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Other Resources: Games
Below is a variety of suggested games to use with your group.
Super Sumo Pillownater
You will need an XXXL t-shirt, a roll of duct tape, and lots of pillows for each team. It's great to make an entire event of this game. It works best at lock-ins or camps due to the fact that you already have plenty of pillows. First, start with numerous pillow relays: between the knees, balanced on their heads, and so forth. Then go to the infamous pillow stuff relay, where each team picks one person and stuffs him or her into an XXXL t-shirt with about fifty pillows. As if it's not been enough fun already, it's now time for Super Sumo Pillownater. Give each team a roll of tape; the teams have five minutes, using the t-shirts, pillows, and tape, to create a pillownater opponent. Mark off a sumo ring in the middle of the floor and let the fun begin. Opponents try to push each other from the ring without using their hands. In normal tournament fashion, play until there is just one opponent left standing.
Do You Remember?
This is a get-to-know-you game. Before you play, come up with five or six sets of questions that students will ask each other. For example, one set may be: "What is your first, middle, and last name? What grade are you in? And when was the last time you puked?" Include any questions that will help the teens get to know each other and break the cliques up some. Also, come up with five or six different ways for students to line up. For example, they might line up shortest to tallest with their eyes closed, according to shoe size without talking, or alphabetically by eye color. Whatever.
Here's how to play:
- Have students form lines. Name or number each of the lines, as you will refer to the lines by their name or number. The lines need to be composed of the same number of students. Direct the teens to align themselves according to your criteria (shoe size, eye color, and so forth).
- Have lines 1 and 2 face each other, lines 3 and 4 face each other, and so forth. Each teen then asks the person across from him or her the first set of questions. Don't provide the questions on paper; you read them aloud. The students must remember the answers they get.
- Have the lines swap places (line 2 switches with line 3, line 6 switches with line 1, and so forth). Direct the students to line themselves up again according to your criteria.
Have the students turn and face each other again as you give them the next set of questions to ask.
- Repeat this for as many sets of questions as you feel your students can remember.
When finished, allow students to come up front and give the answers to the questions. Each person they talked to must stand up when the teen is giving the answers and confirm whether they are correct. If you want, give a prize of some sort to the ones who can remember the most info.
This is an easy game, and levels the playing field somewhat between jocks and athletically challenged individuals. Anyone can play and have fun. It can be played with small or large groups. It is played on a volleyball court with a normal volleyball net and boundaries. It works especially well in a sand pit volleyball court because kids love to make diving catches. Two volleyballs are used (for groups larger than 30 add an extra ball). The balls are thrown and caught (not hit as in volleyball). If a player tries to catch a ball but drops it, that person is out of the game. If a ball hits the ground, the person closest to where the ball landed is out (if an argument breaks out about who is out, both people arguing are out). If two balls land, the two closest people to where the balls landed are out. Players can catch one ball, and still be called out by the second ball hitting them or landing closest to them. This is where a team must work together to help each other, because the opposing team will try to throw both balls at the same person. If a player throws a ball and it does not make it over the net or lands out of bounds, that player is out. Players must throw the ball from the spot they caught it. No spiking or throwing in a downward direction. A “schism” occurs when a team throws both of the balls and the balls collide in the air. If a team throws a schism, and both balls score kills on the other team's side, this is called an “ultimate schism.” An ultimate schism results in two players being out on the side the balls landed, and the throwing team gets to bring back one player. Players must not hold a ball for long, and both balls must remain in play. The only exception is when one team is down to two players; then they can set one ball down and not use it. Play continues until all players on one side are out. Switch sides and reload and play again.
