Ministry Ideas During Lockdown: Digital Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are a ton of fun, but typically we default to thinking of these as having to be in-person events. With the technology we have though we can easily leverage these events in a digital format. Today we want to offer some ways you can implement these digital ideas in your ministry and utilize them during the holiday season as well.

Before implementing this, here are a few key things to consider:

  • Do my students have social media?
  • What social media platforms do my students most utilize?
  • What type of involvement do I want from this?
  • What do I want this challenge to do for our program?
  • What level of involvement will this need?
  • Is there a prize involved? An easy prize would be digital gift cards or a socially distanced youth pastor drop off of a gift card or gift box at the winner’s home. If you do drop it off, get a video or photo and share it on your social media to drive more engagement.
  • Make sure to bring the energy and engagement on your end. If you aren’t engaged and having fun, your student won’t either. Your level of involvement will affect theirs.

Scavr

Scavr is a great online resource that allows you to build, manage, and host the scavenger hunt in a live format if you desire. This could be fun if you wanted to host this digital event at a set time where everyone is actively engaged with it. However, the limitation comes where only you are seeing the photos as they come in because they are submitted through the Scavr app. A way you could work around this is either have students and leaders also share them under a hashtag on social media or you try downloading all them and put it into a slideshow for everyone. You can also use an online video chat afterward to talk through the event and award prizes to the winner. For more information on how to utilize this program, check out our earlier post on games for small groups.

Stories

Instagram Stories would be a really easy way for you to incorporate digital challengers to be completed. Reach out to your group ahead of time and let them know the rules (the easier the better: complete the task, post it in your story, and tag the social media account that is hosting the challenge) and then either host the challenge on a single day or do a challenge each day for a week. This is a great idea to utilize over Christmas break because it offers engagement, community from a distance, and opportunities for you to connect with your students.

Youth Pastor/Leader on a Shelf

Most of us are familiar with Elf on the Shelf. But consider a digital scavenger hunt where each day students will need to recreate a photo or video that the leader shares of themselves “on a shelf.” Come up with a bunch of fun places to pose and challenge your students to recreate them to the best of their abilities. Utilize a fun hashtag with this one like “Youth Leader Elfie” and think ahead about how you can create new, exciting, and safe poses that challenge your students each week.

Acts of Service

Consider using your digital scavenger hunt as a way of blessing others in your church or community. Give students a task each day or week, depending on the size and nature of the task, and have them share a photo or video showing they completed it. You can be as specific or general as you like with this challenge. It could be taking out the trash at home, shoveling snow for a neighbor, donating food to a food pantry, baking cookies for frontline workers, or helping get the church ready for Christmas. This is an awesome way to encourage students to embody the life Jesus calls us to live.

This type of scavenger hunt would be a great follow up to a series on serving or living sacrificially as it makes it very practical. You could also host a digital pizza party afterward and debrief what was learned. To host a digital pizza party, buy each student a pizza and a 2 liter of soda (Aldi has great deals on these products) and deliver them to each student who participated. Let them know that they should prepare the pizza for your Zoom meeting so you can all share in a meal together.

Christmas Break Version

If you are looking to give your students something to do over your whole break, consider putting together a list of tasks, challenges, service opportunities, and anything else creative that you can think of. Send this list out to them and let them know the rules and timeline for the event. If you want students to submit photos and/or videos, make sure you have a place that has enough digital space to store them. Also, if they need to do acts of service consider having a parent sign off on it. This could also be an opportunity for you to leverage family engagement by challenging families to do this together and compete against one another.

Small Group Game Ideas

Last week we looked at socially distanced games for groups that can gather in larger numbers. These games can work for some ministries, but other youth groups have made the switch to meeting in smaller groups to accommodate state and federal guidelines.

With that being said, I would like to share some game ideas for smaller groups. Some of these are the same as last week because they can also be played in small groups with minor tweaking. This isn’t an all encompassing list, but merely an attempt to share some resources that we have found to be helpful and beneficial.

