10 Little- or No-Prep Youth Group Games

Often times, games and activities fall by the wayside during a youth group night. We get swamped during the week, we spend much of our time planning the lesson, we focus on counseling students, or we have just gotten back from a retreat and games are the last thing on our minds as we prepare for the evening.

But the reality is that we can only default to dodge ball so often due to the amount of bloody noses. Sharks and minnows will become old soon. Students will no longer want to participate in ultimate. And let’s be honest: floor hockey has left too many dents in the wall to be a valid option.

And therein lies the problem: what do you do when you need a game now? After living in climates where you can only be outside for a few months of the year, we learned to have group games that are applicable to both indoor and outdoor environments, and can be done with any size youth program. These games all require little or no prep and can be an easy go-to for anyone crunched on time, or looking for a little change to what they currently have.

Pull Up

Requirements: A sound system and music.

Rules of play: Have your group sit on the floor in a circle facing inward. Then choose an odd number of boys and girls to be in the middle. When the music starts the students in the middle must go to a member of the opposite gender, extend a hand, and “pull them up”. They then sit in the open spot and that new student in the middle continues by pulling up a member of the opposite gender. This continues until the music stops and the gender with the most people in the middle loses. Play for as long or short as you would like.

Drip, Drip, Drop

Requirements: Paper cups and water… maybe some towels. (May get carpets a little wet, so be on good terms with your janitor.)

Rules: Players sit in a circle facing each other much like Duck, Duck, Goose. Pick on player to be it. They stand outside of the circle and are given a cup with a small hole in the bottom. Have them place their finger over the hole. When they start they go around the circle saying “drip” and dripping a small amount of water on the students’ heads. When they yell “drop” they turn the cup upside down on the person and have to run around the circle while being chased by the person they dropped on. If they make it to said person’s spot they are safe. If they are tagged they are it again. Feel free to use as little or as much water as you want!

Egg, Chicken, Dinosaur

Requirements: An emcee.

Rules: This is a great alternative to Rock, Paper, Scissors and is really easy to pull off. Explain how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to the group. Then explain that in this game you can only play with people who are the same as you: i.e. an egg, chicken, or dinosaur. Eggs can only play eggs, chickens can only play against chickens, and dinosaurs against a dinosaur. The kicker is they must walk or waddle in a manner that is befitting of an egg, chicken, or dinosaur. Participants all start as eggs. They must find another egg and play a best 2 out of 3 round of rock, paper, scissors, and if they win they become a chicken. When a chicken wins they become a dinosaur. If they lose a round they go back one level.

Lightsaber Duels

Requirements: A sound system, music (epic music or Star Wars music is great here) and an emcee.

Rules: Participants must all place one hand behind their back. They will then join in a battle with another person by locking their one hand with the other person’s hand. They will then extend their pointer finger as their lightsaber. When the music starts they attempt to touch their “lightsaber” to the other person. They can “zap” them anywhere. If they are zapped they are out. The winner keep advancing until only one remains. **Note: this can go on for a while depending on your students. Some battle for long periods others for a matter of seconds.**


Requirements: Buckets, cones, pinnies/colored shirts, and balls.

Rules: Prior to dividing students place bucket in the middle of a ring of cones (we usually make it about a three feet in each direction from bucket to cone). Divide your students into groups (we usually just do two but having more groups makes it interesting) and assign each group colored pinnies. The game is played in the same manner as ultimate Frisbee where the students must pass the ball down the field and are only allowed three steps with the ball. We have a rule where if playing co-ed, ladies must have two touches on the ball before a point can be scored. Points are scored by players throwing the ball (after three or more passes) to their goal keeper. The goal keeper will hold the bucket within the ring of cones and attempt to catch a ball in the bucket. Only balls that stay in the bucket count. The goal keeper may not go outside of the cone ring and the defense and offense may not go inside the cone ring. Feel free to add as many balls to the game as you would like.

Hot Seat

Requirements: One chair, people, emcee (can also be played in small groups).