Paper, Rock, Scissors TAG
Form two teams. Have each team “huddle” to form a sign, either paper, rock, or scissors. The two teams stand facing each other across a boundary line. There is another boundary line, behind each team, about 20 yards away, sort of like meeting at half court of a gym. Before they meet at the center line, both teams have decided what they want to be. Teams should also select a back-up symbol, to be used in case of a tie. At your word both teams, simultaneously, display their choices. The team with the winning symbol (paper covers rock, rock smashes scissors, scissors cuts paper) attempts to tag everyone in the other team before those people can make it back to their back boundary line. The excitement of impending victory, and the sheer suddenness of it all, frequently results in players not knowing which way to run. Players who are tagged must join the winning team.
Baby Pool Kickball
This game is played outdoors, in a field or on the lawn. The bases are baby pools filled with water. (The best kind are the ones that blow up and look like a whale or clown or something.) Use a big kickball or large beach ball. Pick teams however you want to. Run bases in the opposite direction (what is normally third is first base). From third to home base, set up a slippery slide (large sheet of plastic covered in baby oil or baby shampoo to make it slippery). Students must slide into home; no standing or running or a collusion may occur. To score, they must make it all the way to the end of the slippery slide. Each team gets four outs per inning. Play as many innings as you want. For added fun, put sprinklers between the bases. When done, let students play on the slippery slide for a while.
This is a crazy, messy game. You will need to buy a six-foot piece of plastic tubing that is at least an inch in diameter. You will also need to make up some Jell-O or buy some eggs, either one will work. Bring two volunteers to the front of the room and tell them that you are going to have a contest to see who has the best lungs. Then put the Jell-O or eggs in the tubing and have each person stand holding opposite ends. Count to three and have them blow through the tube at the same time. The audience will have a great time watching the Jell-O or eggs slide back and forth through the tube as the volunteers blow harder and harder until someone runs out of breath (and yes it will get messy, so have paper towels handy). If your students like to be crazy and have fun with messy things, then they will love this game.
Split your students into groups of 5 to 10 each. You need judges, maybe three or more depending on the size of the crowd. Instruct teams that they are going to see a picture on the screen, and they will need to “pose” like the picture. They will have 60 seconds to get their group into position. The leader yells freeze after 60 seconds (or whatever time you deem necessary). The team with the pose that matches the picture best will win that round. Play as many rounds as you have pictures and time for.
It’s easy to find great pictures online by going to www.google.com. When choosing pictures look for the following qualities:
- Lots of people in them (close to the amount of people you will have in each group).
- Fun to pose.
- Sports pictures usually work well.
- Get a few with animals.
- Get at least one picture that includes a baby.
- Go for variety. After a football picture, throw in a ballet pose.
- Get some pictures with people suspended in air and watch for creativity.
- Start easy, and then get more difficult.
- Always choose a few poses that are impossible; show the picture and then say, “Just kidding” (people making out or contortionists work well for this).
Use Media Shout or PowerPoint to show your pictures. In Media Shout you can use the "song lyric” function to count down form 60 seconds with the picture as the background for the countdown. Students can see the picture on the screen while also seeing the timer.
This game works best on screen, but if you do not have access to a screen and projection you can use pictures cut out from magazines, with students running up and grabbing a picture from the pile. For this version, use a judge for each group. When a group successfully poses the judge clears them to go get another picture. The group who gets the most pictures wins.
No equipment needed. Players sit in a circle either in chairs or on the ground. One person is designated the “Game Master.” The imaginary “football” is passed silently around the circle by using certain movements. Ways to pass the ball include the following:
- “Thwacks” are done by smacking yourself on the leg. Smacking your right leg once moves the ball one person to the right. Two thwacks on the right leg moves it two people to the right. One thwack on the left leg moves it one person to the left, and two thwacks on the left leg moves it two people to the left. You can only pass the ball a maximum of two people by using the thwack.
- Pulling the left ear passes the ball two people to the left. Pulling the right ear passes it two people to the right.
- The ball can be passed across the circle by pointing to someone with your elbow.
By shrugging your shoulders, you pass the ball back to the person who sent it to you.
