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  • Eric Gallagher

    Should We Be Training or Forming Our Leaders?

    By Eric Gallagher

    For the past 10-15 years, I’ve been watching the evolution of youth ministry. During that time, people have been searching for the right resource that is going to respond to the needs of young people. Today, we have top notch resources that can be used in just about any setting, for any sized group of people, with the best speakers in the world, and some of the best production available. Still…there seems to be a desire or an understanding that we can do even better. Over the past five years, there has been a huge emphasis on training. People will often say that you can have the best resource in the world, but without a well-trained catechist, the resource will mean nothing. This is true…or is it? Perhaps, but I think we need to be clear about the difference between training and formation. Feel free to look up the definitions for training and formation for yourself, but in short, training is the action of teaching someone a skill or behavior and formation is to make or fashion into a certain shape or form. Or, another way to put it is that training is teaching someone to do something, and formation is helping someone to become someone. Now to start, I have to say that in many respects, training and formation are very connected. An example that comes to mind is when I asked my priest if I could start a prayer group in high school. I was amazed at his immediate yes. He didn’t ask many questions about what I was going to do or how, but he saw it as an opportunity to lead and form me. He knew that as I followed the Lord’s promptings in my life, those experiences would bear fruit, and they did in so many ways. The “program” itself maybe didn’t look so great at times, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t be where I am today without that formation: the formation that came from his support, his mentorship, and his trust in what the Lord was doing in me. To the extent that I have been able, this is how I have run youth programs for years. In fact, this is what it means to be “discipleship focused.” We must recognize that in order for a program to be run well, our focus must be on the conduits through which that program is run. While it may be important or even necessary to train someone to do a task, we must understand that it will be through their experiences (human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral) that they will be formed. Having made that distinction, I want to share just a few tips with you on how you can accomplish this type of formation in your efforts: Focus on a leader’s experience rather than their results When you meet with your leaders, either individually or as a group, focus your conversation around their experience. Instead of asking, “What do you think went well?” ask, “Where did you see God working?” Instead of asking, “Where could we improve?” ask, “What was most difficult for you?” This alone will take attention off of the program and put the emphasis on the leader. Their answers will also give you insight into which leaders are attentive to what’s happening in them and which may be too focused on the “program.” Be patient with the lacking in order for growth to occur Taking your eyes off the program will seem like an adult taking their eyes off their two year-old for ten seconds…a lot can happen in that time. Again, we have to ask the question: do we care more about the program than the people? Having patience with an adult desiring to grow in their role will pay huge dividends. Keep the work simple and easy to understand Strive to keep roles simple and easy to understand. This does not mean you should simply dumb things down. Asking someone to “assist in leading a young person to Christian maturity” is a straightforward and clear directive, but it will require a depth of understanding and attentiveness to do it well. The point here is that at any time, you could sit down with that person and ask if they believe that they are doing what they’ve been asked to do. As growth occurs, encourage deeper thought and leadership Continuing from the last point, pay attention to whether your adults understand their task well, and, if so, be ready to invite them into the deeper vision and mission of discipleship. If someone has been leading a small group for some time and desires to take things even deeper, be ready to journey with them in that. Focus on the person as opposed to the program As an adult begins to grab hold of the deeper vision, remain focused on them. It may mean that as they grow in wisdom, discernment, and insight into their gifts and charisms, they will move on and participate in other areas of parish ministry. If you remain focused only on the program, your volunteers will continue to be limited in where and how they are capable of helping out and the degree to which they will be formed. Be willing to sacrifice your best leaders. Remember, your goal is formation, NOT the program. Formation will never end, and if someone leaves your program because they’ve been formed well and feel called to assist in another, you have done your job! To be clear, I understand that these suggestions apply more directly to people who are in roles that are more formative in nature (leading small groups or bible studies, mentoring an individual, teaching, etc. ) and less important for the more menial tasks (bringing cookies, simply being a chaperone, etc.). My hope is not that you set out to create the perfect formation program, nor do I mean to imply that we should focus all of our efforts on formation to the exclusion of anything else. But I do hope that we begin to accept God’s invitation to us and to all of those in our parish to participate in his work, and through that, to receive more of Him. Our role as leaders is simply to allow that to happen and cultivate a culture where we are all becoming more aware of it. And when we do, our work in ministry will be less about what we are doing and more about who we are becoming. We will be changed!
  • Jonah Soucy

    Live Mafia

    By Jonah Soucy

    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!  
  • Eric Gallagher

    Egg Russian Roulette Game

    By Eric Gallagher

    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

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

    By Eric Gallagher

    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.  
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  • Eric Gallagher

    My Top 8 Youth Ministry Purchases from Amazon

    By Eric Gallagher

    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!

