Archive for May, 2014

Shaving Cream Balloons

Posted: May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Okay, so we’ve discussed how to fill balloons with mud or paint or soup, which is a lot of fun and useful for tossing games, fights, etc., but there are some other applications that could use some other fun balloon fillings.  One such filling is shaving cream.  It’s messy and amazing.

The toughest part of these balloons is the filling process.  Place the balloon (I have the best luck with water balloons) on the nozzle.  Regular balloons’ opening is much bigger, so if you are using regular balloons, be sure to fold it over once it’s on the nozzle and hold on tight.  With either balloon type, hold the nozzle/balloon opening tightly, because the cream with follow the path of least resistance, and we want that path to be into the balloon.  Once you’ve filled the balloon to the desired size, carefully tie it off.  Now you have a balloon full of shaving cream.  Congratulations!

You can use the balloons for games in which you have to pop balloons on yourself of on others, because they explode and cover everyone within a very small radius with shaving cream.  You can even couple this activity with our game Puff Suits to create an amazing, messy game that will end with laughter, filthy teens and an unforgettable game.   


Skit Boxes

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
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There are a few things I have found to be very helpful to keep on hand for times when the weather doesn’t cooperate, the group size is drastically different than I prepared for, the power goes out or any other form of direction-shifting event occurs.  One such item is a set of skit boxes.  They are something I enjoy putting together, and we use for a myriad of different activities.

To construct a skit box, I like to go to 2 different places, the first being the thrift store.  Walk around looking for outrageous items you can use as props of costumes for a skit.  Some examples I’ve gotten are a set of diving flippers, a really old, huge video camera, boxing gloves, any old glasses, costume jewelry, old prom dresses, any hat my grandma probably owns, and a stethoscope.  Each of those items were found and purchased at a local thrift store for less than $2 a piece.  The other location I go to fill out a good skit box is my mom’s garage.  A garage or basement just screams skit box materials, because it’s usually housing stuff you don’t actually need, so dig out that old pair of binoculars or that powder blue leisure suit and drop it in a box.  

I like to have at least 2 skit boxes put together, and they are cheap rubber containers I bought at Target.  Try to divide up the contents equally, so that there is a good mix of costumes, props and goofiness in each.  I have used the boxes for a few different things, like hosting a skit night, in which we divide up into random groups and they write then perform skits on the fly.  This is a great way to fill an evening and foster creativity and acting silly, which are equally important.  Another way I like to utilize the boxes is a “Parable Project” evening, in which I assign the groups a parable and they have to rewrite them into a modern-day skit using the boxes.  Then, I usually video them acting out their skits for the larger group.  Occasionally, they do such a great/fun/goofy/crazy job, I use the video later as an illustration when teaching that parable.  It forces the youth to recreate the bible passage, spurs conversation about the meaning and gives the opportunity to talk with the wider group about the parable.

So in your storage closet or behind a couch or even in some dark, creepy catacomb, your group should have a set of skit boxes, because they are easy to use and great for both planned and unplanned events.

Newbie Headlines

Posted: May 17, 2014 in Uncategorized
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This game is a great game for getting to know you, first-time group meetings.  I like to use it when confirmation classes first join the Sr. High ministry or when a small group first starts up.  It takes a little prep, but is an easy, fun game.

Have everyone write 2 things that are unknown to the rest of the group on slips of paper.  Tell them that the more unique, the better.  Collect the slips and put them into a hat/bucket/hollowed out book/peg leg.  Then, add a few additional slips of your own creation, things that are odd but believable.  I’ve listed a few examples at the bottom.  Then, one by one, pick a slip and read it allowed.  The group then has to guess who’s it is, or if it’s no one’s.  The person who wrote it’s goal is to not be picked; the goal of everyone else is to guess correctly; your goal is to get the group to guess the goofy ones for one of the youth.

Depending on the flow, you can use each of these slips as a mini-conversation starter, talking briefly about each, hopefully creating connections between the youth present and getting people talking.


Possible Decoy Slips Examples:

I was born with a tail.

I only eat the green M&M’s, and only 2 at a time.

My favorite toy growing up was an old sock with lips drawn on it.

I have an acute allergy to the glue on Post-it notes.

My first nickname was “Glue Face”.



*The decoy slips should be silly/goofy, but not something that’d be offensive if someone were to guess it about another teen.*



Noodle Hockey

Posted: May 13, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Working with a youth group, you can find that there are all levels of athleticism, skill and experience when it comes to games and activities.  In an effort to keep teens on the same playing field (pun maybe intended?) I try to use games that are different or strange, so as to limit the transferable skills and boost group participation.  This is one such example.  It’s great indoors or out, and has been something the kids enjoy playing as much as the more classic Ultimate Frisbee or Soccer.