The Game Master starts the game by saying, “Customary hat, customary whistle, let the games begin,” and passes the ball. Play continues until someone breaks a rule. Whenever a player notices someone breaking a rule, that player raises his or her hand to be called on by the Game Master. Once acknowledged, he or she addresses the Game Master by saying, “Mr. Game Master Sir,” and tells who broke a rule and what the offense was. The Game Master then gives penalty points to the offending person and continues the game.
Offenses that cause penalty points include:
- Talking during the game without permission from the Game Master.
- Pointing at people.
- "Showing ivory” (showing teeth).
- Passing the ball in the same manner more than three times consecutively
- Messing up while passing the ball.
Once a player receives 3 penalty points, he or she must then do a dare, which may be suggested by players but approved by the Game Master. The beauty of this game is that no one loses and it can be played anywhere at anytime. Feel free to add additional ways to pass the ball and other rules to utterly confuse your students.
Group size doesn't matter for this outdoor game. Put two to three tacklers in the middle of a football-size field. Everyone runs through and the tacklers tackle as many as possible. All those tackled becomes tacklers. Continue to play until you have three to five winners (those who have not been tackeld). May want to do guys first and then ladies.
Cross Dress Relay
This game takes 10 to 15 players per team. You will need two dresses (large sizes, perhaps 14 or 16), two pair of women's high heel dress shoes (large sizes, 10 at least), several cans of hair mousse (not gel), two jars of fingernail polish, two pairs of men's large hunting/heavy winter pants, two pairs of large (size 10 or greater) hunting/winter boots, two pair of large hunting/winter jackets (preferably with buttons), several cans of shaving cream, and plastic throwaway razors with the safety shields "superglued" on.
Basically, this is a relay game with "things to do" in between. The "stations" are set up about 15 feet apart from one another, and it's best to come back to the starting area to "exchange the baton" between runners. Divide students into a guys' team and a girls' team. First team to complete relay wins.
Guys’ Part of Relay:
- Put dress on (must put it all the way on) and run to station with high heels.
- Put high heels on and run to fingernail polish station.
- "Beauticians" (adult volunteers) must paint at least one nail on each hand before guy can leave and go to hair mousse station.
- "Beauticians" (adults) must put mousse in hand and spread it around guy's hair before guy can leave and head back to starting area.
- When guy crosses the finish line, the next guy can start (that's why there are two sets of clothes). The first guy must take off the dress and shoes and place them back in the relay area.
Girls’ Part of Relay:
- Put winter pants on (must put on all the way) and run to station with hunting/winter boots.
- Put boots on and run to coat station.
- Coat must be put on and buttoned or zipped up before girl can run to the shaving station.
- "Beauticians" (adults) put shaving cream on both sides of girl's face and then "shave" it off with plastic razor (superglue plastic safety cover on blade). Then girl runs back to starting line.
- When the girl crosses the finish line, the next girl can start (that's why there are two sets of clothes). The first girl must take off the coat, pants, and boots and then place them back in the relay area.
Dodge Ball Plus
You need enough players for two teams, a full-size gym with two basketball goals (three point lines will also help), 40 bowling pins, a heavy Nerfball for every three students, and music to play during the game.
Place 20 bowling pins around the 3-point line on each side of the gym. Have a designated area off the court for players who are “out” (around the court if nothing else is available). Make two even teams (based on number and skill). Give each team their half of the balls. Ask each team to stand behind the ring of bowling pins while you go over the rules. The goal of the game is to knock down all the bowling pins of the opposing team or put all opponents out of the game.
- No student can go beyond half court.
- When a ball comes to your side of the gym, take it and try to hit a player on the other team or one of their bowling pins.
- Once a bowling pin is knocked down, it cannot be touched no matter how it was knocked down (even if bumped by someone on your team).
- A player can only get out by a direct hit from a ball (bounces off the floor or another player don't count).
