The Ultimate Guide to Youth Group Games
Okay, look. We didn’t call this the “ultimate” guide to youth group games for no reason. This guide is basically a collection of every single thing we know about choosing, creating, leading, and planning fun games for youth ministry — plus 600+ actual ideas for youth group games, activities, and icebreakers. For free. $0.00. And yes, there really are six hundred of them.
In this article we’ve grouped some of our favorite types of games for student ministry and gave you some examples of each type of game. Enjoy!
Up-front games are games that are best played at the front of the room, by only a few students at a time — but are still really fun for an audience to watch! A few of our favorite up-front games are…
Screen games are games you play on a TV, device, or screen. They require visual aids like video clips, slides, or images. They’re a great go-to when you need an indoor group game for a week of youth ministry. Here are a few of our favorites…
Team games are games that require students to work together on teams or in pairs. These types of games could include anything from dodgeball to relay races to team-building exercised. Here are a few of our favorites…
Sometimes you really just need to go outside, right? Outdoor games can give you a needed break from your typical youth ministry game — plus it’s a great way to celebrate great weather…or get really messy without ruining your church carpet. Here are a few of our favorites…
It really is possible to have some fun with Scripture without being a blasphemer. Whether it’s a contest of Bible knowledge or a funny contrast between Scripture and pop culture, there’s lots to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites…
SOCIALLY DISTANCED GAMES
Not sure if you’ve heard, but Pandemic isn’t just a board game anymore. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy physical distance between your students (for germ-related reasons or otherwise), there are games for that too! Here are some of our favorites…
WHY GAMES MATTER
Having fun with your students should be a pretty important part of your youth ministry strategy. That’s because having fun with your students will lead to better relationships — and quality ministry can’t happen without quality relationships. Youth group activities and games are simply one way to grow your relationships by having fun together.
No, youth group games aren’t mandatory to youth ministry, but having fun definitely is.
BUT AREN’T GAMES JUST A DISTRACTION FROM THE MORE IMPORTANT STUFF?
We all want to teach teenagers about Jesus more effectively, of course. That’s why we got into youth ministry — not because we wanted to be professional obstacle-course-makers. But let’s be honest — it’s not always easy to get students to care about what want to teach them. It’s challenging enough to teach adults, but to teach teenagers whose brains are in different stages of development than our own is a challenge most of us were never really trained to do.
When we think about how to teach teenagers about Jesus effectively, we probably jump immediately to what we might think of as the “most important” stuff, like what we’re going to say in our sermons. But the truth is, the process of learning should begin before the sermon ever begins. And the right game can be one of the things that helps with that.
That’s because, for many teenagers, the biggest barrier keeping them from learning isn’t cognitive or even spiritual — it’s emotional.
When the average teenager walks into your program, they’re probably not asking, “What am I going to learn about Jesus today?” (Although some will, of course!) Most students are probably asking…
- Am I welcome here?
- Do these people like me?
- Do they really know or care about me?
So, no, a time of fun and games doesn’t distract from the “more important” stuff — the fun actually prepares students to receive what you want to teach and discuss! They work hand-in-hand. The fun stuff ultimately helps teenagers learn by…
- Breaking down emotional walls that prevent students from really hearing what is taught and discussed.
- Helping them feel known and loved — because when you take the time to find the kinds of games that connect with your students, you let them know you want to spend time with them on their terms.
- Connecting them with their peers and trusted adults, which makes it even more likely that they will engage in conversations that help them discover and apply truth together.
PLANNING & PREPPING FOR GAMES
Maybe you’re already convinced fun youth group games are important in ministry. Great! But let’s be honest — with so many other important things to do each week, most of us don’t want to spend hours and hours researching, inventing, testing, or prepping for new games all the time. No one has time to Google “church games for youth group” every single week. No matter how much you love games, you really do have better things to do. (Most of the time.)
So let’s talk about how to be more strategic with the limited time we have to plan and prep our games, shall we?
Every year, we recommend having a system for choosing and evaluating the games or activities you play. That sounds pretty serious, but it doesn’t need to be time-intensive. Here’s what we’re picturing…
- DOWNLOAD THE GROW GAMES & ICEBREAKERS APP: You know those 500+ free youth group games we mentioned? This is where they live.
