Youth Pastors beware. You’re stepping into a shark pit if you don’t already know.
Kids, teenagers, they’re of the wild, and now you get to wrangle them in for a lesson. Veteran youth leaders already know that exhaustion all too well. You experienced folk understand how tough it is to get everyone together to focus. But you know the joy that can come of it too. Sometimes you’re a little spent, though, and it grows difficult to keep coming up with things to do for youth group. So here are six super fun youth group activities to help you, weary souls, out.
Hold on a minute before tackling some amazing at-home ideas for your youth group. Because you might want to jump the gun on planning something for the summer.
Camps offer a unique experience to people. The kids who’ve already had the pleasure of going to a summer camp, they get it. From the end of one summer to the start of the next, they’re waiting for next year. Excitement builds in them as they look forward to the day they ship off again. Go ahead, ask them. They’ll tell you straight up. They’re ready to get back to the cabins. They want to be with a bunch of other like-minded kids, and everyone’s pumped to see their old counselors.
So, yeah, camps carve out a spot on the list for super fun youth group activities. But there sure are plenty of them to go around.
Here are two Christ-minded camps, standing above the rest by reputation.
Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters
Whether you can send your whole group, or just one, you need to know who to trust. Snowbird in North Carolina has a deep history of great counselor relationships. On top that, it's hosted in an impressive locale.
Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the sunsets burst with color. Sunsets stretch late into the evening, lighting the gentle slopes. It’s the perfect transition into their nightly meetings around mountaintop campfires.
At Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, they boast a gospel-driven camp. They meet and talk about discipleship each one of the six days of camp. And, don’t forget, it’s also a recreational camp.
They’ve got an impressive list of things to do. Water slides, giant swings, white water rafting, hiking… There's so much to do it’s worth checking out the website linked above. Their doctrine and pricing are listed as well.
But Snowbird is only the first on our list. There’s another camp especially worth checking out.
Over in Texas, there’s been something amazing happening since 1926. Kannakuk has been serving thousands. Their camps are so large they even boast a staff of two thousand plus. Most of them are college students looking to pour into the youth in as many fun ways as they can.
These camps differ from Snowbird in a few ways. Both are gospel-centered, but this one isn’t just six days. They are a whopping four weeks. Don’t let that worry you if it sounds too long. They have a two week and one week option as well. Kannakuk even has a group family camp if your congregation is interested.
Admittedly, the camps are pricey. But the sheer amount of people attending every year proves its worth.
On their website, there's a list of all their prices, safety protocols, and programs.
Checking out Kannakuk and Snowbird may help you grab some ideas for summertime. But what about at home every week? Games pull everyone together. They help center everyone's focus on a singular goal. It’s an effective way to bridge into the lesson you spent time preparing.
10 Games to Get Them Laughing
This game is straight forward. It’s just jeopardy with categories from the Bible. If you need help setting up the questions, there are many resources online to turn to.
And don’t forget to put up a prize for the winners! (Probably just some candy).
The Blender Game
This game is disgusting and exciting.
Everyone has those kids. The kids down for anything. They volunteer for everything. For this game, you need them.
To start, bring a blender.
Then add all kinds of nasty food. Put mustard, toothpaste, pizza, and whatever else into the blender along with a liquid. Blend it. Dare someone to drink it. Film all the reactions of those watching and the person who drinks. If no one drinks, well the youth leaders have to take the fall. The kids will love you for it.
Careful with this one, or you’ll wind up playing it the whole night. It’s that fun. To start, you’ll need a deck of cards. Take out all the face cards except three (or less if you have less than ten people playing).
The announcer passes out the cards, making sure everyone keeps them secret. Then collect the cards, and have everyone close their eyes.
Say, “Mafia, look up.” Allow about five seconds for them to look around and understand who the other mafia are. Then say, “Mafia, go to sleep.” After a few seconds, say, “Everyone, wake up.”
Turn out the lights and let everyone scatter. Preferably this will be in a place with ample hiding spots. People will be skeptical. They will get scared. Make sure no one makes noise! Even once the mafia pretends to cut them on the neck with a finger.
Once someone laying down (silent) is found, a non-mafia person must touch them and say, “DEAD BODY!”
Turn the lights on. Gather everyone. Then make an accusation. Whoever is accused must defend themselves. Then the votes will be cast. Once the voted person is out, place them in a room until enough rounds pass. There can only be one person voted on per round. Choose wisely!
If there are only mafia left at the end, they win. If the townspeople vote out all the mafia, they win.
Reminiscent of a traveling version of twenty questions, you only get to ask yes or no questions. First, circle up.
Everyone must write down a famous person (secretly) on a small paper. Tape the paper to the person’s back next to you. Then everyone travels around, asking yes or no questions until they can figure out who they are!
Teeth is a goofy game. No one can show their teeth while speaking. If they do, they’re out. Circle up (most games seem to happen in circles). Everyone picks a different candy. Let’s use snickers and payday as an example.
The player who starts will wrap their lips around their teeth. No white can show. They’ll say their candy (snickers) twice. The person to their left will repeat them, then add their own. It passes around the circle until teeth show.
Some people call this game psycho. Either way, one person is the psychiatrist (or doctor). They must leave the room.
While the psychiatrist is out, the group left become psycho. You’ll have to pick a problem to have (everyone believes they are Madonna, half the room believes the psychiatrist stinks, etc.). You can pick any problem you think of.