Zoom Games

The reality for many of our groups is that we will be meeting virtually at some point this coming semester. We don’t like to think that way, but it is better to be prepared for it than not. So I would encourage you to think through different Zoom Games that you can play. An easy option is utilizing PowerPoint style games that you can screen-share with a group. Another option is doing trivia over Zoom or a “Would You Rather” style game. The cool thing with all of these ideas is you don’t necessarily need to come up with them. Download Youth Ministry has an entire section on their website where you can purchase these games and many more. I would encourage you to start building up your resources now to prepare for the fall. And if you don’t end up meeting online, these games can transition easily to in-person gatherings as well.

Charades

Who doesn’t love a classic game of charades? The general idea is that you will have someone acting out an action, character, or activity that they have pulled from a hat. These can be pre-made by you and your volunteers or you can have students submit suggestions. There are lots of different ways to play Charades like as small groups guessing, or as a large group guessing, or even reverse charades where one person guesses while the whole group acts it out. Whichever one you choose, make sure to remind the people acting out that they can not make noise or they forfeit that round.

Apples to Apples

This is a classic party game and is fantastic for small groups. It does require you to purchase the card game, but it will provide lasting fun for your group. There are also many different editions that you can choose from depending on what your group will enjoy more.

The premise of the game is this: The judge picks a green apple card from the top of the stack, reads the word aloud, and places it face up on the table. Players (except the judge) quickly choose the red apple card from their hand that is best described by the word on the green apple card played by the judge. Players place these red apple cards face down on the table. The judge mixes the red apple cards so no one knows who played which card. The judge turns over each red apple card, reads it aloud, and then selects the one he or she thinks is best described by the word on the green apple card. The player of the selected red apple card is awarded the green apple card played by the judge.

Yard Games

Being able to gather outdoors while the weather is nice is a huge blessing in many ways. Games outdoors are a huge win and don’t need to be planned out in great detail because many of them can run themselves. Some great yard games include cornhole/bags, ladder ball, giant Jenga, badminton, socially distanced volleyball or basketball, Kan Jam, Frisbee, horseshoes, or Spikeball. All of these options allow for social distancing and a ton of fun.

Heads Up

If you are not familiar with Heads Up, you need to download it now and play it. It is a ton of fun and guaranteed to get your group laughing. Heads Up is an app that you can download, but it does cost money. However, there are multiple free versions that you can download as well including the Charades App, Guess Word! Fun Group Games, Charades – Heads Up, and Charades! Kids. I would just encourage you to try them out prior to the night-of.

The way this game works is someone holds the phone up to their head while the app is running and a random word or words will pop up on the screen. The guesser will need to guess the word(s) by the clues that the audience gives. Most apps will let you know how many you get right, and you can have a friendly competition among your group.

Costume Challenge

This is an activity that can be done both in-person and online. I have had many of my leaders host online costume parties, and they change the theme each week to make them more fun and engaging. You can also do this in person, and if you have to wear masks you could even see about having students tie the masks into their costumes.

Scavenger Hunts

Doing scavenger hunts is a really easy and fun way to get students involved and moving, and they can be done in person or digitally. If you are meeting at a home, you could give a list of objects and tasks to your small group to find or complete around the home and/or neighborhood. If you are doing it digitally, you could have them find different items around their house and the first to show it on screen wins the round. Last week we shared about a great website/app called Scavr that allows you to create scavenger hunts that utilize the app and all that data and points are accumulated through an online leader board.

Users must download the app and sign up in order to participate. They then create a team name and will be able to see the challenges that you have put into the game. The beauty of this app is that it tallies the results and shows a leader board throughout the event. It removes the headache of trying to create and tally everything on your own, and makes it really easy.

Trivia

Who doesn’t love a good trivia night? You can set this up for small groups or for individuals to compete. If you Google trivia questions, there are countless websites for you to choose from or you can pop on over to DYM and find a ton of games that you can plug and play for your group.

Message Bingo

This has recently been making the rounds in various online groups, but the overall gist is that you create a Bingo board with different things that will pop up throughout the message or the night. You can add squares like “the pastor said ‘umm'” or “everyone wore a mask” or “pop culture reference” or “bad joke by pastor.” You can have as much fun with this as possible, and you could even offer prizes as well. There are lots of online generators for Bingo cards, but this website offers up to 30 free printable cards that you can change the layout and design on.

