Life Lessons from “Words With Friends.”


I am one of the 5 million-plus people who plays Words With Friends.

I love it.

There’s something about that bubbly sound as the letters go into place and the little jingle I hear when I hit “play.” I get a rush when I put together a word that gets multiplied in the scoring. Plus…I get to “chat” with friends far and near…my sister-in-law, Wendy, and I have solved many world problems during our games!

I do have quite a formidable opponent, though. Meet Barbara Newman.

She wins at least 90% of the time. I don’t know how she does it…but she seems to magically put letters together in combinations that must make the scrabble board sing.

And every time we play, I learn something new. A new word. A new strategy. New humility (because every time I think I’ve got her cornered, she counters!)

Barb and I share not only a love of words, but a great passion for teaching and ministry as well. Barbara is the Director of Church Services for CLC Network, as well as an Inclusion Teacher at Zeeland Christian School in Michigan. She has authored several books, including Autism and Your Church and Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities.

It occurred to me over the past year, that our Words With Friends games hold a lot of life lessons…Here are just a few:

  • Play with someone who is more skilled than yourself. I have become a better Words With Friends player because of Barb. Similarly, I am a better teacher because I have watched her in action. I often hear myself saying in my own trainings, “My friend Barbara Newman  always says…”

    This is true: Iron sharpens iron. Play with someone from whom you can learn!

  • Be proactive. Just when I think I’ve beat Barb, she plays a word that turns the game in her favor…and fast! She has a knack for thinking ahead, considering options, and anticipating what I might do. This works well in the classroom and in the home. When we, as teachers and parents, can spend time anticipating what kids might do, we’re more apt to help them make good choices and learn effectively.
  • Be strategic. Barb seems to know which letters to play and which to save. She considers the “whole game” rather than just the next play…she really uses a long-term view and appears to gauge her actions based on winning the game rather than just her turn. While this might set her back temporarily, it invariably gives her an edge in the end. In parenting, friendship, ministry and teaching, we need to be strategic…as Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.”
  • Be available. Barb is a busy ladyshe teachers, travels, and writes, and volunteers. Even so, she always makes time to take her turn, even when I know she must be utterly exhausted (sometimes she plays at 4 a.m.!) Those who have worked with her know that she is similarly available to help churches, parents and children, with an endless creativity and an easy, comfortable disposition. What a gift we can give, in all of our relationships and leadership opportunities when we are willing to be available.
  • Eliminate competition. (I don’t mean “do away with the opponent!”) Barb seems to focus more on playing games with people rather than against them. She’s humble and fun and encouraging at every turn. She lives this out in her teaching and ministry as well.Recently, as she and I shared lunch at a conference she said, “There is NO ROOM for competition in the Kingdom.” 

Thanks, Barb!


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4 thoughts on “Life Lessons from “Words With Friends.”

  1. Oh my dear Katie – you have done it again – and I am putting the finishing touches on my final Bible study lesson – how we are to build each other up in the body of Christ – encourage, challenge, pray for, comfort, push, forgive, and rejoice in. For me – it seems to really dovetail so nicely with what you have written. Love you!

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