Today, I'm having a conversation with D.J. Bosler, a phenomenally creative leader who obeyed God and now runs one of the world's most rapidly expanding children's discipleship ministries. His GAMELIFE ministry offers churches a fun and exciting approach to educate kids about God's Truth and encourage them to apply it to their lives. GameLife gives kids the opportunity to apply biblical principles while engaging with God's Word through meaningful interactive games.
Every second of GameLife's Midweek Ministry is dedicated to involving kids in worthwhile activities that vividly illustrate the Bible. The One Main Truth of a passage is understood by students through in-depth discipleship training, which includes both reading Bible stories and discovery-based learning. GameLife equips leaders with the child-focused educational strategies they need to share God's Truth with children. In GameLife training sessions, leaders of all ages have fun and learn alongside the students. The only prerequisite for volunteering is a small amount of time and no prior knowledge of the Bible; all that is needed is a desire to submit to Jesus as he works through each volunteer.
Family Devotional - Old Testament
Coach's Training Guide - Old Testament
Family Devotional - Life of Christ
Coach's Training Guide - Life of Christ
Bible Teaching Basics : Ignite a Passion for God's Word in the Heart of Your Students (Kindle Edition)
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Let’s Go 360: https://www.letsgo360.org/
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: Welcome to another episode of Let's Go 360. With us today is D.J. Bosler. Now D.J. is the director of GameLife, and he's an interesting guy. He has created this amazing mentor ministry that pre-COVID this thing was rocking and rolling and and COVID had an impact, just like COVID had an impact on a lot of ministries. But with us today is D.J., and we're excited about GameLife, getting back on track and being an amazing ministry. D.J., welcome to the show.
D.J.: Larrie. I appreciate that. It's an honor to be here with you today.
Larrie: You know, as we get started here, let's find out a little bit more about D.J.. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
D.J.: Sure. I'm the youngest of five, and I think that's where the heart for game life was really born. I have two older brothers, two older sisters, and I saw some of the positive and negative role models as a young man. I was an uncle at a very early age because they started to have children and the opportunity to work with my nieces and nephews and to see them following the path either towards a positive direction or a negative direction. So that's a little bit about my background and the passion of where this idea of how can we create some kind of a tool to help the next generation lean in the right direction.
Larrie: Well, I've only known you a little while now, but I can already tell our audience that you are a very creative person. And if you check out the the website at GameLife77, which we will include in our show notes, by the way. In fact, a lot of the things we're going to talk about today will be in our show notes for you to take a look at and do some further research on. How did GameLife get started?
D.J.: GameLife started. I had served as a pastor by God's grace, I had the opportunity to plant a church, was a senior pastor, looked out in the congregation, saw a lot of grey hair, no hair, and realized from my coaching background I was an athletic tennis coach, realized that you don't start with older adults, you start with children, teens, if you're going to train up an athlete, a champion. And so actually moved from the senior pastor role to the children's pastor role. And when I began teaching the children I realized I'm boring these children. I wouldn't have fun if I was sitting in this classroom. So going back to the old coaching methodology and by God's grace, God began to give vision that we could use games designed to illustrate, reinforce the spiritual principle. So GameLife was birthed to use spiritual, spiritual principles in games to illustrate a biblical truth and lead to a personal life application. That's the name GameLife, Game-Bible-Life, GameLife.
Larrie: So in reality, you are a children's discipleship ministry?
D.J.: Yes, it's a children's discipleship ministry, and we're really a training ministry as well. Because what we started to realize when we started do our training around the world in China and Russia and India and South Africa, we were training the leaders how to lead the GameLife Ministry. But then we realized that next generation, right after children's ministry, the teenagers, we could train them to do the ministry. So we were training that next generation. So we're trainers of trainers.
Larrie: Well, you've been to several countries. Tell us how GameLife works.