The Hat Game

This is a really fun game to play with any size group, but in smaller groups you can play multiple rounds. The premise is fairly simple: there are three rounds of game-play and two teams. In the first round one player will draw pieces of paper out the hat and try to get their team members to guess what is written on them by only using Charades. The next round is the player tries to have their team guess using Pictionary, and the final round they can speak but not say the word or what it sounds like. Each round is timed and then you rotate teams.

The fun part about this game is you can switch up the categories, the method for sharing clues, the timing, and much more. It is a game you could continue to use no matter the circumstance, and each time it will be an entirely different game for your group. For more ideas and a more complete set of instructions, check out this website.

Xbox/Wii/Switch Games

I am not normally one to encourage playing video games, especially during youth group time. But there are games on Kinect, Wii and Wii U, and Nintendo Switch that are great group games to play because they are somewhat active and allow for four or more people to play. I will say this though: be cautious with what games you choose and make sure that they are games parents and your ministry approve of. You never want an activity to become a stumbling block.

Would You Rather

These are great conversation starters and allow for you to actively engage your students with both fun and serious questions. I would suggest setting ground rules for your group that include no making fun of someone’s answer, no course or crude joking, and always answer honestly. A couple of websites that I enjoy using include Conversation Starters World and Icebreaker Ideas. Both of them have solid ideas for questions with a broad range of topics and age ranges.

Highs and Lows

If you aren’t familiar with this idea, it is a great way to begin conversations within a small group. Many of my leaders use this each week because it gets students talking and engaging with the group. It can look different depending on your group and its dynamic, but the basic functionality is this: each student and leader will share anywhere from 1-3 high moments from the week and 1-3 low moments from the week. They can be funny or serious and they can lead to some fantastic laughs and amazing deep conversations.

House Party

House Party is an app that allows you to video chat and play games with your group. I would recommend utilizing the privacy settings and make your room locked so only certain participants are allowed in. But with this app you can play different games together as a group and video chat at the same time. It is very similar to Zoom but doesn’t require screen sharing for games. Everyone will need to create an account and have the app downloaded in order for this to work for your group. So make sure your students know to do that ahead of time.

House Party gives you different game options like Heads Up, Uno, Trivia, Quick Draw, and much more. It is worth downloading and giving it a test run before you implement this with your group so you know its inner workings and limitations.

What are some of your favorite small group games?

Socially Distanced Game Ideas

As many of us are looking at returning to some sort of programming soon, it is important to critically think through what activities and games we will be hosting. Because let’s face it, most of our games are not about social distancing. In order to provide a safe place for students and volunteers, it is important to think about what games will provide the most fun while still being safe.

The games below can be shaped to fit any style or size of youth ministry, but they are primarily for whole youth groups that are regathering. Next week, I will share some game and activity ideas for small groups as many youth ministries are moving toward that direction of ministry going forward. Before we get into the actual games, I wanted to share a few quick tips to make these games successful and safe.

  • Smile and have fun. The more excitement and fun you have, the more engaged your group will be.
  • Encourage social distancing. You don’t have to be an enforcer, but helpful and kind reminders will go a long way.
  • Provide hand sanitizer stations. If kids are touching one another or communal objects, have these areas for immediately after.
  • Encourage hand washing. Even with hand sanitizer, it is beneficial to wash often after activities and before eating.
  • Remind everyone about the rules. Whatever rules your state and church are following, make sure to encourage adherence to them for everyone’s safety.

Scavr

Scavr is a great new resource for creating scavenger hunts that are hosted through an online platform. Users must download the app and sign up in order to participate. They then create a team name and will be able to see the challenges that you have put into the game. The beauty of this app is that it tallies the results and shows a leader board throughout the event. It removes the headache of trying to create and tally everything on your own, and makes it really easy.

A scavenger hunt is also a great activity to socially distance in because you can send out small groups and ask them to maintain the six foot rule, which will be easier to follow in small groups. Just keep that in mind as you create the challenges (i.e. no human pyramids, which equals less people getting hurt).

The Floor is Lava

This is an old school game that has been having a recent resurgence. If you aren’t familiar with the rules the game is fairly simple: do not touch the ground or you are out. The object of the game can vary from completing tasks like collecting objects or moving a team to a safe zone, to completing an obstacle course, to a last person standing challenge. The game can be as creative as you can imagine and will allow for various people to play but also socially distance.