- When a player is hit with a ball, that person is out and must go sit in the designated area.\
- If a player (who's in the game) can take a ball and hit the backboard of the opposing team, all of that person's teammates who were out are now back in.
- If you hit an opponent in the head with a ball, that person stays in and you're out!
- When you hear the music stop, the game is over (a team has no more bowling pins standing or all their players are in the designated area).
Human Tic Tac Toe
Put three rows of three chairs in the middle of the room. Have students divide into two teams of as many as you want. One team is Xs and the other is Os. With their backs to the chairs they begin to play. Have a counselor for each team let the next person in line know when it is his or her turn to go and sit. Players are only given five seconds to sit or the game is over so they must make a fast, smart decision! After a team wins or ties you can start again and play 3 out of 5 or until everyone plays. To make it real interesting have the students play blindfolded and have the rest of the teams screaming out where the player should sit.
Money Bible Study
Have students read a Bible story (e.g. Acts 12, 1 Sam 17). Have everyone read the same passage of scripture. After they have read the story, have everyone close their Bibles. You then ask questions, usually in chronological order, to see who can answer first. Furnish a bell, a ball they can grab, or just call on the person who has a hand up first. If someone gets the wrong answer, call on another person. If someone gets the right answer, then give him or her a nickel, dime, or quarter. After you have finished the verses that were assigned, the person with the most money wins. The winner can get to keep all the money or some other prize.
For this game you need a volleyball court and a volleyball. Take down the net, and use the volleyball court lines. Teams are allowed to have five players on the court in an X pattern (one in each corner and one in the middle). Rules are just like volleyball, with the following exceptions:
- When serving from behind the line, the ball must go over the center line and bounce one time before anyone is allowed to hit it. If the ball touches someone before it bounces it is a dead ball and the serving team earns a point.
- On the volley, the ball must bounce before the next person touches it. If it has not bounced, it is considered an illegal hit, and results either in a side out or a point for the serving team. The lines are in, and the center line is also always considered in.
Skin the Snake
One very important rule to this game: No girls with dresses or short shorts! This is an indoor or outdoor game for few or many people. No props are needed. A demonstration will work best but it goes something like this:
- Line people up all facing the person in front of them.
- Have everyone bend over at the waist with his or her legs shoulder width apart.
- Students take their right hands and extend them forward between the knees of the people in front of them. At the same time, everyone takes their left hands and reaches them through their legs behind them. Right hand clasps the left hand (so everybody is attached and in line) and then the game can begin (half the fun is just getting there).
- The idea is to get everyone to completely reverse themselves without letting go of their hands (like turning a snake inside-out). Still in a line and attached, everyone begins to "back up". As they back up they must sit on the floor and then lie down while still holding hands. They end up forming a line on their backs as everyone passes over each other (thus the reason for the rule).
This game works for ten or more players. You will need one or two large plastic trash cans (the big 50-gallon type). The group forms a circle with one trash can in the middle. Each person grabs the wrist of the persons next to him or her, gripping one another’s wrists. Holding on in a big circle, the group starts to move around the trash can. The object is to try to get your neighbor or someone else to touch the trash can. As you can imagine, there is a lot of pushing, pulling, and throwing toward the trash can as the circle moves around. When someone touches the can that person is out and you start again. Also, if two wrists become unconnected those people are both out and you start the circle again with those left. To make the game more challenging, put two trashcans a ways apart in the middle.
Reflection on Games
Since coming to my present church, which ministers primarily to the hurting, struggling, misfits and down-and-out of our community, I have been challenged to rethink the whole notion of competitive games as being a vital ingredient of youth ministry. I have concluded that most of my students need a place of sanctuary from the absurdly competitive ways of their lives. Therefore, I rarely do any games that are competitive in nature. Rather, I turn on my creative juices and come up with modifications and new methods of engaging my students in kinesthetic ways. My focus tends to be on group building activities rather than on choosing a specific winner.
Got an idea for a game that you would like to share? Drop us an e-mail.