GameLife, a very simple principle, Game-Bible-Life. When we do this in a live training, I use hand motions. The hand motion for game is like you're kicking a soccer ball with your two fingers to remember the game. The Bible is to put the two hands together and then open them up like you're opening up the scriptures. And then life you put your two hands toward your heart. So Game-Bible-Life, a quick illustration, a quick example. We play the game Red Rover. While we're playing Red Rover, the boys and girls don't know that they're playing or they're in a Bible lesson, they're playing a game. We emphasize, where are you going to try to break through when you play Red Rover. And most children who have played Red Rover, they know you try to find the weakest spot to break through. So we play that game and let the game just sit. Then we go into the biblical principle, open up the scriptures. This particular lesson we discuss about Nehemiah rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. And when Nehemiah rebuilt the walls, he didn't rebuild the strong parts, he rebuilt the weak parts. So we go through the biblical truth and then the life application. It's discovery based rather than a lecture. So we go back now to the game and we'll ask questions. Hey, boys and girls, when you were playing that game, where did you break through? And it's kind of a duh principle because it's like, duh, you find the weak spot and you break through the weak spot. That's how you play the game.
D.J.: The transition is always the same boys and girls. That sounds a lot like what we just discovered in the scriptures. What did we learn about Nehemiah? And then the hands fly up in the room because we've stocked the pond the boys and girls know about Nehemiah. They know where he rebuilt the walls. So they're answering the questions. And then the life application. In this particular lesson, we think about our heart, our character. It protects our heart. And we'll ask the question, boys and girls in our life, our character is like walls is like a wall that protects our heart. You might have some really strong parts in your character. You may go to church, you may memorize scriptures, but boys and girls, maybe there's some weak spots. Maybe you don't tell Mom and Dad the truth. Maybe you're looking at things you're not supposed to be looking at. Maybe you're cheating at school. Those are weak spots. So then we have what we call a prayer and pause. We pray and we pause. We literally are just silent, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak. And it would sound something like this. God, thank you for the fun in our game today. Thank you for teaching us about Nehemiah. God in my own life, show me right now where there's weak spots. And even though we were on a radio that that silence, we want to fill that silence. But the Holy Spirit then speaks to the children and they get to know how to hear the Lord's, the Lord's voice.
Larrie: Great. That's amazing. So I know we're going to talk about the actual material and products and that in a minute. But as you have gone around the world using this method, do you find you have to adjust much culturally? I mean, do you do you have the same message that's delivered to kids here in the US? Is that the same message that you're delivering in another country?
D.J.: Great question. Good friend of mine, Tom Harley, he's one of the vice presidents with One Hope. It's one of the world's largest children's ministry. And Tom had the opportunity to see GameLife, he introduced me to the team in Russia and he saw GameLife working in Russia, and then we came back and he said, I wonder if it would work in Asia? And I said, Tom, it works in the US, it works in South America, I believe that games are universal. Every child enjoys playing games, so to answer your question, Larrie, yes, it is universal because it starts with the game. All children enjoy playing the game. There's usually a definitive point in a game. There's a goal or direction of objective and that matches closely to scripture, and when we design the lesson, we never start with a game first, we'd always start with the scriptural principle first and then design a game to illustrate that particular truth.
Larrie: Now you have products, you have physical products, you have subscriptions, and you have digital products. Could you.. Uh, expand that for us?
D.J.: Yes. The blessing when God gave the vision of GameLife. we did trainings and individuals would say, Well, where's the curriculum? And I thought it was simple enough of just you just take a biblical principle, you have a game illustration, and they said, well, we want a curriculum. So over time we've developed a curriculum chronological going from Genesis to Revelation. Then we have topical evangelism lessons, we have discipleship lessons, and we started to print books, but then we traveling to different countries and again, by God's grace, going to most most regions, not most countries, 22 countries, but many of the different regions of the world trying to translate that into the different languages. What we've done on one of our websites, GameLife123.com we have a translator on the website, so the lesson immediately translates into over 100 languages. Fun story, Larrie. We were in China and we walked through with the leaders and they said, there's no way we can have these books and walk around and use these in the location that we're at. And so we went to the website, showed them how it could be translated into Mandarin. And what they did is they immediately took out their smartphone and they took a picture of the game instructions. Then we scroll down, they took a picture of the biblical passage. They scroll down, they took a picture of the life application questions, and then the leader through WeChat sent it out to the team members or more secure source through VPN, if you will. And those leaders were able with their smartphones, then to go into the training time with the children and they had their lesson right there on their smartphone.