Up Front Games

Depending on the size of your group and the rules you need to follow these may have to be your go-to activity for the time being. These types of games could be trivia style, rap battles, PowerPoint games, or any of a number of Jimmy Fallon-inspired games. These can be done with as few or as many people as you would like, and they can be done in a safe manner as well.

Seated Basketball/Soccer/Football

This is a personal favorite of mine. These games take the traditional sports we love and turn them on their heads. You do not have to be super athletic to play these games because you are seated the entire time. Before you start the game, set up your playing area whether it is indoors or outdoors. Simply place chairs where players will sit the entire game or period and label which team they are for. Then have your students pick a chair and get ready to laugh.

The rules are the same for whatever the game is with one addition: students cannot move from their chair. Have leaders roaming to place the balls back in play when needed. You can also change up the rules and objectives to add another layer to the games as well.

Trivia Games

Who doesn’t love a good trivia night? You can set this up for small groups or for individuals to compete. If you Google trivia questions there are countless websites for you to choose from or you can pop on over to DYM and find a ton of games that you can plug and play for your group.

Hula Hoop Volleyball

This is an easy game to set up and run with. Simply set up a volleyball net, or something in place of it like a sheet on clothesline, and then place hula hoops on each side that are six feet apart. The rules for volleyball don’t change, except that students may not leave their hula hoop during the game unless it is to rotate spots during a change in servers.

Scattergories

This is a great game to play as a small or large group. If you are playing as a small group give everyone a score sheet and have them all compete against one another. You or a leader will assign a letter and have the students write words beginning with it.

If you have a larger group, consider setting this up tournament style. Have students all compete with same letter and then when time is up they will compete only against the other person at their table. The winner will advance to the next table, while the loser stays at the table. If there is a tie have them play Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide the victor. The person with the most wins at the end is the champion.

Cornhole/Bags Tournament

If you do not have a couple sets of these for your youth ministry, let me highly encourage you to get some. I have purchased these before and they have held up very nicely. The very nature of the game allows for socially distanced fun, and you can turn it into a tournament to decide who is the best cornhole player. You can also set up varying degrees of game play (i.e. closer or farther away) to make it more of a challenge for your students.

Charades

Who doesn’t love a classic game of charades? The general idea is that you will have someone acting out an action, character, or activity that they have pulled from a hat. These can be pre-made by you and your volunteers or you can have students submit them. There are lots of different ways to play Charades like as small groups guessing, or as a large group guessing, or even reverse charades where one person guesses while the whole group acts it out. Whichever one you choose, make sure to remind the people acting out that they can not make noise or they forfeit that round.

Pool Noodle Tag

This is a game that will require a little more prep but can be a lot of fun. The premise is you are playing tag, but the only way you can tag someone is with a pool noodle. Make sure you have ones that are close to six feet long and explain to your group that they must hold it at the back end and reach out the pool noodle to tag the other players. It may be helpful to demonstrate proper tagging, especially if you have some overly zealous young men like I do who like to swing the noodles as weapons.

Nerf Battle

I don’t know if your students are like mine, but mine love a good old fashioned Nerf Battle. Having it now will look different, but it is still a viable option. You can set rules to include being six feet apart and if you get too close, you are out or need to re-spawn. I would encourage not swapping weapons unless they are wiped down, and always have eye protection. This would actually be a great game to encourage using face shields in because there will be minimal push back (and eye protection).

What games are you doing as your youth group regathers?

Tips for Hosting Special Events

I don’t know about you but during this time of year, Christmas parties seem to be happening in abundance. In fact, we just had our student Christmas party last week and it was a ton of fun! We had a cookie and hot chocolate bar, Christmas games, caroling, prizes and giveaways, teaching, and small groups.

It was an incredibly busy and packed night, but one that was intentionally designed and formatted to fit with our vision and goals. Whenever we plan a night for our youth group we always make sure to shape the night not only around the theme but around our vision and priorities. This allows the special night to be more than just a gimmick, but an intentional evening designed to bring people in and to help them grow.

Today, I would love to share with you a few special nights that we have done and that are easy to prepare for. But before I do that, let me give you a few tips to help your night succeed even before you start.