- SCHEDULE A PLANNING MEETING: Before the school year starts, have an annual planning meeting with anyone from your ministry who wants to help you — especially with games.
- PLAN YOUR TEACHING CALENDAR: Before you dive into planning your games for the year, start by planning what you’ll teach throughout the year, including series titles, primary passages of Scripture, and any recurring phrases, visuals, metaphors, or themes that will tie each series together. You can learn more about how to do this well in this article about developing an annual teaching strategy.
- CHOOSE GAMES FOR EACH SERIES: When you know which teaching series you’d like to do and when you’d like to teach them, brainstorm some fun games you can play each week. You may find a way to tie the games into your teaching, but it’s not always necessary. You’re allowed to have fun without a reason sometimes. Depending on how many weeks you meet each year, you’ll need up to 50 games on your calendar — but you can always repeat some of your favorites!
- PLAY (AND REPLAY) YOUR GAMES! Each time you play a game, take note of what you liked and what you didn’t like, or what you’d do differently next time. If your students really enjoyed a particular game, give it a couple of weeks and play it again! You don’t need to come up with a new idea every week — the point, remember, is for your students to have fun. So do whatever’s fun! And hey, if you’re using Grow Curriculum, we’ve already done this work for you. For every week of curriculum, we provide at least one game that complements the teaching content and includes everything you need to make it happen — supply lists (with handy links to purchase the supplies), instructions, and game graphics.
- DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY: Once the year has been laid out, challenge a volunteer, student, or team member to help make these games happen. Whether it’s hosting the games, shopping for the supplies, or preparing the supplies each week, get others involved as much as you’d like.
So that’s a little bit about planning your games on a high level, but now let’s get specific. Each week, what’s the ideal scenario for planning and prepping a really fun youth group game?
- RECAP LAST WEEK’S GAME: How did it go?Did your students like it? Were the instructions clear? Did you have everything you needed? Would you play it again? (If you would, go ahead and put it on the calendar a few more times in the future so you don’t forget about it.) What would you do differently next time you play it?
- LOOK AT YOUR CALENDAR: If you already did the work ahead of time to plan your games for each week, don’t do that work all over again! Just head to your calendar and see what it says. (Or, if you’re using Grow Curriculum, just see which game is recommended for each week and do that.)
- REVIEW NEXT WEEK’S GAME: Things change quickly in youth ministry, so always make sure what you planned at the beginning of the year will still work in the moment. Does anything need to be tweaked? Who’s in charge? Do you have the supplies you need?
- DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY: When you know which game you’ll be playing, reach out to a student, team member, or volunteer who can help make it happen. Give them the resources they need to pull it off, then release them to make it happen.
600+ FUN YOUTH GROUP GAMES
We know it’s hard to find (or create) quality youth group games, which is why we decided to put together the most incredible library of games we possibly could! The Grow Games and Icebreakers App has a library of more than 500+ games, and it’s always growing! There are team games, party games, screen games, team games, outdoor games, and indoor group games for youth ministry. All the games you could ever want, basically.
This app is built for kids and youth ministry. All of our games are created by church leaders and ministry-tested!
Plus, the games are fully customizable. Every game comes with graphics, instructions, and a place for you to add your notes, photos, videos, game categories, and game ratings. You can even submit your own original games if you have some you’re proud of!
The app also comes with handy tools you might want to use during a game (or a sermon) like scoreboards, clocks, a prize wheel, polling capabilities, and a random name chooser.
You can feel free to explore the Grow Games and Icebreakers app on your own, but let’s highlight a few of our favorite games and our most popular game categories to give you a head start…
Well, that’s it! That’s our “ultimate” guide to youth group games. Hopefully you’re walking away with some helpful ideas and tips for you and your church — as well as those 500+ fun (and free!) youth group games, of course.
And don’t forget… have fun this week!
The Grow Team
A team packed with pastors, ministry leaders, writers, editors, designers, project managers, app developers, and more! The Grow Team works to bring curriculum and ministry strategy to church leaders everywhere.