Every once and a while I’m asked why I think paintball is an appropriate activity for a church group. After all, however you want to spin it – calling the guns ‘markers,’ saying we ‘tag’ people instead of shooting them, the reality is that paintball is at it’s core an activity where we run around with dangerous, loaded guns and try to shoot each other before getting shot ourselves!
While there are some girls that enjoy paintball, it’s mostly draws guys out which is where I see the true underlying value. Here’s the thing; adolescent guys are figuring out a lot stuff, including how to handle their God given longing for adventure, thrill, competition and risk. The problem is, there aren’t many outlets for that anymore – which I think contributes to the ways guys mishandle it (bullying, fighting, crime).
When we play paintball, guys get an appropriate way to live out those desires. It’s structured, safe (when following the rules), competitive, and the adrenaline gets pumping. On top of that, they learn from the adult leaders that you can lose, get hit, fail … and not lose your cool, swear, or lash out on someone. I love it when some fourteen year old guy gets a hard hit on an adult and you see it in their eyes – they wonder what’s going to happen next. When that adult keeps his cool, calls himself out, and even laughs about it later – that boy learns a lot about sportsmanship, respect, and self control.
On top of all that, paintball is an incredibly relational activity. The reality is, when we go out to play for a few hours, half of that time is spent talking and laughing while we wait for a round to finish, reload our guns, and get our gear back together. There are guys who will resist conversations with me or other adult leaders in every other scenario who suddenly feel a sense of camaraderie after playing a round together – or a sense of fun competition and smack talk if on opposing teams – that doesn’t end when the paintball outing ends.
Plus, I have a machine gun for a paintball marker. That thing makes people dance!