30 Youth Group Games and Activities
Bringing together and bonding your church youth group is an important part of helping teens get to know each other. Plan a game night or integrate these activities into your weekly meetings to encourage members to open up — and have lots of fun.
To Encourage Having Fun
- 52 Card Pick Up - Spread students around the outside of a room, and throw a pack of playing cards all over the floor. Wrap five or more volunteers (depending on how big the room is) with duct tape six or more times around with the sticky side out (arms taped down). Blow a whistle that signals participants can get on the ground and roll around, trying to pick up as many cards as possible in a given amount of time. Once time elapses, have students examine their cards. Assign each card a Bible verse and ask students to read aloud the verses that match their cards.
- Whistle a Happy Tune - Divide your students into two groups and ask for the best “whistler” in each group. Set the timer for 10 seconds and give each whistler a bowl of familiar tunes (like nursery rhymes, church worship songs, etc.). Both teams go at the same time and try to whistle the tune for their team while the team guesses. The twist is that by picking them out of the bowl, they won’t be whistling the same song at once, which adds to the chaos and calamity. Have them crunch up a cracker in their mouth first (no swallowing!) for a fun — and slightly messy — challenge!
- Twisted List Game - Split into two teams and designate a runner. Create several lists from Bible facts (three parables that Jesus told, four people in the parable of Good Samaritan, a list of temptations Jesus faced, books of the Old Testament, etc.). The twist is that some of these lists will include an item (or two) that don’t fit. The goal is to correctly identify which item doesn’t fit and have your runner sprint to the center to hit a buzzer (or pick up an eraser or clap three times) and share the team’s answer. You can assign points for right answers or play elimination-style by picking someone from the other team to be “out” if you’re correct. The highest points or the last person left wins.
- Coin Connections - Get enough coins before your meeting for each student, making sure there are no “antique” coins (i.e., the years before your students were born). Each student gets a coin and takes a turn sharing how old they were and something significant that happened to them the year the coin was minted.
- Encouragement Shower - This can really be affirming for your members. Pick a different person each week (or several people if your group is small) and have the other members of the group shower them with encouragement, positive qualities they notice about the person or something they admire.
- World Record Night - You probably won’t break any real world records, but it might be fun to try a few of your own. Who can blow the biggest bubble? Who can memorize the longest Bible verse in one minute? Who can remember the longest set of numbers? Who can spit a mini marshmallow the farthest? Who can get across the gym the fastest while holding their ankles? Keep records and make it an annual event!
Coordinate who brings youth group snacks with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Picture This - Give everyone a paper plate and marker. Have students put the plates on their heads and give them 60 seconds to write their name and draw one thing they are interested in or their favorite Bible story. At the end, ask them share their picture with the group and see if fellow members can guess what the drawing is.
- Serpent and Saint - At the start of this game, ask students to form a circle and shut their eyes. A leader will tap the serpent once and the saint twice to indicate their roles in the game. Then the game begins. The serpent tries to make eye contact and quickly stick out his tongue at someone without getting caught by the saint. If a student makes eye contact and sees the serpent’s tongue, they can die a dramatic death and fall to the floor. The game continues until the saint is able to identify the serpent and yells out “Snake!” If they misidentify the snake, then they are out and the game starts over with a new serpent and saint.
- Birthday Bash - Celebrate everyone’s birthday in one fell swoop! Purchase balloons and cake and play games so teens can get familiar each other’s special day. For example, call out a month and have everyone whose birthday is that month run to a corner. You could also have students silently hold up fingers of their birthday month and organize themselves in a line accordingly. Another option is to have students mouth their birthday and see how well they do at reading lips! Genius Tip: Try these 20 creative birthday party games to celebrate even more.
- Sherlock - Divide your group into two teams — or if your group is smaller, pick someone to be “detective.” Line up the two groups facing each other (or one group and the detective), and give them 10 to 30 seconds to observe each other. The detective/second group leaves the room and the first group changes 10 things about their appearance that are somewhat obvious. Provide items such as pencils (to put behind ears) scarves, costume jewelry, a pair of glasses, etc. to help with the transformation. Once the detective/second group returns, give them a set amount of time to try to observe the 10 changes and write them down. See how many they can detect, and then swap roles. This could lead to a fun discussion about being careful students of the Bible.
