6 Easy Student Ministry Games

If I’m being totally honest, I’m not the biggest fan of games as a part of a student ministry service.  I strongly buy into the “what hooks them, keeps them” philosophy.  If students are coming for the games, they’re going to stay for the games.  During my first year in student ministry, I finally landed on a 2 on/2 off monthly routine for games.  Because let’s face it…games are my 5th least favorite things in student ministry.  Just so you know me better, here are the top 4…

1. Lock ins
2. “If we get X people/guests/dollars/baptisms/donations, i’ll shave my head and change my name to Melchizedek”
3. Bad “We Want To Look Like A Coca-Cola Shirt” Christian Apparel.
4. Fear Factor style games

 

That being said, before I give a list of games, here are 5 qualities I consider when deciding on a game.

1. Up front or group engaging?  Is it a game that brings a student or two in front of the group, or is it a game everyone can participate in? What did we do last time we had a game?  What fits best within the service?
2. Out of the box is okay.  Gross/Scary is not.  See #4 above.
3. Quickish setup?  With our room setup, I can’t afford the time, energy killing, or logistics of a game that takes a lot of set up.  If it does, I need to make sure I have time that week to set up beforehand.
4. Can I do a cheap prize?  If students have to do 73 backflips in 13 seconds, that deserves a legitimate prize.  I can’t do legitimate prizes often.  For what it’s worth, my fallback/I forgot prize is bringing lunch to their school the next week!
5. What could it break?  Their spirits? A student?  A volunteer?  Probably not the best game for every week.  A chair?  Worth it.  

BONUS – Lame-factor?  If it is TOOOO lame, it sometimes can be presented and students like it “ironically.”  Bingo for example.  But if it’s not quite lame enough to be a “throwback game”, but not cool enough for fun, it’ll be awkward.

 

Without further delay, here are 6 games we’ve had success with this semester.  My plan is to stick to these so students are familiar with them!  I don’t claim to have created any of these, they’re just games I’ve found over the years.

ONE // GORILLA MAN GUN

You’ve all probably played this before.  This one is like Rock/Paper/Scissors.

Setup:

  • Each character has a motion.  Make your own up, but make sure they’re distinct.
  • Gorilla // Hands over your head like a monkey.
  • Man // Scratching your chin in a thought-provoking manner.
  • Gun // Hand-Pistols.

How to play:

  • This is an all inclusive game.  Have everyone find a partner.
  • Students stand back to back with their partner.
  • Everyone screams this together, “Gorila beats the man.  Man beats the gun.  Guns beats the gorilla.  You tie, you die. Shoot!” and they jump around, striking a pose.
  • If they die, they sit down, re-partner up.

There are always those kids that tie on purpose, but that’s fun.  I call them out if i know they can handle it and they’ll spit it right back.  Just don’t forget the order!

 

TWO // KLEENEX CLEAN UP

Setup:

  • You can do this 1 vs. 1, or you can do a bracket.  Each person will need a box of kleenex each round.
  • Make sure you have a table available.
  • Have some loud music and get students cheering everyone on.
How to play:
  • Each player gets a Kleenex box.
  • Player picks one hand to use for the game and puts the other behind their back.
  • One at a time, they have to pull all the Kleenex’s out of the box.

When we did it, I didn’t’ think of the fact that it would mean 6 Kleenex boxes worth of Kleenex everywhere

 

 

THREE // MATH KILLS

This one is similar to gorilla man gun.  However, when they turn around, instead of striking a pose, they hold their hands up in front of them in any “appropriate” combination of fingers.  First person of the pair to say, out loud, how many fingers the other person is holding up wins.  Make sure you’re specific about rules.  I don’t let them hold the hands by their waist, behind their heads, behind another hand. Chest level, easy to read.

 

FOUR // CEREALS

Yes.  I know what you’re thinking.  Creative name.  About as creative of a game, though.  I literally just cut up the front panel of cereal boxes into however many pieces I want, and give them a time limit to rearrange it.  Again, music is important on this.  In all honesty, this one may be minute to win it game?

 

FIVE // TIC-TAC-ATTACK

This one, though, is definitely minute to win it.  I take a ruler and hot glue a box of Tic-Tacs to either end of the ruler.  Pop open the top, and the first person to, with the middle of the ruler in their mouth, shake all the Tic-Tacs out of their boxes wins.  An alternate, “this game takes forever” solution is to set a time and count the remaining Tic-Tacs.

 

SIX // THE IF-THIS-WAS-CALL-OF-DUTY-IT-WOULD-BE-THE-NUKE-KILLSTREAK GAME

This isn’t a great set up for everyone, but it’s been a huge success for us!  We use an Apple TV, hook it into our system, and use iPhone Mirroring to play games on the big screen.  Here are a few that have worked.

