The Source for Youth Ministry

Tim Bolin's Top 10 Games:

I've been doing full time ministry now for 16 years. Over the years I have always been on the lookout for ministry tools that help me prepare programs that will reach our students in fun interactive ways. Jonathan's resources have been a huge tool for us. His web-site, is on the top of my favorites list and his book, The Top 12 Resources Youth Workers Want is within arms reach from my desk.

This list of games and activities has been used over and over within various groups I've led. They all are games our students don't want to stop playing and want to play more often. They are games that can be played on mission trips, camps, retreats, and at weekly programs. The thing we like about this list of games is that there is little to no props, little to no set-up time, and little to no explanation needed. All of this means there is more time for our message time to reach out to students.

Tim Bolin, Paradise Alliance Church, CA

My List:

Number One: Dodgeball
The same rules as in the movie Dodgeball.

Simple? Yes.

Effective... oh yeah. We play it every Sunday night with our College students and it is a HUGE outreach to our community.

Here's the details: We play Dodgeball on a full basketball court. The two teams start on their side at the end wall. They have to be touching the wall with their foot, butt, or hand. The starter yells out, "One, Two, Three, Dodgeball." At the word 'Dodgeball' the teams run up to get the balls (4-5 max) sitting on the center line. Then the fun begins. All players must be in-between the center line and the free throw line. The only time a player can go behind their free throw line is to retrieve a ball. When a player is hit (we play anywhere on the body is out – some like to limit it to shoulders down) the 'hit player' goes to the designated 'Out' sideline. They start lining up from the center line back to their side's wall. They can go back into the game when one of their team members catches a ball.

You're Out When:
  • Someone catches the ball you throw
  • You hit someone but it bounces up w/o touching the ground and then another one of their players catch it – you're out and they both stay in (they get an 'out' player in, also)
  • The ball hits you or your clothes, even a slight brush of the ball
  • The ball hits a fellow team mate then bounces off them and then hits you – you're both out (When the ball hits the ground it's dead – you can't get out from a bounced ball)
We don't play off the wall or ceilings – we consider the ball dead when this happens.

Hints of the game:
  • Don't stand behind someone while playing – they duck and you get hit.
  • Run up to the center line and act like you are throwing a ball (big fake out). Then have one of your players throw at the faked out players, their guard is down!
  • When standing on the 'Out' sideline – keep watching – you will get hit!
  • This is a great spectator sport –have non-players sit on the opposite sideline as the 'Out" sideline – AND sit neat the center line (less balls fly near the center line).
  • Remind players this is just for 'fun' – this is not for the world championship.
  • After two games we have the players switch sides. (I don't know why – we just do and it seems to keep the anger level low. Usually they shake hands with the other players before attacking them in the next game.)
So, One-Two-Three-Dodgeball!

Number Two: Shuffle your buns
This game requires at least a good handful of people and a chair for everyone. Have everyone sit in a circle. Then select a person to go into the middle. When you say "go," they are to try to go back to their seat.

Everyone slides their tush (shuffles their buns) over to block the person from sitting in the empty seat. The person will end up running around the circle trying to get to the rapidly moving empty seat. If he sits, then the person on his or her left is the person who has to go in the middle.

Number Three: Honey if you love me you'll smile
Everyone sits in a circle. One person is "it." He or she must walk over to someone and say, "Honey, if you love me you'll smile." They can make faces and noises, etc., but no touching or tickling.

If they laugh while the person who is "it" says, "Honey, if you love me you'll smile", then they must be "it." If they don't laugh they must say to the "it" person, "Honey, I love you but I just can't smile."

Number Four: Hook arm tag
Everyone pairs up in a circle. Pick 2 people to start the game - one of them will be "it." "It" chases the other person around the room. They can go inside or outside of the circle but it's a good idea to try to keep them close to the circle.

The person being chased tries to hook arms with one of the people who is paired up. If they hook arms before they're tagged, then the person holding the opposite arm of the person who was being chased now becomes the one to be chased.

If the person who is it tags the person they are chasing, that person becomes it and tries to tag them back (think duck, duck goose).

This game has no winner but it's a blast and can be played on any time limit you want. Also, if you have someone who is having a hard time catching people, discreetly have a leader get tagged on purpose.

Number Five: Four on a Couch
Great Small Group Game: Create a circle with chairs and one couch - enough seats for everyone playing plus one extra seat. 2 girls and 2 guys start off by sitting on the couch; everyone else in the chairs. Give every person playing a paper to write their name on. They are to turn their names in to you.

Mix the names up and redistribute them back to the youth, making sure no one gets their own name. They are not to tell which name they have. The purpose of the game is for the guys to get all 4 guys on the couch and the girls to get all 4 girls on the couch. The person to the left of the empty seat calls out a name of someone in the circle. Whoever is HOLDING THAT NAME (not the one whose name it is, i.e John calls Amy's name, and Jeff is holding Amy's name.) gets up and sits on the empty chair. The person who called the name and the person who sat on the chair, then exchange papers with names on it (that way the same name does not stay with the same person, it makes it more challenging). The person to the left of the new empty seat calls a new name. (The same name cannot be repeated 2x in a row.)

Again, the purpose is for the guys to get the 2 girls off the couch and vice versa. This is a really fun game but it can last a long time.

Number Six: Mafia
Great game for limited space or you're stuck indoors. Also good for smaller groups or over-nighters.