- Karaoke Night - Challenge your youth group to a karaoke contest featuring popular church songs or ones that have been vetted as PG-friendly. Ask church staff members to serve as impartial judges and offer small prizes to winners in categories such as “best individual performance,” “best group performance” and “best adaptation.”
- Ornament Exchange - Get your youth group together and ask them to bring a wrapped ornament to an ornament exchange. You can either establish a theme or ask students to find the wackiest or tackiest ornament to give away. Throw in some cookie decorating or another fun activity like a Christmas song “name that tune” competition using kazoos for an entertaining holiday evening together. Genius Tip: Try these 25 Christmas games for kids for your celebration.
- Does Anyone Know…? - This is a great game to play once your group is familiar with each other (or with smaller groups of fewer than ten people). Sit your youth group in a circle and give each person a slip of paper. They must secretly finish the phrase “Does anyone know…?” It should be something fun — not controversial or private/inappropriate. Put it in a bowl in the middle of the circle. The person who goes first grabs a clue and says, “Does anyone know …” and finishes the phrase while trying to guess who wrote the clue in one to three guesses. The game continues until all the clues have been used.
To Encourage Working Together
- Clay Chaos - Get enough clay or dough for groups of four to work with. Sit your students in a circle and give every fourth person a lump of dough. When you say go, give them an object to create, but when you say “left,” they have to pass it to the left and the next person works on the creation for a few seconds. Keep switching people from left to right or left several times. See what gets created after several switches. Change it up and the next time around, and after several switches, tell the next person to destroy the creation and make something completely new. This is a great conversation starter for how God must feel when we try to make ourselves into something we’re not or be something we’re not created to be.
- Photo Scavenger Hunt - Instead of telling groups exactly what to look for, challenge them to get creative and give them 30 minutes to take a picture that best represents the given prompt or challenge. The list can include song titles, movie titles, “items that look like” (youth pastor’s pet, small group leader’s favorite food, youth pastor’s dream car, etc.), or best place in the church to hide during Sunday School.
- Magic Carpet Challenge - Ask adult volunteers to bring old towels or provide large sheets of butcher paper. Start the game by telling teams they are on a magic carpet, 20,000 feet in the air — but the carpet is upside down! Teammates must work together to flip over their carpet without anyone falling to their death below. The team that gets its carpet flipped first without losing anyone over the edge wins!
- Partner Pictures - Each student is assigned a partner and sits back-to-back. One member is given a picture, object or scene written on a 3x5 card. They must describe the contents of the card to their partner without using any part of the word or any other clues you have written on the card (like Taboo). You can give all groups the same picture or mix them up. Set a timer and once the time is up, share the pictures. You can also vary this by sitting in a circle and having people rotate the picture mid-drawing so it’s a group effort.
Throw a youth group pool party with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Caterpillar Race - Form equally sized teams with three to seven players, and have the teams line up behind the starting line in single file, with hands on each other’s shoulders. The teams must race to the finish by doing the following: the first person in line hops one hop forward and each person subsequently hops one hop until it gets to the last person — who yells the team name. When the rest of the team hears the team name yelled, the whole team then hops forward all together. Have them try to hop quickly after each other to keep hands attached to the shoulders in front of them. Repeat this pattern of individual hop then team hop to move the down the playing area, caterpillar style, toward the finish line.
- Quiz Night - Divide your group into teams of four or five for a gathering you can hold quarterly. Assign a book of the Bible (or select chapters from one) and tell students to study up because they’ll be competing for pride and prizes in a quiz-style competition. You could purchase buzzers if you want to be interactive or research an app that lets students answer via smart phone. Genius Tip: Use this list of Bible trivia questions to get started.