Larry, Curly, & Moe Game

This is a youth ministry game that we started playing about two years ago and is always a great game because it is quick to put together, the supplies are minimal and it is extremely competitive and engaging. The Ideal Setting This game works if you have anywhere from 12-99 people.  Those may seem like random numbers to you, but the trick is that people are in teams of three.  So as long as you have a dividend of three you are good, but the more teams you have to more crazy it gets. Game Set-Up (image below) You will set-up a circle game area using cones, tape, or maybe the center of a basketball court.  Then you will have all of the groups line up outside of the circle and have the three people in each group form a line.  Then you will have random objects (or just small balls) in the middle of the circle. How The Game is Played Each person on each team will be given a name.  The first person is named Larry, the second is Curly, and the third is Moe.  The person leading the game will say one of those three names.  Whichever person has their name called will run around the circle, around all of the other teams, until they get back to their team.  Then they will go under the legs of their two teammates and rush to the center to grab one of the objects in the middle.  There will be less objects in the middle than the number of teams and the teams that do not get an object are out of the game.  You play until you are down to one team. Miscellaneous Stuff Be sure to state that teams can not “back-up” to slow the other teams down. As you get fewer teams, have the spread out evenly across the circle. A good strategy is to have the two members get really close so that is it easier to get through their legs. Usually better if you can have gender separated teams. Have fun and trick people by saying one of the names leisurely instead of shouting it out. Image of play

Pterodactyl Game

This is fairly new game that has made it’s way into the youth ministry world.  The kids introduced it to me.  It is sure to lighten people up, embarrass some, but most of have a ton of fun. Ideal Number of People 2-20 How It Works To begin, everyone will stand or sit in a circle.  Everyone must make a face where their lips cover their teeth.  If you show your teeth, you are out. One person will start and they are it.  They have the option either say Pterodactyl or make a sound like a Pterodactyl to one of the people on either side of them.  If they say Pterodactyl, the action continues in a similar direction.  If they make the sound, then it reverses the order. Quick example: Person one says “Pterodactyl,” then person two is it, person two says Pterodactyl so person three is it, person three makes the sound of a Pterodactyl so person two is now it again. Who Wins the Game? If you show your teeth you are out and if you act out of turn you are out.  Play until there is one person left. I’m a Youth Minister, I want the advantage… Be very creative and do things out of the ordinary.  Be the loudest and the craziest.  If it seems like there is a constant timing, respond really fast.

Brain Fry

This is one of the weirdest/craziest youth ministry games that requires no set up, no supplies, and typically 5-20 people. The more people the better I think. Everyone sits in a circle and everyone works as a team to stack as many "layers of chaos" as they can and can handle before your brains are fried. So what is a layer of chaos? One person will be the leader for the group. They will begin and end each layer, keeping track of how the group is doing. Starting the first layer. To begin the first layer, the leader will decide on a topic (we will use foods as an example). They will say a topic and point to another person passing the baton to them with that topic. Then that person points at another person saying their food. It goes around until everyone has went once. The last person will go back to the leader. This will be the standard order for round one. So for the food level you should remember who you receive from and who you pass to. Practice this a couple of times as a group and then you are ready to move on to round two. For round two the leader should pick a different category and a different start person. Go through and practice round two. Ideally, everyone will receive from and pass to a different person than round one. After you have practiced just round two you are ready for the chaos. The leader will begin both rounds so they start again with round one by saying their food to the person who they said it to in round one, once that person receives level one, the leader will pass the level two category to the appropriate person. The group will pass through both levels at the same time. Once the leader has received both levels the group moves on to adding a third level. Typically you will do this until the leader has chosen every person in the circle to start with or until someone’s brain is fried and they just can not do it any longer. Good luck. We have seen groups get up to 14-16 levels at one time. See if you can do more!

