If there’s one thing I’ll never forget about my former youth group experience, it’s Grog.

I’m not really sure where the name came from, especially since a quick Google search reminds me that “grog” is an Old English term for an alcoholic concoction. But somehow the term also came to be the name of our favorite nighttime group game at church (no alcohol involved).

In essence, Grog is like a heightened version of a scavenger hunt combined with freeze tag—all taking place in the dark. I can’t remember why and how the game became a staple at our church (and I doubt it was unique to us), but it was always a big hit. The nights we planned to play the game always had a big turnout. Despite mixed reactions from some of my peers with other group games, like dodgeball, everyone seemed to get excited about Grog. 

To play Grog, the game ideally should take place in a dark, indoor building with multiple rooms and/or hiding spaces. Playing inside the church at night always worked well. I’m guessing Grog could be played outside in an area with trees, bushes, or other places to hide or maneuver around, but we always played indoors.

The game also requires a cheap, working flashlight (or two, depending on the size of the group), which gets dismantled ahead of the game. Our youth pastor or one of the youth leaders would scatter the separate flashlight pieces—base, battery, lens—in various spots around the church. The idea is that the pieces would be obvious to spot in broad daylight, not tucked away inside a cabinet or stuffed inside a chair cushion or any other spot rendered nearly impossible to find within the dark environment. The leaders also established the parameters for the game, usually preventing us from running rampant through areas like the kitchen or church offices. 

After the pieces were hidden and the two Grogs were chosen (usually by volunteering), the game was ready to begin. The two Grogs set out from the youth room into the darkness of the church, the rest of us giddy with anticipation as we waited for our signal. Then the youth leaders would finally release us from the youth room, and our quest to find the missing flashlight pieces began. 

The object of Grog—if you aren’t a Grog—is to work together as a team to find and assemble the hidden flashlight components and flash the light on the Grogs, rendering them defeated. But while this takes place, the Grogs run around tagging everyone in the same manner as freeze tag. Their objective is to make all the players inactive and end the game before the flashlight can be put together.

Once the flashlight is reassembled, however, the gameplay pivots. Now, the hunters become the hunted. The Grogs will go into hiding once they catch wind of some progress with assembling the flashlights. If the group discovers each of them and shines the flashlight at them, the group wins the game. This happened most of the time, though sometimes the Grogs were clever enough to successfully end the game.

I’m not sure why this random game from my teenage years crossed my mind recently, but it brought back some fond memories. I’ve written a few different church-related posts during my tenure at the post calvin, most of them grappling with complicated feelings. But I can look back at this moment from youth group and feel grateful for my experience.

If I had the opportunity to play Grog again today, though, I don’t think I would. I think my sixteen-year-old self found a lot more enjoyment in the experience than my twenty-six-year-old self today. Time has passed, and sprinting through the pitch-black hallways of my former church in search of a flashlight battery does not evoke the same sense of thrill as it used to. 

The Grog days are over—but they were fun while they lasted.

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