Young people love playing games – being active, competitive, silly and messy.
Games should be a part of any session with young people, whether it’s to break the ice, get to know each other, introduce or reinforce a theme, story or issue, as part of worship or prayer, as discussion starters or just to let off steam!
Here are some games you can have at your fingertips for those moments when chaos is about to break loose. Plus some generic games that can be adapted to illustrate pretty much any Bible theme or story. I’ll try to describe a selection of games here but it’s always better to learn by playing! There will be some links to online resources and book recommendations too. Please share ideas and resources either in the comments below or on our Facebook forum.
So what props do you need? You can play some great games with nothing at all, but a small, soft-ish ball, a pack of cards, some balloons and some pens/paper are a great toolkit to make sure you have with you for any session with children or young people.
Icebreakers/fillers/drop of the hat quickies
At the start of a session it can be good to get everyone mixed up, moving, talking and getting to know each other and what better way than playing a game. Sometimes you are aware that kids are getting restless and fidgety and just need a switch of focus, to stretch their legs, something to wake them up a bit. Sometimes you have a group of young people and you have to wait for something and you’re worried you’re going to lose control…
Some icebreakers for adults that can be adapted, or used with older teens can be found here
How about games like these…
Either/Or – ask them to choose between two different things which they prefer by running from one side of the room to the other – they must choose one, they can’t stay in the middle. E.g. swimming or football, red or blue, pizza or doughnuts etc etc. you could easily make it relevant to your teaching theme.
High/Low – Ask children how much they like something by using their body. Stretch high if they really love it, get as low as they can if they hate it.
Drop it/Catch it – make a circle with a leader in the middle, they throw the ball to someone in the circle and say “Drop it” or “Catch it” as they do so. The catch is they have to do the opposite of what you say! Whilst in the circle you could begin or end the game by asking each child their name and (for example) favourite recent film as you throw the ball at them. They catch the ball, say their name and fave and pass it to someone else.
- Sticking names to foreheads and guessing “Who am I”
- True/False run around – run to the end of the room you think it is.
- Circle Games – eg “Fruit Salad” – categories can be substituted for any theme
- Relays, can be adapted in many ways
- Team game eg “Pirates” – chasing after “gold” but can be adapted
- Trust games – self supporting circles, holding each other up, back to back pairs, standing up by leaning on each other etc
- Following instructions games eg “Simon Says”, “Captain’s Coming”
- Memory Games – A-Z of something, “I went shopping and I bought….”
Board Games have made a real come back, especially amongst teens, so don’t be afraid to get out the old dominoes, Jenga, Uno, Pictionary, Twister etc or a simple pack of cards. Games that I’d recommend are Cranium Family Edition, Apples to Apples (great for getting kids talking) and Rummikub. Most families have a stock of games that come out at Christmas or holidays so borrow, share and pool your resources. Try and see which ones your group take to – often you develop a cult favourite!
A list of good games for tables at a party/open youth group is available at the bottom of this section below – it’s not exhaustive, great new games are being developed each year and I’m sure everyone will have their favourite…
Games within Worship Use activities, such as passing around a ball or other object to denote who prays, movement, such as creating words out of bodies and even competition, such as the old song “Allelu allelu allelu alleluia, Praise Ye the Lord” where each side of the group sing a different part of the song and stand up/sit down when they sing – you can make it competitive by volume as well, to add to the fun.
There are a various options for subscription model resources where you pay monthly and get to use all their resources including games.
Urban Saints http://www.energize.uk.net/meetingresources
Youth for Christ https://yfcresources.co.uk/rock-solid-home
Roots for Churches http://www.rootsontheweb.com/ (games are integrated into the sessions, no separate games list)
There are also some good free resources out there:
Here’s a great website with lots of games ideas: Youth Work Practice http://www.youthwork-practice.com/index.html
Scripture Union There is the first section of a great games book here http://www.scriptureunion.org.uk/Uploads/Documents/Ultimate%20games%2097818444273645.pdfnd and a brilliant ideas and resources document http://www.scriptureunion.org.uk/Uploads/Documents/Summer08_Games_and_resources_kit_lists.pdf
CPAS have some free resources https://www.cpas.org.uk/church-resources/developing-youth-leaders such as this free course https://www.cpas.org.uk/download/1189/Earth_heaven_onebk.pdf
Note: If you search Bible and Games online you can be overwhelmed by American Christian Resources and websites, some of which might be helpful but often they can be culturally inappropriate for a British 21st Century setting – so watch out and research carefully. The internet can definitely be your friend though! If you are doing youth work, join our closed Facebook Group to share ideas: Peterborough Diocese Youth Work Forum.
Board Games Appendix
This is a list of Games which can be laid out on tables to be played flexibly, dipped in and out of and which anyone can pick up quickly.
It’s all about inclusivity and flexibility, so avoid in-depth, highly complicated, over-competitive or divisive games like Monopoly , Trivial Pursuit, Cluedo or Risk. Sometimes you can get simplified versions of games or you could adapt them yourselves to make them simpler.
You want games and activities that can be played by ones and twos, or bigger groups, for a short time, that give them “something to do” but can be left if chatting is more fun. Try to avoid games that require lots of knowledge on a particular subject or where academically challenged young people could be made to feel inadequate.
Retro, silly, fun are all good words… this is meant to be comfortable and friendly, they are with childhood friends, so games from when they were younger are fine.
Many of these games are hidden in cupboards at home, after Christmas enthusiasm for board games has waned or can be picked up cheaply in charity shops. Some of the newer games could be purchased as investments if you intend to carry on with the group. It is always worth asking your Church family or village community for donations or to borrow games, to keep variety and freshness.
But often groups find their favourite and that can be all they want to play every week for months…
I haven’t added descriptions of many of the games – if you don’t know them, Google and Amazon are your friend (for information, not necessarily for buying)!
This list is by no means exhaustive, it is just to get you thinking and to give you an idea of what kind of games can work in this setting.
Finally watch out for “Adult” versions of some games – check the age appropriateness of the game before playing!
Classic timeless games
Scrabble (lighter version)
Retro Board Games
Pass the Pigs
One-person Activity Games
A Marble Run
Newer/unusual but highly rated Games
Mr Listers Quiz Shootout
Trivial Pursuit – not in its full game form
Cranium Family Edition, quick version
Pass the Bomb
Apples to Apples
Nintendo Wii is by far the best console for open groups of young people of this age. Their classic party games Wii Sports and Play are great, as are Mario Kart, Mario Party, Raving Rabbids and Just Dance (also available on Xbox Kinect).
If you have the Wii Drawing extension this is a really good interactive activity for the young people to take turns with. It’s basically just drawing but it goes up onto the big screen!
Playstation Singstar the classic Karaoke game
Rock Band/Guitar Hero
Phone App Games
Mobile phones aren’t just used to play single player, intense, isolating games, there are some fun party game apps out there. Quite a few are free and unless stated otherwise are on Android and iOS. Some require wi-fi (stated) but not all. Search your App Store for these titles.
Heads Up. (Charades type game)
Bounden (same device multi-player, pairs dance app)
Bloop (same device multi-player)
Bam Fu (same device multi-player, best on a tablet)
Astro Duel (iOS only, same device mulit-player or with wi-fi extra iphones can be added)
Kahoot (totally customisable quiz game, wifi)
Dance Party (iOS only)
You can also get mobile/app versions of board games eg Table Talk
Contact me for other ideas, questions or for a chat: firstname.lastname@example.org