Rules: Chose a person to come up and sit in the “hot seat” for 30-60 seconds. During that time the audience can ask questions of the person and they will need to answer. This can be as surface, deep, or bizarre as your group would like. However, make sure you have a good emcee to filter some of the more awkward questions because we all know that will happen. At the end give the person in the chair a candy bar for being a good sport.

Seated Basketball/Soccer

Requirements: Chairs, pinnies, balls, and extra leaders/students to collect stray balls.

Rules: Explain that the game you are playing will be played like soccer or basketball in that the goals are the same: obtain points how you would normally (kicking a goal, making a basket). Divide your students into two teams and give them their pinnies. If you are playing soccer have the students remove their shoes to prevent potential injuries from kicking one another. Have your students then grab a chair and give them 15-30 seconds to place their chair. Explain that this is the only place they may sit for the first half/quarter. Once they sit they may not move from that spot. When everyone has sat down introduce the balls for the game and explain that students must remain seated all the time, and failure to do so will put them in a penalty box. Explain that if no one can reach a ball it will be placed back into play by a leader. Assign times for your halves/quarters and then when a new one begins allow students to find a new spot to sit.

Cat and Mouse Tag

Requirements: A large room.

Rules: Have students pair up and link arms at the elbows. I would recommend not allowing them to hold hands or wrists as it can lead to injuries. Ask for two volunteers (or four depending on your group size) and explain that one will be the cat and one will be the mouse. The cat will be it and will need to chase the mouse. At any point during the chase the mouse can link up via their arm with a group and the person who is now on the outside is the new mouse. If the mouse is tagged then the roles are flipped and they are now the cat, and the cat is the mouse. There is no winner to this game, it is more just an active game to engage students with.


Requirements: 8 rectangular tables and a ball that bounces. (We have used an indoor/outdoor volleyball and it worked very well.)

Rules: Set up the tables in an octagon shape by placing them one their sides and extending the legs to help keep them upright. You can interconnect the tables however you would like depending on size you would like your court to be. Students then can enter the octagon (make sure to keep the number of students proportional to the size of the octagon) and begin play. A player serves by allowing the ball to bounce three times while everyone chants “ga-ga-ball” in time to the bounces. The ball is then live and players may go for it. Players may hit the ball with their hands in an attempt to elimination other players by having the ball hit them below their knees. Doing so eliminates the player who was hit. If someone hits the ball out of the court they are out. If they hit the ball in the air and it is caught the player who hit it is out. If it is caught out of play that player is now in. There is no double-hitting allowed and a player can only hit the ball again if it hits someone else or a wall. When two people are remaining they are allowed to have double hits on the ball. Various other rules can include: no ball carrying, no punching the ball, no shielding of one’s self, no teams, etc. Last person standing wins the game.

Death Sticks

Requirements: Pool noodles cut in half, music, and chairs.

Rules: Place an odd number of pool noodles on an equal number of chairs in the middle of a large circle of chairs. Have each student pick a chair and remove any chairs that do not have a student. Then chose an odd number of students to stand in the middle that is equal to the number of chairs with noodles. Explain that this is a guy versus girl game (or however you would like it to be) where when the music starts the guys must take the noodle and bop a lady on her legs, and ladies must do the same to guys. Once someone is bopped the person with the noodle must return the noodle to the chair they took it from (no throwing it must be placed) while being chased by the person they bopped. If the person who was bopped manages to retrieve the noodle when it placed down and bop the person who bopped them before they sit down in the vacant chair that person returns to the middle. If they cannot they are now in the middle and can bop someone. Winning team is the team with the least of their gender in the middle. And remember that bop = soft hit, not smacking someone in the head with the noodle.

BONUS GAME: Mingle Mingle

Requirements: Pre-scripted, get-to-know-you style questions and an emcee.

Rules: This is a get to know you game. Explain that on “go” students are to walk around the room mumbling “mingle, mingle” until you yell out a number. Once you yell a number students must get into a group and share “their name, their grade/school, and your get to know you question.” Give them 30-60 seconds and then repeat the game.

