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  • Egg Russian Roulette Game

    This game was a huge success at our summer camps.  To start you will need one dozen eggs for every two teams.  Seven of the eggs in each dozen should be boiled and five should not.  Mix them up in the carton so you can't tell which ones are which.   We had the teams (small groups) send a representative up to challenge a representative from another team.  They each selected one egg and (on a count of three) smashed it on their head.  The first team to get three of the raw eggs lost.   Here is a video of Jimmy Fallon doing this with Ryan Reynolds:   Please share other ideas and stories of your experience of this game below! Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Youth Ministry Games

    Live Mafia

    A twist on the classic Mafia! Make sure you check that one out first so you have at least a small understanding of the rules.  How the game works: Pick a few teens to be "mafia" members. This is done secretly, either having everyone close there eyes and hold out their hands, or by giving out cards and having the face cards be the mafia. Usually I do about 1 mafia for every 5 regulars. The game is played in rounds until all mafia members are eliminated or the mafia win.  Each round goes as follows: All lights in the area are turned off (youth minister and adult core team can have flashlights and walk around) and the youth are free to walk around the area. It needs to be as dark as possible for it to work well. Mafia members can eliminate townspeople at any time by walking up and lightly touching someone's neck. THERE IS NO RUNNING ALLOWED. Townspeople can't run away from the mafia or purposely try to give away who the mafia is. Once eliminated, townspeople have to lie down and "play dead".  When a townsperson finds a "dead" townsperson, they yell "PINEAPPLE" (because we don't want people to be screaming "Dead Body"). When PINEAPPLE is yelled, the round ends immediately and the lights are thrown on.  After the round ends, the townspeople gather for a town meeting. Everyone who has been eliminated gathers nearby, but they cannot speak AT ALL. The townspeople (with the mafia still pretending to be townspeople, then get a chance to try and vote off people who they believe to be mafia members. This is a game of deception and stealth. Mafia members are trying not to be spotted when they eliminate people, and they can even be the ones to find a "dead body" and yell pineapple. Townspeople try to hide, not get killed, and reason out who they think the mafia are.  Suggestions: This game works best in areas where you have multiple rooms (No closed doors for liability/protecting God's Children Reasons). Make sure there are core members around looking out for people. Also, if PINEAPPLE isn't called, it's best to set time limits. I've heard of people playing with a doctor and sheriff like the original mafia but I've never done it and am not quite sure how it work. Let me know if you have any questions!  

    Jonah Soucy
    Jonah Soucy
    Youth Ministry Games

    Blind Dodgeball

    In leading 100’s of games over about 16 years this has been one of the favorites. Materials Needed blindfolds a marked off area (either a square in a gym or made with cones) dodge balls (softer is better) Setup Set up the boundaries.  Have each person find a partner.  One of them will be blindfolded and the other will not.  Place a good number balls scattered around within the boundary.  The blindfolded person will be in the boundary area and their teammate will be on the outside.   To start, no one should be holding any balls and it works well to move the person around a bit so they don’t know exactly where they are at or which way they are facing when the game starts. Game Play When the leader says “GO” the teammates on the outside of the play area will guide their teammates to grab a ball and throw it at the other within in the play area.  When a person gets hit by a ball or goes outside of the boundary, they are out.  Play until only one person is remaining. I found many versions of this on YouTube.  I’ve included a video I found of the version we played below.  

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Youth Ministry Games 2

    Ninja Game

    You may have seen this game before and not really understood what was going on.  The game is called Ninja.  It is an extremely easy game to figure out and explain but can take a lifetime to master.  Youth Ministers like it simply because they will play and analyze it more than anyone else, ensuring that they could beat any youngster up for the challenge. Here are the instructions: Size of Group:  You can play two people but I would recommend starting with at least four.  If you have more than 20 people, it may be good to split them in to small groups of ten. Goal of the game:  To hit/touch someone else’s hand with your hand.  This eliminates them from the game. Directions:  Have everyone stand in a circle, take a bow (like on the Karate Kid), and strike a pose like a Ninja.  One person will move at a time and you will go in clock-wise motion.  Basically the person whose turn it is will try to touch/hit the hand of another person with their hand with ONE motion.  The person they are trying to attack can make ONE motion to move out of the way.  Both people stay where the end of their motion ends and are frozen until it is either their turn again or they are attacked. How to Win:  You play until one person is left in the game and they are declared the winner. Things to Know: You always go after the person who started to your right at the beginning of the game.  The circle will eventually collapse and people may get out of order.  Always remember who you go after. If someone goes out of turn, have them return to where they were. Can set a rule that your hands must visible (recommended) A role, jump, or spin is considered one motion. Once your youth start to understand the strategy to this game it can become extremely competitive.  It is a great game that most enjoy (especially the volunteers!)