  • Temple Run // You can play whoever gets the high score in one life, whoever gets the high score within a time frame, or any other creative ones that keep it limited.  Some students can play this for hours, so be careful.
  • Jetpack Joyride
  • Finger Slayer // Usually, instead of the normal thing, we play it along the lines of, “You get 5 (sometimes 10) attempts.  How many times will your finger survive?”
  • Rope’n’Fly
Really any game will work.  If you have an iPad, you could also use that for it.  Students love seeing the games on the screen.  A lot of these depend on your energy and reactions.  Be sure you set a password on the mirroring so other students can’t hijack it.

 

What about you?  What do you give out as prizes?  What game works best for your students?

 

30 Comments

  1. Great post on the topic of games. I'm not the biggest fan of games either, but enjoy doing upfront games when they work. Also, easy set up is always a winner. Thanks for sharing!
  2. Great post on the topic of games. I'm not the biggest fan of games either, but enjoy doing upfront games when they work. Also, easy set up is always a winner. Thanks for sharing!
  3. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I love games. I think they do a great job of creating community and breaking up cliques. If the games set up the lesson (like tonight's theme is hear me so the games allow students to tell bits of their stories inside the game without thinking about it) I think they can set us up for success if we do it right. I'm right with you on the fear factor games. No one really wins with those. When we have a game that is deserving of a prize, it almost always is a free pass for them and a friend to an upcoming event. We have a really competitive group.
    • Wowza, that could get expensive! Granted, that depends on what kind of stuff you're talking about. I like the concept and the ideal of games, but i'm not a person that can schedule fun very well. so it takes a lot of energy for me
      • Usually the prizes of that size are handed out three or four times a year so our budget doesn't really take a hit. I am blessed to have a curriculum that provides games that relate to the lesson. The weeks where I'm left to develop things are stressful.
  4. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I love games. I think they do a great job of creating community and breaking up cliques. If the games set up the lesson (like tonight's theme is hear me so the games allow students to tell bits of their stories inside the game without thinking about it) I think they can set us up for success if we do it right. I'm right with you on the fear factor games. No one really wins with those. When we have a game that is deserving of a prize, it almost always is a free pass for them and a friend to an upcoming event. We have a really competitive group.
    • Wowza, that could get expensive! Granted, that depends on what kind of stuff you're talking about. I like the concept and the ideal of games, but i'm not a person that can schedule fun very well. so it takes a lot of energy for me
      • Usually the prizes of that size are handed out three or four times a year so our budget doesn't really take a hit. I am blessed to have a curriculum that provides games that relate to the lesson. The weeks where I'm left to develop things are stressful.
    • Probably. I'd rather save the energy for a full on retreat or do like a "pick them up at 1 am." One time, to avoid lock-in-ness, we had host homes, so they were divided into groups, and after doing skyzone, food, hang-out, games, etc, everyone split to go to host homes around mid-night. that way people had beds, didn't have to mess with guy/girl dynamics, and students still got a LOT of relational time with people that would be in their small group
    • I love lock-ins, I just hate them for the week after one. I couldn't tell ya how many times I said "never again" the whole entire week following, but by the next week I was ready to have another.
    • Probably. I'd rather save the energy for a full on retreat or do like a "pick them up at 1 am." One time, to avoid lock-in-ness, we had host homes, so they were divided into groups, and after doing skyzone, food, hang-out, games, etc, everyone split to go to host homes around mid-night. that way people had beds, didn't have to mess with guy/girl dynamics, and students still got a LOT of relational time with people that would be in their small group
    • I love lock-ins, I just hate them for the week after one. I couldn't tell ya how many times I said "never again" the whole entire week following, but by the next week I was ready to have another.
  5. I've always been a fan of "steal the bacon" where you have random objects in the middle between two teams and you call out describers for the ones who get to retrieve the items like: green eyes, guys/girls, shoe laces, wearing jeans, 7th grade, etc. If some of your objects are stuffed animals from goodwill, the rule is that only the biggest piece counts! We also picked up some used bowling pins years ago and every once in a while we play "human bowling" where the guys and girls compete pushing their helmet wearing teammates across the room in an office chair to knock over the pins. 2 Liter bottles could probably work too. You'll need some leaders that can quickly rebuild the pins for this one not to lag.
  6. I've always been a fan of "steal the bacon" where you have random objects in the middle between two teams and you call out describers for the ones who get to retrieve the items like: green eyes, guys/girls, shoe laces, wearing jeans, 7th grade, etc. If some of your objects are stuffed animals from goodwill, the rule is that only the biggest piece counts! We also picked up some used bowling pins years ago and every once in a while we play "human bowling" where the guys and girls compete pushing their helmet wearing teammates across the room in an office chair to knock over the pins. 2 Liter bottles could probably work too. You'll need some leaders that can quickly rebuild the pins for this one not to lag.

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