- Museum - Select one person from your group to be the museum night guard. This person will stand facing the wall while the rest of the group is on the other side of the room, with a hand or foot touching the wall. The goal of the game is for the museum to “come alive” and try to sneak up and tag the guard. At any point, the guard can turn around and everyone must freeze. If the guard catches anyone moving, the whole museum returns to start. You can also split the group in half to see who can reach the night guard first or let it be an individual challenge. If done as a large group, it’s a good lead-in to talking about the consequences of group-think or being influenced by others.
- Fruit ER - Divide into small groups and give each group a banana, cutting board and plastic knife. Instruct them to cut the banana into four or five pieces but don’t tell participants what is next. Then hand out more supplies: pins, floss, tape, toothpicks, large plastic needles, etc. The goal is to reassemble the banana so the group can pick it up and present it to the other students. This is a good game to illustrate how some things are hard to put back together — broken trust, fragile relationships, etc.
- Three-Word Team Charades - Take index cards and create three-word phrases for teams to act out (read the Bible, take first communion, march around Jericho). Divide into teams of four players. One person on the team is the guesser and the rest of the team acts out the phrase, with a time limit on getting the teammate to guess the three-word clue. Do not give away the clue if it doesn’t get guessed — another team can try to steal. Teams get three points for the whole phrase (one point per word) and double points if they steal and get all three words correct before time runs out (steals get zero points if you don’t get all three exactly). Play to 30 points or until clues run out.
- My Life In Titles - For a memorable meeting, have your youth group meet at the local library. Give them a list of questions and ask them to find titles of books that most reflect how they would answer. Questions could include: How my life is going right now? How would I would describe my relationship with my siblings? What do I hope my future looks like? Gather together in a meeting room and share the answers.
Register students for the youth group retreat with a sign up. SAMPLE
To Encourage Serving Others
- Service Scavenger Hunt - Wipe down a counter, pick trash out of the landscaping, clean a window. Make a list of things students can do on or near church campus to help others. Snap a picture and see who can really outdo themselves serving others.
- Project Sunshine - Once the weather starts to warm up, reach out to neighbors of the church with a small potted flower and encouraging message (plus your church name and service times). Attach a note with a verse. Isaiah 26:3 or 40:31; John 14:11; 1 Peter 5:7 are all short. This promotes scripture memory as students write it several times. The nice thing about a plant is that it won’t attract critters or spoil if it doesn’t get discovered right away.
- Serve the Leaders Night - Ask students who are interested to form a planning committee to organize the evening (with a parent to supervise). You can use your budget to cater a meal, ask families to donate toward the meal or have families provide specific dishes. Dressing up nicely is encouraged, and the students can create a special invitation that gets mailed to the leaders. Students can collect digital photos to showcase, give special awards for each leader and include a time when several students can share about how the leader has impacted her life.
- Shine Your Light Night - Sometimes just saying “thank you” to those who get overlooked is a great way to shine your light in a dark world. Plan a night where students write thank you notes to those who they see serving others but don’t often get a sincere “thank you.” Some ideas: a cafeteria worker at their school, church maintenance staff, postal worker, librarian or cashier at a local store. Have them list a reason or two about why that person is a blessing to them. Ask the students in their notes to be specific about something they appreciate about that person and to pray for that person both before and after they share their note.
- Make Blessing Bags - Homelessness among youth is a prevailing problem. Have students organize donations and put together bags of products that would be useful for people their age. Items to consider include T-shirts, Chapstick/hygiene products, snacks, socks and more.
- Pass it On - Once or twice a year, have youth group students volunteer to teach Sunday School for younger children (with supervision of an adult). They’ll get a valuable lesson in leadership, and younger children will have role models in church to look up to.
- Playground Outreach - If there is a park near your church, buy several bags of plastic animals (large enough they are not a choking hazard) or bottles of sealed, non-toxic bubbles and fix a tag that says, “You Found Me and Now I’m Yours! We’d love to meet you next Sunday at (church name, address, meeting times),” and have students hide them around the playground.
No matter whether you are serving or playing, every game and activity you plan can be an opportunity to grow relationships — or at least have a few laughs together! These ideas will help you build community and make memories with your youth group.
Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She leads a small group of high school girls.