Keep your vision and mission.

Often on themed or special nights we let certain aspects of our normal program fall by the wayside. I know that I have often cut or trimmed our small group time to allow for the fun aspects to take priority. But in looking at our vision, small groups are a huge component of what we do. Therefore we have shifted our timing for themed nights to still allow for small group time.

Cast the vision for the event.

Make sure your leaders and your students know what you are doing, the purpose for what you are doing, and what you expect. When everyone is on the same page and you have your leaders championing the event along with you, you are setting up the event for success.

Bring in additional volunteers.

One of the things I love to do for events is bring in extra help so my small group leaders can stay with their small group throughout the evening. Often that means reaching out to parents, friends, and other church-goers to help run the event which means extra leg work, but huge rewards because discipleship continues to happen.

Feature a student speaker.

I would highly suggest allowing one of your student leaders to share during your event. Not only does this elevate and empower your students, but it shows that you trust them to lead. This also gives your students more of a reason to invite their friends and allows for the Gospel to be shared in a real and vibrant manner.

Don’t forget the prizes.

A quick word on prizes: use them but don’t think they have to be extravagant or need to break the bank. Prizes generate buy-in and competition but aren’t the focus of the event. We love to give out a pizza or ice cream party as prize, or a 12-pack of soda. At other points we have done giant gummy bears or gift cards. The truth is that the size or value of the prize doesn’t matter. A prize could be a champion belt, a gift card, or a bag of candy. Be creative and have fun with what you give away.

Special Event Ideas:


Photo Scavenger Hunt

This type of event is quick to put together and run, but the tough part is when it comes to verifying the images taken. One easy way to avoid having to follow a hashtag or check multiple social media accounts is to have an adult leader in each group who takes the photos and marks which ones have been completed. That way honesty is kept and teams are held accountable by someone other than you as the primary leader.

I recommend looking on Google or Pinterest for ideas. You will get a variety of poses or challenges by doing this, but I would also suggest thinking about having teams pose with various items, rooms, or people at your church. Think about posing in a nursery, taking a picture at the church coffee bar, having a team “play” worship, or take a photo in the senior pastor’s office. Adding in personal elements specific to your ministry will make this event even more special.

Scavenger Hunt

Most of us have done a scavenger hunt before but if you try to make it specific to your location it will make it a lot of fun. You can have items like find a shepherd’s staff, collect two bulletins from two different Sundays, find a picture of a missionary, or whatever else you can think of. You can also add in a lot of generic options like find a two foot tall stick, collect five ants that are alive, or find and carry two cinder-blocks.

One added suggestion would be to create a score sheet that has different point values for the items that are based upon difficulty. Teams then can add up their scores at the end and you will have a winner.

Tailgate Party

This is an event that allows you to utilize materials you already have or that are easily accessible but in a new and creative way. Take your volleyball, 9 Square, corn hole, kickball bases, footballs, and basketballs outdoors, bring a sound system outside, set up the grill, and have a blast. Simply by utilizing the outdoors, music, materials you have, and food, you have created an event that is fun and inviting. Allow your students to create their own adventure under the banner of your schedule and get ready to have a blast.

Open Gym

Allowing for an open gym night can be an easy win for your program. Consider implementing these type of nights into your regular programming. These type of nights allow for students to be creative, for leaders to participate, and for there to be tons of activity happening in multiple places. You can have basketball and ultimate Frisbee happening at the same time. Students could play dodge-ball and Spikeball in the same room. Simply put all the sports equipment in the gym and allow students to have fun and be creative under the guidance of your adult volunteers.

Minute to Win It

This is a fun and easy one to run. A quick YouTube or Google search for “Minute to Win It games” turns up hundreds of results, and most of them require only a few materials. My suggestion would be to utilize a Minute to Win It graphic, a countdown time, and have multiple games going at the same time. This allows different groups to be engaged throughout the program. We also put some small pieces of candy at each table for the teams to take a piece when they complete the challenge as another fun twist to the evening.

Must-Have, Easy Games and Activities

Student ministry always has some component of fun and games to it, but if we are honest sometimes games are hard to run or get creative with. I get it. I tend to focus my energy on teaching and interpersonal relationships over games, and often that means I need to dig into my repertoire of ready-to-go games or ones that are easy to set up and run.