Noodle hockey is just about what it sounds like – instead of sticks, everyone uses noodles.  Instead of a puck, we use a beach ball or balloon (always beach ball if we are outside, grass will pop a balloon).  I find this works well with teams of 5-8 in a smaller area, so if your group is very large, you can set up multiple “rinks” or play a tournament-style rotation.  Indoors, we have no out-of-bounds, but outdoors, the team to last touch the ball before it goes out of bounce forfeits control to the other team, like Soccer.  For goals, I have played two ways: first, you can have an end-zone and no goalie, and the team simply has to have the ball cross the line for a point.  Or, you can designate a goal and have a goalie, though I like to have the goalie have to stand on a chair and reach down with the noodle to block shots to keep it interesting.

As with all sport-based games, this can get intense.  Make sure it’s intense in a good way and that everyone is still having fun, because that’s what the game is all about.  The youth already have a performance-based style of athletics in their life called gym class.  This game should be about having fun, goofing off, working together and being active.  Don’t let it become anything else, and you’ll love noodle hockey!

No More Uppers

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


Several years ago, I learned a lesson.  It’s a valuable lesson, and like most of the good lessons, I sometimes have to re-learn it.  So, in hopes of learning as much as teaching, I will share that lesson with you, so maybe one day you can remind me when I need to hear it.

One of your greatest resources is other youth pastors/ministers/workers.  They are a form of beta testing for new ideas and programs, they are a different avenue to the same goal, they are a new style of teaching and leading.  I know all of these things, and I believe all of these things.  But, the lesson I forget from time to time, is to listen.

No more one-uppers.  I am proud of all the activities and events my group hosts.  We work hard as a ministry to keep things fresh, engaging and fun.  We invent games and try new things constantly, so that we are ever changing, improving and adapting.  Because of this, on occasion, when other youth workers are talking to me about their programs, ministries and events, I find myself waiting to tell them about our awesome events and programs instead of listening.  I would say I suspect I am not alone in this, but I’ve been to youth workers’ trainings and conferences, so I know I’m not alone.

No more one-uppers.  Every time someone tells you about an event they’ve done, listen.  Ask questions.  Make mental notes.  Heck, make actual notes.  Youth ministry isn’t trademarked, nor is it a competition.  Fundraisers, youth events, retreats, trips…yes, we all do it the best in the world, obviously, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve.  The best way I’ve found is shutting my big mouth and listening to the youth workers around me.

No more one-uppers.  Is my ministry the biggest in the world? No way.  Am I the best person in the world in my position? Probably not.  So when you hear me tell you that we all, as a profession, need to listen more, know that I am including myself in that statement.  Take what you hear and adapt; be creative.  Ask what could have been better, what the challenges were, what they’d do differently next time.  Ask why they decided to do the event/trip/program in the first place.  Use these answers to create a mental note so that you can use that information in the future.  If you ask those questions. even a horribly unsuccessful event or program can be useful information to you.  My most successful event came to being after hearing a director talk about trying the event and failing miserably.  I listened, learned, got creative and viola!  A star was born.  Even now, I try to listen to other’s who do similar events to constantly be refining.

No more one-uppers.  I’m serious.  Let’s take a stand against hubris and be iron sharpening iron, instead of a bunch of workers that are just waiting for their turn to tell everyone how much better their ministries are.

Paper Ball Challenge

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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There are plenty of getting to know you games out there, there are even several that involve “sharing”, but this is the only one I know of that’s got a bit of strategy, too.  It’s also a great game because it takes no real prep and can be done anywhere.

Give each teen a piece of paper and have them rip it into quarters, ball each piece up and hold them.  Then, they circle up and share a fact about themselves that is unknown to the group,  one by one around the circle.  The catch?  When someone shares a fact, which has to be true, anyone in the group that the fact ISN’T true for has to toss one of the pieces of paper into the circle.  The goal?  To be the last person with a ball of paper.

The strategy part has to do with having rare, unusual and outlandish facts about themselves.  This is a great way to get to know people around you while also getting a bit competitive.  The “unknown” rule protects against comments like  “I’m wearing blue socks” and “My name is Cornelius” because they are already known facts, they aren’t a lot of fun, and who’s named Cornelius?

Any Corneliuses out there, please forgive this post, I would very much like to meet you.



This is another one of my go to team-building retreat games.  It’s fun, tests personal boundaries and forces teens to work together.  It takes very little prep and no real supplies, but be sure that no one in your group’s ever lost someone close to a shark attack – if so, change the name to something else.  Jellyfish Island, maybe?  Lava Island?  Paper Cuts, Slivers and Lemon Juice Island?  Get nutty.

The point is simple: get everyone on the island.  The trouble, the island is small.  How small? Depends on the size of your group and your resources.  I recommend finding something around you to use like a fallen log, a giant rock, whatever you have handy.  If there’s nothing handy, you can use a board, a towel, anything that’s smaller than convenient for your group to stand on.  The finish: when the whole group is on the island for 10 seconds straight.  Everything is fair game, so people on shoulders, gymnastic antics, double joints…your group has to make it work.

I try to use something up off the ground.  It helps with knowing whether or not everyone is on the platform and adds a little danger (not really) to the game.  Try to budget enough time to let this go as long as it takes.  These games can be tough, and letting it run it’s course will give you the best chance to grow as a group.  Have fun, and avoid the sharks.