The psychiatrist reenters the room.
They’ll ask people yes or no questions until they can figure out what the problem is.
All you’ll need is a square room and a blindfold. The blindfold is for the person in the middle. Put it on them. Have them count to ten. Everyone else rushes to a corner (label them one through four).
The blindfolded announcer picks a corner. That corner is eliminated. The announcer counts to ten, and the cycle continues until everyone is out!
Honey, I Love You, Will You Give Me a Smile?
This one is a throwback to middle school days, which most of your kids could be in currently. Circle everyone up, and pick someone to start. The rules are simple.
The person in the middle walks up to anyone, and tries to get them to smile. They do it while asking, “Honey I love you, will you give me a smile?”
If the person smiles, they become the new person in the middle. And the game goes on.
This game might be worth making multiple groups depending on the number of kids who show up. Everyone picks a small sign to do. Each must have their own sign. It could be as simple as a belly rub or the peace sign.
One person is placed in the middle of the circle. They close their eyes. Someone around the circle starts with the “sign”.
Now let the person in the middle open their eyes. That person is hunting for the sign.
The starter must make their sign, then perform someone else’s in order to initiate a pass. Oh, and they can’t get caught. The person they pass to must receive by performing the passer’s sign, then their own.
The person in the middle is trying to guess who has the sign. If they catch you before the pass is complete, be honest! When you’re caught, you go in the middle.
Crab soccer is a small arena soccer game. Everyone plays in crab position!
Along with weekly games to wrangle up the kids, most youth leaders also prepare their own lessons. But sometimes action teaches the kids more than speaking to them will.
Which can be fun. But it can also be hard.
Service projects build character. It helps the youth understand empathy in action. It shows compassion living out, rather than just talking about it. Some kids may protest, or be tempted to skip out. But encourage them to come anyway.
Serving the community will help both the locals and the kids.
It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, like building a house together (although that would be rewarding). It can be simple, like going to clean a yard for the elderly. Or have them go serve tea to refugees, or at a soup kitchen. Then serve the kids lunch afterward.
JustServe might have some projects you can join up within your area.
Try to find something that really benefits those around you, but also gives the youth a chance to bond. Finding that balance is tough, but key. You want them to both see the impact on those hurting, and grow Christ-minded friendships.
As the youth leader, you might want to follow up the next week instead of that day. Stretching the timeline out helps solidify what they learned. Remind them of the impact they caused. Especially if who you served was thankful and wanted the kids know it.
Their service will raise the integrity of the whole group in the long run. It leads to deeper relationships, unity in compassion, and overall more fun. Some service projects will be tough, but very worth your youth group’s time.
Bonfire (with Food)
Outdoor fun changes up the pace nicely. Bright flames against a darkening sky keep the mood active and raise spirits. Play any of the outdoor games to go with this one, or simply roast some brats and mallows.
If you’re the type of youth leader to tell good stories, you can’t pick a better place. Once all of the kids exhaust themselves enough to gather for some food, that’s your green light.
Whether you tell a ghost story or a testimony is up to you. But the atmosphere around a fire is intimate. You can make a real impact here, and everyone will remember the night as fun and touching.
Remember, that’s only if there’s food. Otherwise, growling stomachs may ruin their attention spans.
Because a large fire has innate danger, you might want some extra hands on deck. Have a few ways to put the fire out. Ask a few extra adults to help out in case the flames catch a mind of their own.
Safety is the priority.
Just ask Smokey Bear!
You can pretty much design any and all types of formats for an overnight lock-in. Host at church, or at someone’s house if they have a cool set up.
For a fun lock in, you’ll need an itinerary mixing activities. Start off with some snacks and a game. Some prayer. Then start mixing it up. Play a Disney movie, then lead them into a lesson as soon as the credits hit. Just make sure there’s no sleep though!
If the adults can’t quite make it, and sleep winds up being necessary, do it in shifts.
But the main focus is fun for the kids, and a solid reason for the lock-in. Balance the fun activities with some meditation. Praying through the Scriptures while fasting from sleep hones in on spiritual intimacy.
Couple that with some acoustic worship music, and you just may have the best youth night you’ll have all year.
Go Somewhere Else
If you’ve done all those things on the list so far, it’s time to go somewhere else. Take the kids to laser-tag. Or take them on field trips to a nearby city. Explore, and build trusted friendships. Or visit a nature conservation and be awed by creation. If you live in an area where some nice hikes are within reach, trek up the trails with your group. Meet and pray at the top. Have a blast doing it!
If you can swing a trip lasting multiple days, you could even take mission trip. It doesn’t have to be out of the country. You could partner up with another churches a few hours’ drive away. Ask the congregation for some long-range church connections if you don't have any yourself.
All the Fun
Your extreme exhaustion is worth what you’re doing. All your energy expenditure, all the time you give, everything. It’s worth pouring into these kids. One day that will become evident to you. You’ll see the men and women of God these kids become. And you’ll know you had a part in it. You’ll know you were set there by the Lord to help light their path.
So have all the fun you can with them. Guide them the best you can with the Shepherd.
By the way, if you feel burnout coming on, don’t worry. Here’s an article for you to help recover. And if you think you might need to fundraise for these six super fun youth group activities, don't worry about that either. NewFire Giving has a great option for you.