, riddles, songs, etc. Keep track of which clues lead to which locations.For each car, fill a large brown paper bag with clues:
- Seal each clue in an envelope with a theme-related word written on the outside (make sure that the clue and its envelope correlate in every bag). To ensure that the clues are opened in the correct order, include a dummy envelope that, if opened, will disqualify the team. This will discourage teams from opening all the envelopes at once in search of the one that will lead them to the restaurant or home.
Theme: Back to school
Marked sealed envelopes: teacher, fall, books, study, recess, homework, grade, apple, success, and graduate
Route: teacher leads to fall, fall leads to books, books leads to study, study leads to recess, recess leads to homework, homework leads to grade, grade leads to apple, apple leads to success, success leads to graduate. Graduate is the destination—the restaurant or home where everyone will share a meal together.
Ask each person to donate $1. This money will be given toward the cost of the meals for those on the winning team. The treasure hunt will be timed. The winning team will have the fastest time.
The name of the first clue will be given to everyone.
After figuring out the clue, everyone on the team will get in their group's car and move toward the location of the next clue.
At the site of the next clue, team members will look for an index card on which is written the word of the next envelope to be opened. Continue until the destination is reached.
The dummy clue must still be sealed when arriving at the restaurant or home.
Teams may call the coordinator's cell phone for help, but 5 minutes will be added to their time.
Send everyone on their way and have fun!
Once everyone arrives at the restaurant or home, call any stragglers. Let them know most of the people have arrived at the destination and give them directions. Relax and enjoy a night filled with stories and laughter. Consider making this an annual small group event.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Take the time to listen attentively to one person in the coming week.
- Buy two drinks (coffee, pop, water bottle) and give one away.
- Choose a government official and pray for him or her for an entire week.