This week I want to share with you some of my must-have games and activities that have proved invaluable over the years. I want to provide you with some activities and games that have an upfront cost but long-term benefits, and some activities you can host with resources you have on hand or are low cost. All of these can be run with minimal or no direction to free you up to do what you need to.

9 Square in the Air

This is an amazing resource and promises hours of fun and friendly competition. Think of it as a unique combination of foursquare and volleyball but you don’t have to be a super star athlete to play or win. This is an easy to set up activity and it runs itself. You can also host tournaments or play a “HORSE” style variant as well. It is a little pricey, but this product was developed by a youth pastor who has a heart for other youth workers so they offer discounts to churches. Simply email them and ask if they will help out with pricing, and they will get you a discount code.

Cornhole or Bags

This is a great activity to have out during a social time or game time. It is super easy and almost everyone knows how to play: toss the bags onto to the wooden board and try to get them into the hole. It is also super beneficial because it runs itself and if you have a couple of sets you can run competitive tournaments or just have multiple games going on at once. These run around $120, but I have found looking for slightly higher quality cornhole games ensures they will last.

Giant Jenga

This is just a lot of fun and the name says it all…it is the Jenga we all know and love, but giant sized! The cool thing about these sets is you can price compare because multiple store have them throughout the year (Aldi currently has one on sale in its seasonal section), or you can even make them yourself if you have some two by fours. This is a lot of fun and sure to bring a ton of laughs and moments that should be shared on social media.

Spikeball

This has taken the college world by storm but it is also a must-have for any student ministry. This is a new and unique style of game that is similar to volleyball, foursquare, and a trampoline for your ball. It can be played one on one, or up to three on three and has really simple game-play. This is a game you will need to walk students through once or twice but it is fairly easy to catch on, and it will run itself if you just set it out for a few weeks in a row.

GagaBall or Octoball

If you haven’t heard of this game, prepare for a game that is a ton of fun and really simple to run and set up. You can always build or purchase one of these games, but my recommendation is to use eight-foot tables to setup the octagon. The game is fairly simple: players stand inside of the octagon and drop a ball (a kickball or volleyball works really well) and hit the ball at opposing players with their hands in an effort to get them out. If a player is hit below the knee they are out. GagaBall can be done indoors and outdoors so this can be a year-round activity.

Sports Equipment

Depending on your facility and what you are allowed to do in it, having a variety of sporting equipment is a must. We don’t have a gym at our church but we do have a lot of outdoor space to use during the warmer months. We have collected various balls, Frisbees, cones, flags, and other equipment so once the weather is favorable we can go outside and have fun. Kickball has become a huge favorite and so has ultimate frisbee. Both of these games are super simple and involve minimal setup and facilitating to make them a success.

Minute to Win it

Everyone knows these games and they are a blast to play. You can find any number of these style games online, and many of the items you need you may already have at your ministry, can find for low cost in dollar stores, or ask families donate (i.e. toilet tissue, empty tissue boxes, packs of Oreos, etc.). Part of making this event fun is setting up a rotation for groups of students to move through so multiple people can play at the same time.

Board games, puzzles, and coloring books

These are relatively low cost or free if you can get them donated. Students love to play card games, board games, and even trivia, so I always keep an eye out at Walmart, Target, thrift stores, and yard sales. But also consider asking people to donate their gently used activities and then incorporate them into your ministry.

7 Tips for Running Games Well

Game time during youth group…you either love it or you hate it. Gone are the days where churches could play dodgeball and Chubby Bunny, or duck-tape kids to a wall, and now we have to be intentional in what we do and why we do it.

Games are an integral, but not the most important, part of what we do. We have all seen or experienced games that run well, but for some of us…well, games are hard to run, plan, and get people involved with. So what do we do?

1. Make sure games/game time fit your focus of ministry.

I think so often we can let our time of fun and activity cut into our message or small group time. I have been guilty of this myself. You get super invested in a 9 Square game, and all of sudden you are 20 minutes past your message time, so you call everyone over, go through your message and now small groups have only 10 minutes. That isn’t going to work, it will lead to frustration with your leaders and lack of comprehension in your students’ spiritual formation.