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Youth Ministry Games
  • My Top 8 Youth Ministry Purchases from Amazon

    I’ve been an Amazon customer since 2002 when pretty much the only thing that people used it for was to avoid going to the University bookstore and paying full price for college textbooks.  Now Amazon seems to be the first place I look whenever I have need for anything! To start off this new Catholic Youth Ministry Blog I’ve decided that for my first post I would go through the last 16 years of my Amazon orders and share with you the top 8 things I’ve purchased for youth ministry.  Also, please note that if I were to give a true top 8, it would likely include 5-6 books. I’ve decided that I’ll stick to games, resources, supplies, etc. and I’ll devote another post to my favorite books.  So here we go: Please note: these are affiliate links that allow us to receive a portion of any sales made when you purchase these items by clicking through on our site.  This "kickback" goes to support the work of the Catholic Youth Ministry Hub. Games Supplies Poof Soccer Balls We tried out three or four types of balls to use for dodge ball in our gym.  These were by far the best ones we could find. They are soft enough, they last a long time, and more importantly it feels great when you zing that youth with one of them! See it here. Spike Ball An excellent game to have sitting around in a youth room, at camp, etc.  It’s a very common game that most know how to play and it can serve as an excellent ice breaker.  It’s also extremely affordable and is great quality! See it here. Kan Jam This was another well known game that I discovered later on than most.  Similar to Spike Ball (above) this is affordable, it’ll last forever, and most people can just pick it up and play it.   See it here. Board/Party Games Pharisees - The Party Game This is the "Christian" version of the popular youth ministry game "Mafia".   I often tell people it's the perfected version of the game. See it here. Curses Game This is an older game but it’s one of those go-to games that is great for small groups.  In larger groups it’s entertaining enough that observers have no problem just watching! See it here. Exploding Kittens Game I have officially ordered 25 of these from Amazon.  It is an awesome game that can be played in 3-5 minutes and rarely gets old.  It’s another one of those games that observers enjoy watching. It can be expanded to take more players as well. See it here. Other Sleeping Cot I got tired of air mattresses and these have been an excellent replacement for when we need additional beds at camp or on retreat.  They are durable, long lasting, and fairly inexpensive. They aren’t the most comfortable to sleep on but those who have them are usually grateful to have anything! See it here. Pope Francis Bobble Head Definitely the coolest affordable prize that I have bought so far! See it here.     I hope you've enjoyed this list!  If you have other items you'd like to mention, please comment below!

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    The Catholic Youth Ministry Blog