Larrie: Wow. Now, like most ministries that went through COVID, you had to adjust, right? I mean, you was going along delivering this message in your normal ways and then COVID hit and all of a sudden you can't travel. What did you do to keep the ministry going?
D.J.: Great question. That truly was heartbreaking because it was almost every two months was the opportunity to be on a plane, traveling, training, coming back, starting over again. So it COVID a divine appointment. Some friends that we had made in India contacted me and they said, Hey, could you help us with VBS? And I said, Well, it's COVID, how are we going to do this? And they said, Well, we're going to do it through Zoom. And I was like, okay, so am I going to be on a Zoom screen? And there's going to be children in like a room somewhere? He's like, No, it's COVID. The children can't go anywhere. They're in their rooms. So I'm like, okay, so I'm in my room and they're in their room. The whole point of GameLife is experiential games. So I as I often do, I said yes. And then I sat down with the Lord and I said, okay, Lord, I've said yes. How do we do an experiential game? We can't play Red Rover on a video screen or a computer monitor. And God began to give a vision of ways that we could use experiential games, activities, getting the kids up and moving around. Because during that time of Zoom, the kids are zoomed out. As many adults are zoomed out. So we developed games that the children could play on the screen and they could see each other on the screen like you can in a Zoom call.
So we had fun games. One of them was a water bottle flip challenge. We told them to all have empty water bottles. Now we have eight screens of children, so that's well over 200 children. And they each have their water bottle and it was an empty one. I made very specific instructions that they have an empty one and they try to do the water bottle flip challenge and they could see each other on the screen. So it was fun. They were laughing. And then I shared with them that it's almost impossible to do a water bottle flip challenge with the water bottle empty. So I took my water bottle, I filled it up with water or did the water bottle flip challenge and then use that illustration again, the game to illustrate the biblical truth that in our lives, our lives without Christ, without God in our life are empty. It's like that water bottle. We can't do anything. But when God comes into our life, that water represented when the water went into the water bottle representing God, when God comes into our life, then we can do things that we could never do before. And then the life application actually for this one was a gospel presentation where many children prayed to receive Christ. So even though it was on Zoom, we were still able to use the principle of Game-Bible-Life.
Larrie: Wow. Well, I told you that our listeners, that you were creative and so you you had to come up with ways to actually keep the ministry going. So now COVID is passed. What are your plans for the future?
D.J.: Great question. With the blessing of the networking relationships, we've had the opportunity with Mission India. They reach 250,000 children in a year through a feeding program, and they implemented they've brought in GameLife Russia. They've been doing 100,000 booklets that they use as a church planning tool. China, again, we can't know because we can't report. From that location. And one of the things we're looking at now, we're recognizing that the principles are so simple that couldn't families do this. So we're looking at something called FamilyLife or Family GameLife. We haven't determined the exact name of that. But walking through with parents, how can they have a fun activity at their home? We often will say that the parents are the primary spiritual nurture their children Deuteronomy 6, but a parent having a devotion I know myself, same with like those children in the classroom when I was teaching. Often those can be boring. The parents may not feel like they know enough about Scripture. So we're looking at something where we can have FamilyLife, a GameLife method where again, they do the same thing, but within their family structure, Game-Bible-Life, so that game or that experience could be done. A single parent with their child or multiple children, they have that game experience and then leads to a simple Bible. Maybe it's a passage instead of a whole lesson, if you will, a passage or a verse, and then a simple life application prayer. So that's one of the things that we're looking forward to in the future now.
Larrie: Now your physical products, you've got all of these different modules, I will call it modules like the Old Testament, Life of Christ. What do those how do those work?
D.J.: The interesting part about GameLife, when individuals will ask us, they'll say, Well, is this a VBS? And it's like, Well, no, but we do have VBS. Is it a Sunday school curriculum? No, but it is used as a Sunday curriculum. Can it be used in public schools or an outreach? Yes. So because the games, it's really the methodology of experiential education, Game-Bible-Life. So the curriculum on the website that you might be looking at Old Testament, Life of Christ, New Testament, it's a chronological sequence for a church, for a midweek ministry curriculum, fully written out with the games, the biblical instruction, the life applications, a three year repeating curriculum. It also has game life junior for preschool. So churches that have a midweek ministry or want to use this as a Sunday school curriculum, there is a three year repeating curriculum.
