This past week, we had a special event at both our Jr. High and High School services that is nothing new. We did a Nerf night. Our format was a 3-on-3 tournament for our Jr. High and a 5-on-5 tournament for our High School. Honestly, I thought “Well of course the Jr. Highers are going to love this, but not sure about our Sr. Highers” to the point that I almost canceled the event for our Sr. High night. We had initially set out to have a Laser Tag night, renting from LaserTagSource.com , but after looking into it and seeing the cost was going to be close to $700 with the guns and tents, we decided we could spend half of that and buy a ton of nerf guns and ammo that we would then own forever.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve done a lot of Nerf-themed events, from guys’ all nighters, to Nerf battles in the day, or just games that use Nerf guns during youth group. This was the first time we had our entire youth service be just about Nerf, and so we had a few things to try out and learn from in order to keep things moving for everyone. Since we often get asked about ideas for Nerf events in the YouthMin.org Facebook community, I figured I’d share some quick tips here to help others out.
1 | Tell kids to bring their own guns, but don’t bring ANY ammo.
Ammo is cheap enough compared to everything else we grabbed that it just made sense to buy plenty of ammo for everyone to use during this event, and then we didn’t have to worry about kids counting their bullets before/after to make sure they got theirs back, or had the very specific right one, and then deal with parents. Bullets get destroyed, but are a minimal cost, especially if you order them online.
The other great feature about this is that we kept all the ammo, students had to load at our table away from where everyone was hanging out, so there wasn’t random Nerf fights on the side of the main action.
2 | Buy enough Ammo
The only problem with students not bringing their own ammo is that you have to then have enough ammo for everyone to use if you do other games. We played a few big battles, still in the gym on the same speedball course below. But with our jr. highers, we ran out of one type of ammo and had to have kids start out with one or 2 bullets. Looking back, we could have and should have just made it a single bullet game, that’d be a great variation, but as it was we had a few kids disappointed they only had a handful of bullets (granted, they also were trying to fill the drums that hold 75 bullets at a time).
3 | Play a variation of speedball
Speedball is a way of playing paintball where you’re on a rectangular field with the same layout of barricades and bunkers on both sides. We did this for our tournaments, and we were able to move through a double elimination tournament with 12 teams quick enough to actually have champions. We played that students couldn’t cross the middle line for the first minute, but then it was free game. No round took more than 3 minutes, and so everything kept moving. We also added a halo style feature that kids loved, a rocket launcher or superpower Nerf sniper in the very middle that teams had to race for.
4 | Buy similar guns
We got a good variety of guns for students to use, but we bought at least two of everything. Then, we laid out all the guns and mirrored them for both sides, so that no team could claim an unfair advantage. Nerf Rivals are incredible, and it was a blast playing with them. The automatic ones need expensive batteries every hour and a half, and the pump ones get jammed quite a bit, but thankfully the new model has a reset button. These are worth the cost, and definitely make the games a bit more fun than the old snipers that shot 20 feet.
5 | Pop up kids tents make great, cheap barricades
We were lucky enough to find these pop up kids tents at walmart on huge clearance, got them for like $6 a piece. It had some name, but I kept calling them Flopsy the seal. We grabbed several of these, and because Flopsy doesn’t scream “cool Nerf event” we spray painted all of them with camp paint. I think they turned out pretty great, and in the end the cost was about $10 per barricade that we can use multiple times, indoor or outdoor. Sorry Flopsy.
6 | Female Leaders lead Female participation
We had a few girls playing the first half, but we had a majority of our girl students on the sidelines in little clusters just hanging out. I grabbed one of our girls small group leaders and gave her a modded Nerf zeus (just like this one, I’ve got great interns). She destroyed. And then girls started playing.
Bonus: Gatorade and Water
Your students (and leaders) will be thirsty. Grab some gatorade mix and make a big bucket of it for students. We had no snacks and no other drinks but gatorade and water, and zero complaints.
So those are some of the tidbits I’d share with others about hosting a nerf event. What would you add as wisdom for those who have never done a nerf event and are looking into it?