    6 Youth Ministry “Anti-Programs” That Will Enhance Your Current Programming

    In my last post, I was rather critical of programs. It’s not really programs that I struggle with but rather the inability of people to think outside of their programs. I struggle with this myself. It’s easy to fall into the falsehood that we will be able to meet all of the needs of the youth within a single or maybe even a few different programs. When I say program, I mean a regularly offered event (youth group, bible study, discipleship group, etc.) that is planned and available to anyone interested. The shift that Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry aims to make is to look first at the needs of the youth instead of setting out to create the perfect program. In fact, the perfect program only exists when these ever-changing needs are understood, and the “program” responds to those needs. “Ever-changing” is the key phrase here. The problem is that often a youth leader’s job description and the direction given to them from their pastor is very program-driven as opposed to expecting the leader to observe the needs in a parish and do whatever it takes to respond to those needs. The reality is that one program will never suffice, especially when the needs of youth are so diverse. I’m not really suggesting that all our programs need to change. The youth group in your parish may be just what many of the youth in your parish need at this point in their life. I’m suggesting that we begin to discover new ways to reach the youth where they are at and create the margin in the structures of our programming that will allow us to point and to direct the youth to all the different – and perhaps previously overlooked or unconsidered – opportunities in the parish. To help explain this a bit, I thought I would share six “anti-programs” that are probably easier to pull off than you thought. These anti-programs actually are programs if viewed through a certain lens. In fact, you may already be doing these things without considering them in this light. Here they are: Coffee I have to start with this one because I believe using it as an example will help my point make the most sense. If you are someone who “goes out for coffee” regularly with a specific person or group of people, “going out for coffee” is a program. You understand that going out for coffee helps you meet a need in the relationship or situation in a way that other things cannot. This example helps make the point that people who really do understand ministry naturally do things outside of programs (like going out for coffee) and do not even think about it. Monthly Dodgeball If a discipleship group wanted to host a monthly dodgeball night in your parish hall or school gym, it might be an excellent, effective program. It’s the type of activity you could invite people to attend if you believed that whatever dodgeball does (builds community, makes competitive, athletic people feel more included, etc.) fills a specific need for ministry in your parish. Temporary Studies I truly believe that “temporary” programs are going to have a strong place in the future of youth ministry. If a group of youth are fired up about something specific at a certain point in their involvement of the parish, why not offer gasoline to fuel the fire? Imagine a young person desiring to grow in prayer and wanting to dive deeply into it with their friends. Why not offer a temporary program, maybe 4-5 sessions, just for that small group of people (although anyone who is interested could be invited) and fuel the flame? Embracing the concept of temporary programs makes addressing any relevant or timely area of formation possible if it can be done/taught over a short period of time. Spiritual Mentorship This is something I have found myself wanting to do more of in my own parish. For those youth desiring to grow deeper in their spiritual life, having someone help them to do it is vital. It’s very difficult to offer what’s needed in this sort of mentorship through any program or even a small group. Having people who are available to assist young people in deepening their life of prayer and discernment is another “program” you can rely upon if needed but is not something that’s necessarily “organized” or even planned but is available as needed. Monthly Adoration & Confessions Setting up a consistent time each month for the youth to gather for a holy hour and confessions has truly been a success in the parishes I have seen try it. It’s not really a program, but again, it’s an organized activity that corresponds to the desires and needs of individual youth. The “After Program” Program Think about the hour after youth group. In my experience, many youth typically look forward to and engage more deeply in what’s available after youth group than youth group itself. Take advantage of this opportunity. With these examples, I have just two final points to make. First, my intent is to help identify ways that youth ministry may already be happening in your parish “outside of programs.” Second, these examples are provided to inspire youth leaders to be more creative in looking at what types of “anti-programs” can exist in your parish. This is not necessarily at the cost of what your current programs already offer, but as a response to needs and desires that cannot be met within those programs. I’d love to hear more ideas of what you might currently be doing or some ideas you have of other “anti-programs” that could be utilized in a parish. 