Larrie: So if I'm a... A soccer coach of, say, fourth graders. I could look at this material and in my practice implement something from GameLife, correct?
D.J.: Yes. The... The creativity. And this is where. It would just take a couple of steps of that coach to take a lesson. We have illustrations where we're playing a game and we have someone out of bounds, toss a ball in the person catches, they toss it to another player, the other player puts it in a basket. It sounds a lot like basketball. Oh, I guess I could do that with soccer. We have some With the soccer ball out of bounds, throw the ball in. One person catches it with her foot, passes off to the next player, the last player shoots. But in so the game can be adjusted very easily. The biblical principle that, oh, we have different gifts and every player is just as important as the other, the scripture verse about the hand and the foot. So the children again, can play this game. So if I'm a soccer coach, I can look at this and say, Oh, all I have to do is substitute out this passing a ball around that they were doing in a game, turn that into a soccer drill, and then it flows exactly into the scripture passage in the life application.
Larrie: So good. So D.J. let's say the year is 2027. What does GameLife look like? GameLife look like?
D.J.: One of the blessings when I went to Bible college, Columbia Bible College, very strong focus on identity and Christ, Galatians 2:20, John 15:5 and Missions Matthew 28:18-20. And the vision, the passion in several years from now that if by God's grace, GameLife, a training center, was able to be in every country. Because of the website and we have an intentional way that we find a person of peace, children's worker in different countries in a digital format, we've had over 100 countries already expressed interest in the GameLife curriculum, the GameLife training. Internationally, we provide all that free to missionaries. So the training, the what I would call the GameLife training center, our vision would be literally see it in every country because we know that once it's there, it can multiply very rapidly. Large goals.
Larrie: Right? Well, this sounds to me like a perfect mission trip opportunity for perhaps a trip of leaders, teachers that have been trained in GameLife to go over and actually. Have games and use GameLife in a in a country on a short term mission trip. Would that work?
D.J.: Yes. And that's where when you were asking before, is it a curriculum? Is it a tool? Is a Sunday school? On mission trips, what we found in many church leaders will attest in mission pastors, when you go overseas, there's children everywhere and often they pass out candy. Or maybe they'll have the gospel presentation. What we found to be very effective is to go in and we do several of the GameLife games and the leaders see it and they see how easy it is. And then we lean into them and we say, Hey, would you be able to help us tomorrow leading the game? Hey, could you help me when we go to our life application, we break it up. We call girls coaches, boys coaches. Could you help me be one of the coaches? And by three or four days, the national leaders have caught it. It's really simple. And so then from a mission trip perspective, you do have an opportunity to reach those kids, share the gospel while you're there. But we have found that's our real heart of that training and training trainers, that those national leaders can then keep the pictures going, just really quick, down in Latin America, we did this and the teenagers were the leaders that we trained, they emailed us back and they said, Hey, Coach, D.J., we've got 20 kids coming. I'm like, Oh, that's fantastic. The next week they're like, You wouldn't believe this. You got 40 kids coming I'm like, No way. It got up to 80 children that these teenagers were leading this ministry, that we we planted the seed on a mission trip.
Larrie: Wow. Wow. So if our listeners would like to find out more information about GameLife, where would they go?
D.J.: An easy way would, if they want to send an email in direct contact is just my initials. DJ no period, just DJ@GameLife77.com, that website GameLife77.com.
Larrie: And finally, what would you like to leave as a prayer request so that our listeners can pray?
D.J.: Hmm. I think the prayer would be, again, going back to my original training and discipleship John 15:5 that those that are being trained that they would really abide in Christ and allow Christ to abide in them. It's not the creativity of this method. It is a, a, a creative method. It's a powerful method, but it has to be the spirit of our Lord working through the individuals to touch the hearts of the children, and then to grow up the next generation and peripherally generation after generation. So my prayer request is for myself, as well as our team members and those we have an opportunity to train, that all would have a really clear understanding of. John 15:5.
Larrie: So good, so good. Well, DJ, thank you for joining us today. And you know, we'll look forward to having you back with us in a few months to kind of see what God has done in GameLife.
D.J.: Look forward to it.