The object of the game is to not get killed. It takes a lot of explaining, but once you get it, it will quickly become a favorite. You need at least 8 players to make the game interesting. You need a deck of cards, or slips of paper with the identities on it. For 10 or more, there should be 2 Mafia, 1 Angel, 1 Cop, and the rest townspeople. For less, have only 1 Mafia. Try not to play with more than 30, because it turns into a huge shouting match. Distribute the identities secretly. Everyone should keep their identity a secret, but if they choose to they can reveal it as part of strategy later.

Here is an outline of how to play each round:

  1. Narrator says "Town go to sleep." All players put their heads down and close their eyes.
  2. N: "Mafia wake up" Only the mafia open their eyes and look at narrator.
  3. N: "Mafia, who do you want to kill?" Mafia have to point to someone in the room and agree on that person. Narrator nods to let them know they understand.
  4. N: "Mafia go to sleep" Mafia close eyes again.
  5. N: "Cop wake up" The cop opens eyes. "Who do you think it is?" Cop points to someone they suspect is a mafia. Narrator either nods yes or no. Now the cop has an advantage for later. "Cop go to sleep"
  6. N: "Angel wake up" Same deal. "Angel, who do you want to save?" Usually, the angel points to him/herself, in case they were picked to be killed off. But sometimes they are gracious and point to someone else to be saved, especially if they have an idea who has been picked by the Mafia. "Angel go to sleep"
  7. N: "Town wake up" At this point, everyone opens their eyes, and the narrator announces who is dead, or that no-one is dead (if Angel managed to save them.) Everyone gasps in surprise, and then the accusations fly.
  8. Narrator asks for accusations as to who the town thinks the mafia is. It's usually a good idea to limit it to 2 or 3 per round. To make it more interesting, I always insist on the accuser making up some creative reason why they are accusing so-and-so. (like, "I heard them leave their house last night" or "look how muddy their shoes are!")
  9. Narrator then allows each of the accused to defend themselves. This whole process can get really rowdy, and you need to be careful not to offend the sensitive kids. Narrator must remain neutral, but can egg on either side with "facts."
  10. After a few minutes, narrator should announce that it's time to vote. By a show of hands, go through each accused. The one with the most votes gets "killed" by the town and is therefore dead.
  11. Repeat.
When someone is "dead" they cannot participate in the accusations. They are not allowed to talk. However, they get to keep their eyes open and find out all the answers to the mystery. Remind students not to cheat, because the temptation is great to do so! The game ends when either both Mafia are killed off (town wins) or are the only ones left (mafia wins).

The advantage of being the cop is that they can say "I'm the cop, I know the Mafia is so-and-so." However, they should be careful, as sometimes the town doesn't believe them and the cop ends up getting killed off! Also, you can play that once the Angel is killed off, that's it, or that he/she can continue to save people because they don't technically die.

Number Seven: Can Can
Imagine everyone in a circle holding hands, pulling and tugging, but not letting go . . . trying to get someone else to bump into the can-can. The result looks like an ameba trying to force one part of it's body to go somewhere it doesn't want to go!

Here's how it's done: You don't want your circle to start bigger than about 25 people, so if you have a large group, have several circles going at once. All you need is a trash can. The taller the can, the better. Also, plastic ones are better than metal ones, and it's always better to find a trash can that hasn't had anything put in it (a clean one).

The participants get into a circle around the trash can and hold hands. If a player touches the trash can in any way, they are out. Also, if players break their grip on one another, they are both out. Play pauses after an elimination, giving a much-needed time for players to re-firm their hand-holds.

This game is tiring, and is an excellent way to tucker out ADHD jr. highers. Play until one person remains. If an elimination seems slow in coming, adding another trash can to the mix speeds up the game.

Number Eight: Sardines
This game is kind of a reverse "Hide and Go Seek." Turn out all the lights. Have one person go hide. Everyone else is "it" and looks for this person. As soon as one person finds the person hiding, he or she hides with the person. Now there are two hiding.

As soon as someone else finds them, that person hides with them. You end up with a bunch of people packed like "sardines" in one hiding spot with one poor person trying to find everyone.

Number Nine: Blob Tag
This game is a normal game of tag with an added twist. When "it" tags someone, the person becomes part of "it." Then the two of them must run hand in hand and catch their next victim who will join them. Last one caught by the "Blob" is the winner!

Number 10: Sit Down If
Ask the entire group to stand. Tell them to sit down when the statement characterizes them and remain seated.

Encourage them to be honest. If you have trouble because most are not sitting down, give them general characteristics ("Sit down if you are under 15, if you have on white socks, if you are in love," etc.).
    Sit Down Mixer Number 1
    Sit down if:
    You haven't used deodorant in a week ... two days.
    You have never worn the same socks two days in a row.
    You sing in the shower.
    You drive a Volkswagon.
    Your belly button is an outie.
    You haven't taken a shower in a week.
    You didn't use mouthwash today.
    You are a girl and you didn't shave your legs today.
    You are a guy and you didn't shave your legs today.

    Sit Down Mixer Number 2
    Sit down if:
    Your nose is crooked.
    You believe each person should pay expenses on the first date.
    You still suck your thumb.
    Your socks don't match.
    You are ticklish.
    You wear baby doll pajamas.
    You weigh less than 100 pounds.
    Your nose is running and you don't have a handkerchief.
    You're going steady but you wish you weren't.
    You are good-looking but not conceited.

    Sit Down Mixer Number 3
    Sit down if:
    You have ever eaten snails.
    You are cross-eyed.
    Your mother still dresses you.
    You use Speed Stick deodorant.
    You have never lied to your mother.
    You have a hole in your sock.
    Your zipper is open.
    You got a traffic ticket lately.
    You are on a diet.
    You have never stolen a street marker.
    You have a false tooth.
    You are really good looking.
Make up your own based on your group