These are some of the best go-to games out there, and I hope that these can be used to help you in reaching and serving students! A few things to help make any game time even better:
  • Music (keep it fun and upbeat)
  • Prizes (candy bars or cheap gift cards are great, or leftover holiday candy if you are in a pinch)
  • Have a good emcee – someone who knows your audience and can keep the energy and fun levels high
  • Relational leaders – games are great but having an environment where students feel loved, welcomed, and valued will make these games a true success
 Have a blast with these, and feel free to share your own favorite no-prep game in the comments!

What Students Need, Not What They Want

The 90’s song “What A Girl Wants” from Christina Aguilera says, “What a girl wants, what a girl needs, whatever makes me happy sets me free.”

It is interesting because as I have worked within youth ministry, I feel like this has become our mindset for our programs. No, we aren’t just giving girls what they want (think bigger), we are giving our students what they want in order to make them happy.

Have you ever noticed how we cave to popular culture in our youth programming? How we have to match the trends that are up and coming? Just take a look around your youth room, area, wing, whatever. Do you have a ton of technology? Does your worship team play all the new and upbeat Christian music? Do you have to have tons of sugary snacks to bring students in? Are you always looking for a new game, gimmick, or outreach program to bring in more kids?

Please hear me out. I am not trying to guilt trip any of us. We all use these tools and I believe most of us use them effectively, but is this what youth ministry was meant to be? Were we meant to be the popular place, the place students automatically want to go, the “it” place in town? Or were we meant to be Gospel-centered places of refuge, revitalization, and freedom?

Many of you, like I first did, will cry foul. We teach the Gospel, we help make disciples, we minister to broken youth. Yes we do. But my argument, my mindset, is that we need to have the proper foundation upon which to do these programs. It shouldn’t be bringing in kids with lights, loud music, sweets, froyo, inflatables, and activities no one else is doing. It should be with the Gospel. The Gospel is what should be bringing students into our youth groups, our churches. We can argue all day that we need to make the Gospel relevant to our culture, but the reality we fail to realize is that the Gospel will transcend all time, all cultures, all demographics, all age groups. Jesus knew this and to be frank He understood youth ministry.

Jesus led the greatest band of youth in the New Testament when he took eleven young men and one adult, who didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, and turned them into the greatest revival in history. Jesus worked with troubled kids, bullies, liars and thieves, rebels, and many others and He didn’t bring them in with sugary treats, technology, and bold outreaches. Instead, He brought them in with honest teaching, interpersonal relationships, a multiplication model, constant prayer, and ultimately let them go. Are we ready for that? Are we modelling that? I know I haven’t been willing to let go, but I believe we need to model the programming Christ set forth. Will you step out with me and let the revival come?

So what should we do? I am not saying rid your youth group of candy, games, outreach events, and craziness because these are all good things, but instead I believe we should rethink our purpose and how we do things. I would suggest four things to do:

Preach the Gospel unabashedly

This should be a no-brainer but the reality is the Gospel isn’t always as prevalent as it should be. Think about it: how much time do you devote to games, snacks, hangout time, movies, etc. Now think about how much time you take preaching the Word of God and proclaiming salvation. Does the obvious one outweigh the other? Our priorities can be noted by the time we spend there. Please do not hear this as being critical of youth pastors and their programs. I am in that place as well. It is something that as I write this I find convicting. This is meant to be more of a rallying cry for us to stand upon our convictions and push them home. Let us put the Gospel back in the central point it deserves!

Become a safe place

Again, we probably all assume that our youth programs are safe areas for students, but I think we miss things. Bullying is a hot topic and I think most of us could say we keep bullying out of our programs, but what about gossip, sarcasm, judging others, disrespect? These things can drastically alter the DNA of a youth group and cause it to become a place where students do not want to be. We need to be a place that builds its foundation on the Gospel, and then seeks to promote love, peace, forgiveness, and grace. We need to start educating our students on the dangers and problems associated with these attitudes and heart issues.