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry 4

    A CRAZY Youth Ministry Proposal

    A couple of years ago, I spoke with a mom in a local parish who was interested in leading a small discipleship group. She was excited because the parish was encouraging discipleship groups to begin as naturally as possible, so she immediately saw her daughter, her daughter’s friends, and a couple other youth as a great group to lead. This mom asked a friend to lead the group with her, and they began meeting in the fall. About two months into leading the group, the pastor caught wind that this group was having a sleepover at the leader’s house and immediately put an end to it. His reasoning was that according to diocesan policy, sleepovers were not allowed. What bothered me about this situation is that two months prior, the pastor would’ve agreed that there really wasn’t anything wrong with this mother having a sleepover, and to be blunt, it wouldn’t really have been any concern of his. In fact, when talking with him later, he readily admitted this, and we agreed about how frustrating it is that the policy at times can actually inhibit us from just living life as a parish family. Let me propose something a little crazy. What would happen if as a Church, the “program” we offered was not “discipleship groups” but the formation of the discipleship leaders? How would this impact this specific situation, and how would it play out overall with regard to discipleship focused youth ministry? Let me offer a few thoughts. Evangelization would be lived rather than programmed In some ways, this mother didn’t see her “sleepover” as an act of evangelization because she was simply being “mom,” and in simply being “mom” she was living out her call to “go and make more disciples.” We should begin to recognize that this sort of community and intentionality is an evangelizing activity that goes outside the walls of the Church (which is the goal, isn’t it?). The idea of this intentionality being recognized by the parish was attractive to her, but was it really necessary? In this situation, we recognize that by formalizing it, much of the freedoms she would have had before were stripped away. Formalizing a “lived evangelization” increases risk and liability to the parish I’m only looking at this one situation, but in this case, by formalizing this “group” as a parish group, the activities that they could previously have engaged in as a normal part of their life now have increased the liability of the parish, the diocese, etc., which is why they couldn’t have the sleepover. I understand that at the same time, bringing something under the umbrella of the parish will provide protections and assistance that someone like this mother might desire. For example, if she were to take her group on a trip or to a conference, she might appreciate the coverage that a diocese or parish could offer as far as insurance, legal protections, etc. In this specific situation, though, the mother would’ve rather taken on the liability of the sleepover than lose the ability to have the sleepover altogether. Parishes could focus more on formation and less of administration The greatest desire I hear from priests who want to be more pastoral is that they would not have to be so concerned about the administrative aspects of running a parish so that they could be more of a shepherd for their people in the spiritual life. This proposal would be along the same lines. If we focused more of our time on helping others do the work of evangelization (and administration), we would be focusing more on formation, which over time would build a stronger church family. If the discipleship group mentioned above were merely a project or effort of the mother (which is was before it was ever a discipleship group) and the parish “programs” existed to help that mother grow in her ability to lead these young women, the parish wouldn’t have to be so concerned about the details of the group. It would create a culture where parents and adults felt empowered to view their daily life as an opportunity to evangelize and would cling to the parish in order to receive the support and formation they needed to do it well. I’m not proposing that all programs are bad. As indicated earlier, a parish leading a trip or an opportunity when it would be difficult or impossible for a group to do on their own would assist adults like this mom in their mission. I’m also not proposing that we do this simply to reduce the risk of liability to the parish. The mom mentioned above has a heart for the Church and a desire for her daughter and her daughter’s friends to be connected to the Church. I’m proposing that the systems that we have in place in order for that to happen can sometimes do more harm than good. I’m proposing that the programs we offer in our parishes be more focused on forming disciples to “go make disciples” and then send them to do so rather than thinking we also need to coordinate and micromanage the ways in which they do.  

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry 1

    It’s Impossible to “Form Young People” In Two Hours a Week

    I recently read through about 80 evaluations from a day of formation offered on discipleship. One of the questions on the participant evaluation asked about specific struggles people had experienced in their discipleship efforts thus far . The most common responses had something to do with the busyness of individuals in the group or lack of commitment from group members. By far, the most popular comment described a tension between the desire of the discipleship leader to form the group members and the reality that this is impossible to do in the context of a one or two hour-long meeting each week. I believe that one of the greatest misconceptions people have about discipleship groups is the idea that our responsibility is to form the youth as best we can in the context of that group, and only in the context of that group. Too often, leaders create extremely busy group schedules with a night of prayer here, a social night there, and “oh, don’t forget that we have to have at least one night where the parents are invited.” Especially for those who may be new to discipleship, it can be easy to conclude that as long we include something from each of the Four Areas of Formation in the planning, we have done all we can. To clarify the point I want to make in this post, I’d like to give an example of a situation described in one of the reviews. On the question regarding struggles in discipleship, this person notes that she leads a group of 12th grade young women who are distracted by future graduation plans, and therefore not listening as closely to the content of the group studies as they should be. I can totally understand this comment. I have led many groups where I felt like the youth were very distracted by other things. What I have come to learn, though, is that it is precisely these things (college discernment) that create the opportunities for real formation in a young person’s life. The irony of this situation is that I have spent the last six months actually discipling a youth through the process of discerning college. Viewing this as an opportunity to help her grow in prayer (spiritual formation), I was able teach (intellectual formation) on two great saints, St. Francis De Sales and St. Ignatius of Loyola, and their teachings on discernment and prayer. Throughout the discernment process, and in the tension of deadlines and peer pressure (human formation), this young person grew much in her relationship with Christ and her ability to listen and be guided by His voice, and the freedom she experienced in it has become something very attractive to others (pastoral formation). I didn’t get through a curriculum, and if someone asked what this youth actually learned, it might not be the most concrete, “packaged” program, but in fourteen years of youth ministry, I’m confident that this way of thinking and the approach that flows from it is how formation most effectively takes place. Here are a few additional tips I’ve learned that I hope will be helpful for you: Learn to Observe Any professional coach will tell you that in order to coach well, you must know your students well. Start by getting to know your group and discovering what it is that God may be wanting to do in their lives before deciding what you want to teach them. Practice Getting Rid of the Resource Resources are good but can actually hinder a leader from being able to lead well. Could you imagine a football coach relying solely on a resource to tell him what his team needs? A good resource should flow from good observation and good coaching and really be supplemental to what knowledge and experience you as a leader can provide. Do Not Be Afraid to Go Slow I truly believe that the reason a lot of discipleship leaders live in this tension is because some pressure (coming either from the parish or from their own self-expectations) causes them to think that they have to “get through” a certain amount of material in a certain amount of time. God is desiring to do much in the lives of the youth that you work with and in you as well. Only when we begin to surrender our preconceived ideas and sometimes even the traditions that we are used to will we become aware of the things God desires to do in us and in those we serve.  