Instead, shape your game time around the priorities of your ministry. If you value the message and small groups they should have the bulk of your time, and games now become something that you put into your extra time. Don’t let the fun dictate the heart. Let the heart dictate the fun.

2. Invest in reusable materials.

One of the best things we can have in our repertoires is something that our students love to use, but that is also reusable. For some ministries this may be a ping pong table, foosball, or carpetball. For others it may be a basketball hoop. Or for others it may be 9 Square (email them to ask for the church discount) or Gagaball. Depending on your ministry and its space, what you have may look different than others, but that is okay.

Our ministry space is shared with other groups, so we don’t get to keep items set up throughout the week. What we done is invest in items that are easily stored, and can be set up in a shorter amount of time. We have cornhole sets, 9 Square, ping pong, foosball, and various board games, puzzles, and arts and crafts items. All of these serve a function of building community and can be run quickly and with little set up, and provide countless weeks of fun programming.

3. Put your (or someone else’s) heart into it. 

Our students know if we love or hate something. For those of us who may not love running games, our students know that and their desire to be involved will reflect our heart. If we love it, our students will love it. The energy and passion you bring will help encourage students to participate. It doesn’t need to be obnoxious, pushy, or over the top, but authentic and passionate energy will help students want to be involved.

Sometimes though, games just aren’t your thing, and that is okay. Find someone who does have that passion, help to equip and empower them, and then unleash them and let them run with it. Now you are not only helping to empower and develop leaders, you are letting them use their gifts and have buy-in. And students will have someone running games who is all-in for them.

4. Become an emcee. 

Now I don’t mean become someone who hosts an award ceremony or game show, but be someone who can not only articulate rules but also engage with the crowd. Make sure to be clear and concise as you explain what is happening. But also remember that you know your people, so have fun with them.

Games are so much more than rules, they are an opportunity to invest in people’s lives. Use them that way. Be able to laugh about the rules and game play. When that one kid who always tries to bend the rules asks a question, have fun with them instead of shutting them down. Walk around and encourage students as they play. Jump in yourself. Enjoy the time and engage with your students as they engage with your game.

5. Utilize your space.

So often we look at our space in the way that it limits us. But what if we took a step back and said, “Here is our space, how can I best utilize it?” With this mentality we enter with a whole new frame of reference and understanding that the space we have is a resource, and it allows for us to get creative. Don’t see it as limiting, see it as an opportunity to be or do something different. Yes, this may mean longer set up or tear down times, but imagine if we let the space shape our approach instead of limit it.

One of my favorite things to do is utilize games that already exist but perhaps my students haven’t seen or played before. Here are three quick ways to get awesome games for your services:

  1. Ask your leaders, students, and other youth workers. You never know what you are going to get and chances are you will get games that are youth ministry gold!
  2. Use Download Youth Ministry. Their ready-to-go games are a must-have for any ministry. Shape it to fit your group, and run with it. Note: this is a pay to use product.
  3. Use The Source for Youth Ministry’s game page. This is something that has been a huge asset to me in student ministry. Hundreds of ready-to-go games, plus a game search option that is completely customizable. Check it out, you won’t regret it.

6. Don’t force the issue.

Some students hate games and physical activity. That is completely fine. Don’t force your students to play. Doing so may actually drive them away from your ministry. Instead, look to understand why they don’t want to participate, find out what interests them, and look to curate a game time (and overall program) that intentionally invests in the lives of every student who comes.

We know that all of our students won’t participate in a game. So instead we have a cafe area (or just a chill space) where they can talk, play board or card games, eat snacks, do homework, or just talk with one another. At first we may take it personally if we orchestrated an amazing game that they don’t want to play, but step back and watch the relational equity develop and students become more invested. Honestly, I have pulled the reigns on formalized games and instead allow for more organic development of activities during that time.

7. Have fun.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if we don’t enjoy what we are doing, our students will see that. Have fun with your games, yourself, and your crew. Laugh, play along, be willing to chuckle when your rules don’t work, and be willing to call audibles if needed. Your love and passion for whatever you do will be contagious, so bring it to your games no matter how big or small they are and see what God can do through those moments.

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.**

Bucketball

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.

Octoball/Gagaball

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!