Another way to be a safe place is to constantly push home that students can be themselves here, that there is no judgement, that there are people they can talk to, and they can trust us. I have written before on trust, and I cannot over emphasize this point. We need to keep our word and our confidences with students (of course there are always extenuating circumstances, but the short version is keep your word). We as pastors, as leaders, as volunteers, must be a source of trust, advice, and direction in a student’s life and we need to be a place that students know they can come for help. Bring in volunteers who are gifted in counseling, make connections with licensed counselors inside and outside your church, have crisis care information at the ready, and talk about these issues! The one thing I cannot express enough is we need to be leaders who do not brush the issues under the carpet or do not talk about them because they are messy and difficult. We must talk about them and we must educate our students on how to walk through these times, all the while advocating our support, love, and care for them.

Start from the ground up

We need to be a praying generation. Maybe it is just something that God has been stirring within my heart, convicting me in areas I fall short, but I believe we need to be praying more for our volunteers, our students, our ministries, our churches, and our world. If we are not falling on our knees to ask God to change our world, our towns, and our students, we are missing the mark. If you study the early church in Acts you see that everything they did was covered in prayer. It was prayer and seeking God in Acts 2 that caused thousands to be added to their numbers. When the believers prayed for boldness in Acts 4, God gave fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and the uneducated the ability to proclaim God’s Word, and they grew again! Going further into Acts we see countless times that prayer brought about salvationsending out of disciples, and discipleship!

Prayer can and will transform our programs! Are we praying enough? I am sure many, if not all of us are praying during our personal study times, we pray during staff meetings, at home for meals, with our spouses and children, but when was the last time you prayed over the church, your youth room, where you do counseling? When was the last time you brought your volunteers, student leaders, and/or parents in to pray for that week’s meeting? I believe that prayer must be part of our foundation or we will never experience the growth that the early church did. So often I have wondered why a program is not growing more. Why has it remained stagnate? Why are we just existing? And then the Holy Spirit grabs my heart and says, “Get on your knees you foolish man. You cannot do this. Only I, the God who placed you here, can!”

My question is, are we praying enough? I know I am not. Perhaps if we all prayed, if we rallied our volunteers, students, parents, church staff and prayed fervently and constantly sought the face of God, we would see an explosion of growth happen once again in the Bride of Christ.

Be prepared for a revival

Coming off of the last point, I think we need to ask ourselves, are we truly ready for revival to come like we sing about in our songs? Truly, if we cry out in prayer God is inclined to move through His people and are we ready for that? Can you see youth groups and churches bursting from the seams as God fills the church? Can you see schools and towns changing? Can you see the world changing? This is the vision John has in Revelation when he sees people from every tongue and nation singing and worshiping God! This is an amazing picture of what is coming, and we need to ask ourselves, are we ready for this? Are we doing our part to share the Gospel with those we minister to?Are we content to be where we are and just exist? May it never be! Let us be ever willing to cry out for this!

So what should we do to prepare for revival?

  1. Have leadership ready. Get a team of volunteers, student leaders, and parents in place to help disciple, pray for, and walk with people who come to the church.
  2. Put the priority on God. Always preach the Gospel, always give God glory, and always direct others to Him.
  3. Be prepared to make changes on faith. Look to grow the church and not be tied down to a location, facility, program, or way of doing things. God sent the disciples out with no place to lay their heads or any understanding of the world outside of their country and look what happened. The church, the Bride of Christ, came into existence!
  4. Be in prayer. Be in constant prayer for what God is going to be doing. Always look to Him for guidance, direction, and understanding.
  5. Get other youth groups and churches in on this. Don’t be an island; look to be ecumenical and inclusive with other Gospel-believing churches. God is going to do great things not through one program or church but through all of His people. Bring others in!

I know there was a lot tied into one post, but we need to be willing to let go of our programming and let God run the show without trying to do it our way. Let us love unabashedly, serve without hesitation, give God the glory and control always, and reach our students, families, and the world with the amazing truth that is the Gospel.