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry 1

    The Cure for the Retreat High

    One of the most common struggles that I hear about from youth (and that I have experienced many times myself) is the after-effect of what is known as a retreat “high.” If you have never heard of it before, the retreat high is that time during and shortly after a retreat when someone is experiencing a great consolation in their faith. It’s known as a retreat high because not long afterward, they are hit with a great struggle in staying motivated in their faith (a “low”). Time after time when I speak with youth who have had retreat highs repeatedly, it seems like they have become so dependent on them that these moments have become harmful to the way they practice their faith. The reality is that these types of retreat experiences are extraordinary. Like an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, they may be helpful, and it is certainly acceptable to utilize them. However, the preferred minister is the ordinary minister of the Eucharist, the priest or deacon. The life that we are called to live most of the time is the ordinary life. Extraordinary experiences in the faith should deepen our love for and the practice of the ordinary life. The “feeling” of a retreat high is not bad, just like the attraction between a couple on their wedding day and honeymoon is not bad, but the daily stability, foundation, and practice of love is the way in which we are called to live. Over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on the need for Initiatory Catechesis following these conversion-focused retreat opportunities. Initiatory Catechesis is that essential moment in the life of a Christian after they have said yes to Christ. It’s a period in their walk with Christ where they become “initiated” in the faith. The General Directory of Catechesis describes it in these ways: an essential moment a comprehensive and systematic formation in the faith includes more than instruction: it is an apprenticeship of the entire Christian life, it is a complete Christian initiation, which promotes an authentic following of Christ it looks at what is “common” for the Christian See full description of Initiatory Catechesis in the GDC here (paragraphs 67-68) This is the cure for dependence on the “retreat high.” This is the way in which the youth with whom we work with able to adjust and grow into mature disciples. I experienced this recently as I have been walking with a few youth from my own parish. I find it to be a common experience that many of these youth have encountered Christ and are excited about what Christ has done and can continue to do in their lives, but they struggle knowing how to do it. They struggle connecting this awesome reality of God’s love with their daily life. This is where Initiatory Catechesis comes into play and really where discipleship begins and why discipleship is so important. The cure for the retreat high is NOT more retreats, but it is the process of discipleship which helps a youth give up their life and take up a new. While retreats are a helpful and important part of growing in our relationship with Christ, they exist to enhance, not replace, the ordinary life of a Christian. What does this look like? Well, it looks different depending on the individual, but for everyone it is discipleship in some form. “Want to learn more?” Check out our new Discipleship Leader Boot Camp Course, in which we cover the fundamentals of discipleship.”  

    Eric Gallagher
    Eric Gallagher
    Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry 2
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