Youth Group Activities to Bring Out the Best in Kids
5/26/2020 by Kyle Greco
Running a youth group can be hugely challenging. It’s tough to get preteens and teens engaged in anything, let alone something designed to build their character.
That’s why it’s important for youth group leaders to have a deep bag of tricks they can pull from. Every activity below can help you bring out the best in your youth group!
Making Introductions Fun
Your youth group gets talked at all day every day by teachers, parents, and coaches. The last thing they want to do at youth group is receive another “lesson.” In that case, you’ll have to bake the things you want to convey to them into activities that feel fun.
Of course, it’s not a good idea to drop them into the deep end on a project early in the game. Everyone has to get to know one another first. That’s what these interesting introduction ideas are for.
You probably remember icebreakers from your welcome week at college. Games like “Never Have I Ever” or “This or That” can be fun, but they can also venture into territory that is, let’s say, not quite youth group appropriate. Try out these fun ideas instead.
Icebreakers You Can Play With Your Youth Group
Open up a pack of M&Ms (or any multi-colored candy) and take out a piece in each color. Write a question next to each color of candy (for example, ‘what’s your favorite color?’ Or, ‘what’s the best trip you’ve ever been on?’ Pass around the pack of candy, with each student picking out a piece. Then, they answer the question associated with the color they picked. Go around until the bag is empty!
A Cold Wind Blows
Have your group stand up and form a circle. The group leader stands in the middle as the first person to be “it.” The “it” person then calls out a sentence beginning with the phrase “A cold wind blows on” and ending with something that refers to the other players. The players who fit the sentence then have to run through the circle to find a standing spot. The person left in the middle is now “it.” Continue until everyone has gone!
Circle of Friends
Great for large groups, this one involves your group forming two circles (one inside of the other). Each circle takes one step in the opposite direction, and gives a quick introduction to the person across from them. The process continues until everyone has met everyone!
It’s important to keep in mind that the icebreakers mentioned above can be draining, particularly for people who are socially anxious. Putting the spotlight on someone who’s a bit shyer than the others probably won’t bring them “out of their shell,” but might actually scare them away.
That’s why it’s a good idea to offset the icebreakers with less “performative,” more casual board games. Taboo, Punderdome, Boggle, and Pictionary are all fun, easy to play games that create chances for conversation.
They also give group leaders the chance to get to know the group members better, and see how they interact with one another in informal situations. For the group members themselves, this is just a fun, low-stakes way to participate. But for you and the rest of your team, it’s an opportunity to lay the foundation for future conversations and important life lessons.
Fun Youth Group Games
Once everyone feels a little more comfortable with one another, you can move beyond the ice breakers and board games and get into something a little more involved. Here are some ideas.
Every group could use a little warm up activity, and trivia is a great way to get young minds going. Whether it’s about current events, history, pop culture, or this week’s suggested reading, a little friendly competition can get your group ready for the activities ahead.
The Gas Up
Try this game when your group gets to a point where they feel they know each other pretty well. You’ll need:
-Enough writing utensils and paper for everyone
-A hat or a bag
Hand out the slips of paper, and have each person write their name. Put the slips in the bag or hat, and have everyone draw one name. They should keep it to themselves.
Choose someone at random. The person chosen then has to say something nice about the person whose name they picked. It should be somewhat descriptive, but still difficult for the other players to guess!
From there, everyone guesses who the mystery person might be. Right answers get a point (or not, go with the vibe of your group). Repeat process with whoever is to the right!
The idea behind this game is to emphasize the good in all of us, and make the people in your youth group feel good too. It also helps group members practice kindness toward one another, including those people they may not be so close with.
Divide members into teams, giving each team the same list of things to find or do. Each item on the list should have points assigned to it, with more points allotted to the more difficult ones.
From there, give the teams a set period of time to complete. While a short list can be finished in one meeting, a longer list might need a few meetings, or for the playtime to run between meetings.
Teams score points by documenting the completion of each goal. When the allotted time is up, tally up the point totals. Do it in person to increase the excitement factor. The team with the most points wins. What they win is up to you– maybe it’s a gift card, a commemorative trophy, or a custom shirt that says “I Won the Youth Group Scavenger Hunt!”
Passive Youth Group Activities
There are going to be times when your youth group lacks a little oomph. It’s not your fault, or theirs– we all have times when our energy is low, and we just need to chill out.
When you add that to the fact that teenagers are more stressed than ever, you’ll understand the need to have some passive activities up your sleeve.
One good option is to have a movie night. You’ll want to select something that is both age-appropriate and thought-provoking. Watch the film in sections. After each section, hold a short discussion about its themes, as well as the situations the characters find themselves in. This enhances the viewing for everyone.
Another idea is to have a youtube ‘show and tell.’ Ask your group to send links of things they’ve seen recently on the internet. Maybe it’s a cool new idea for a youth group activity, a motivational speaker, or a song that has been speaking to them lately. If your group is especially close-knit, you could even open it up to include videos on subjects they have questions about, such as news stories or issues they contend with in their daily lives.
Of course, it’s a good idea to vet these videos before showing them, and prepare your group co-leaders for the discussions that will take place after viewing. There may be difficult conversations that arise out of this activity, so be prepared to act with grace if things get sticky.
Getting Your Youth Group Active
Of course, for every time your youth group is a little low on energy, there’s another time when they’re fired up. Physical activity is a great way for them to blow off some steam.
When the weather is nice, head out to a park or other natural environment. Hike trails that show off the natural beauty of your area, and emphasize the importance of protecting nature.
Or, divide into teams and play games like dodgeball, tug of war, and capture the flag. These outdoor games are perfect for youth groups because they emphasize the importance of working together, and reinforce the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
If you’re looking for a game that offers a little extra fun in the summer, try slip n’ slide kickball. It’s just like regular kickball, except the basepaths are slip n’ slides! Be sure to play it on grass for safe, slippery fun.
The journey of a youth group is long. Try out all of these ideas to keep things fresh and exciting for your members!
About the Author
Kyle Greco Kyle Greco is the resident writer at RushOrderTees, where he blends word nerdery with his love for T-shirts. A graduate of The College of New Jersey, he is interested in exploring the intersection of clothing and culture. In his spare time, he makes music, builds guitars, and cooks with his wife. He enjoys hot dogs, sports, and collecting too many hats.