MEGA ball!

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized
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MEGA Ball has been an incredible investment for our group so I wanted to share with you guys!  We purchased a jumbo beach ball advertised as 8 ft., though I think that’s not exactly accurate, from Amazon (link below) for around $100 (it’s more expensive now, it must have sensed this shining endorsement coming).  Since then, we’ve developed a game we play called MEGA Ball that’s outrageously fun.  We use the ball more for our Junior High School group, as it seems to wear them out more, and they come to church with an obscene amount of energy to begin with, but our High Schoolers enjoy it, too.

The point of the game is to pass the MEGA Ball over the goal line on the opposite side of the field.  The ball itself starts on the center line, much like soccer, and the teams rush from their goal lines to start the game.  Each time the ball goes out, which will be a lot if the field is too narrow, the ball is reset and the teams begin on their goal lines again.  You can roll the ball or, as my youth prefer to do, use your shoulder to propel the ball forward.  I try to discourage kicking the ball for two reasons – it’s ineffective as a way to move the ball very far, and it hurts a lot.  Due to the size of the ball and our lack of a gymnasium, we have to play it outdoors, but if you had access to a gym, I see no reason why this couldn’t be an indoor game, too, by substituting an end zone with opposite walls and eliminating the out of bounds part of the game.

Unlike many of the games on here, this does require special equipment that you can’t normally by at the corner store and the time to blow up the ball (we store it deflated) which with an air compressor is around 2 hours.  There are a lot of benefits to having this ball, this game only being one.  We use the ball for VBS outdoor rec and the little kids LOVE it.  Even just running around the ball to play tag seems to be a huge hit.  Also, it is HIGHLY visible, so it can be an attention-getter for people passing by.  More than once, I have seen cars slow down to watch us play as they pass, and for our program, it continues to foster the community view that our church does outrageous things with our youth.  Don’t worry, I am still going to try to bring fun, easy activities and games that are easy to do and inexpensive to execute, but if you have an end of the year budget surplus, an oddly specific donation that you can’t use toward other things, or simply have some room in your budget for something that I think you will find a great investment, check out MEGA Ball.

We got our MEGA Ball here.

We also produced a MEGA Ball video using our Go Pro, so you can get an idea of what kind of shenanigans we’re getting into…

Noodle Fencing

Posted: May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I first played this game at a young adult retreat in Texas, and I’ve been hard-pressed to find a more fun use for pool noodles. This is a great game as a high energy introduction activity, a one-on-one upfront game or a giant free for all. It’s not a leadership developing game or a team-building game, it doesn’t develop better communication skills or provide an illustration for the Holy Spirit, The Great Commission or the Easter Bunny. It’s just stinkin’ fun, which is something we should be doing a little bit more of.

Each youth will need a pool noodle (full length, thin) and something small like a paper cup. The first time I played this, we used a noodle cut into 2 inch sections, which is pretty ideal, but on a moment’s notice, you can use a paper cup or an empty soda can. The youth will balance the cup/can/noodle chunk on their flat palm, though I have used the back of the hand sometimes, to discourage cheating. The goal is to make sure that cup/can/noodle chunk stays balanced on their hand and not knocked off by another person’s noodle, all while also trying to knock other people’s cup/can/noodle chunk off of their hands. Youths cannot hold, cup or grab their cup/can/noodle chunk, only balance it. Rounds very in length depending on the size of the group, the noodle-wielding skills of the group, how aggressive or bashful a group is, etc.

There are lots of add-ons and modifications, some of the ones I’ve used is filling the cups with water, creating an added bonus to knocking the cup over, filling the cups with water AND having the youth balance the cups on their heads – those were pretty quick rounds with lots of accidental cup falls, and having each youth wear an eye patch during the game, which gives everyone a blind side, creating a new level of difficulty and paranoia. But don’t stop there – there are plenty of other ways to amp up this already crazy activity, experiment!


This is a fun team-building game for medium to large groups that is high energy, high intensity and a bit crazy, which seems to be the winning combination for most teens. It takes a few supplies, but little or no prep, so it’s ready to do at the drop of a hat.

Divide your group into teams of at least 5, though it can work with more. Each team gets a blanket, I use fleece because they are a bit hardier, the thicker and sturdier, the better. The goal of the activity is to use the blanket to transport on of your members to the other side of the field of play, then let them down and repeat with another team member back. Repeat until the whole team has gone. This can be done with a small group as a whole-group team builder, though I prefer it as a race format.

Riders should lay, though if you feel confident enough, they can squat and try to surf, though again, that’s better with a larger group so there are more spotters. A few blankets, a field and some teens, and you have a great time that forces your group to work together, have fun and get crazy in a controlled way. We’ve done some fun themes, too, like pirates, where the rider has to wear a pirate’s hat and eye patch, or Superman/woman, where the rider must wear a team’s communal Superman shirt and cape and must ride in the one-fisted flying position. Get creative and have a blast!