Psychiatrist – Game

Materials Needed – None Size of Group – Could have anywhere from 5 to 50! This is one my favorites to use with new groups or as an icebreaker for large groups.  It is easy to explain, allows for some creativity in the group, and allows kids to chat and bond as a group through it out. Have everyone sit in a circle and have one or two people leave the room.  They will be the psychiatrists.  They must figure diagnose the problem(s) of the group by asking yes or no questions.  Some problems may have several parts and they must figure all of them out. When the psychiatrists leave the room, you must come up with a problem for them to solve.  You, as the leader, can have one or two ready to make it easier or you can have the group decide.  It can be absolutely anything.  The one thing to be cautious of is whether or not it is too difficult for the psychiatrist to figure out.  Once everyone in the group understands what to do, you can have the psychiatrists come back in and try to diagnose the problem. Here are a couple examples that have worked well in the past: Every time the psychiatrist asks a question, everyone either crosses or uncrosses their legs. Anyone who is sitting to the right of a female has a constant itch in their left arm. We have also done chains of events.  Like when the psychiatrist looks at a specific person, that person stands up.  After that person stands up another person claps twice.  After the 2nd person claps twice, everyone shouts ‘WOOO!’

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!)

Lifesaver Pass

This youth ministry game is a favorite and very simple. Buy some lifesavers and toothpicks. All of the youth are given a toothpick and put in to teams with even numbers and each team is given a lifesaver. Have all of the teams stand in a line. When the youth leader says go, the youth will pass the lifesaver to each other using only the toothpick in their mouth. If the lifesaver is dropped, the group must start over from the beginning of the line. The first team to pass it to all of their members without dropping it wins. If teams have more people than another, have some people do it twice to balance it out.

Coke Relay

We have done tons of different versions of coke relays, but this is definitely the one that has stuck out as the best. This youth group relay is extremely messy but something the youth will definitely remember. Give each group a 6 pack or 12 pack of coke and a pen. Have a pitcher or glass on one end of the room (or parking lot) and have the youth stand on the other end. The youth must shake the can, stab it with a pen, and squirt the coke in to the mouth of another youth. Using only their mouth, each youth must take as much coke over to the other end and spit it in to the pitcher. Only allow one youth to run at a time. The winning team will be either the first to fill the glass or the one with the most coke in their pitchers after a set amount of time. There is obviously a slight danger because of the stabbing with the pen, so watch the age and maturity of the youth you let handle the pen.

Stack-O-Cups Relay

Supplies Needed – Lots of Plastic Cups. 15-20 of one color per team and one of another color per team. This is a quick and easy youth ministry game that can be used as a relay or if you have a smaller group can be done with everyone against everyone. I actually got this idea from the big show ‘Minute to Win It’ and made it work for our youth group. Give every person/team a stack of 15-20 cups of the same color with the one of a different color showing on the bottom of the stack. The goal is to be the first to take one cup from the top of stack and put it on the bottom and keep doing that until the odd colored cup end up at the bottom again. If you do it relay style have the same number of youth on each team complete it and have the team sit down when they are done. If teams have a different number of people, some people can do it twice to make it fair. Enjoy!

Bonkers – Best Youth Camp Game Ever!

I have been involved in our Diocesan summer camp now for about 14 years.  As a youth, a volunteer, and now the coordinator of the camp, this is always the favorite. What You Need This game only works with a larger group of people.  We have about 80-100 youth and about 30 counselors.  You could have less (or more), but would need to adjust a few things.  As I explain the game, keep in mind the numbers we had. As far as supplies, your basic supplies would be: Bandanas – 10 of two different colors (we use red and blue) 10 Long Socks Flour Markers Different Colored Yarn Those are the basic supplies, but you will also need supplies for several stations. How The Game Is Played There are several stations that each of the youth must try to complete.  They get a string tied to their wrist every time they complete a station.  We would have 12 stations.  One person at a time can try to complete each station.  Each station can also form a line of up to three people waiting to do the station.  If you have 100 youth this would mean that about 1/2 of the youth are at a station and the other half are trying to find one that is available. While all of that is going on, there are Bonkers (wearing red bandanas) running around trying to hit the youth with a sock filled with flour.  The youth working at the station and the three in line are safe.  Everyone else can be bonked. If you are bonked, the bonker will mark your arm with a marker and you are frozen until a medic (wearing blue bandanas) comes and saves you.  They will turn your mark in to a cross and you will be free to run again. The game is played over a large field, with plenty of room to run around and is played for a set amount of time. You count up points by adding all of the strings up and subtracting the number of bonks. Other Helpful Hints We had about 10 bonkers and about 8 medics each time we played. Bonkers are not allowed to throw the sock at youth while they are running to get them. Make the stations fun but not necessarily easy. If possible have one person running the station and another to tie  string on the the wrists of the youth. Use a permanent marker so it is harder to wash off during the game. Youth are only allowed to complete each station once. What Types of Stations To Use? Here is a list of some ideas for stations that you can use: Spin around a bat 10 times and shoot a finger dart at a rock Drink 2 glasses of water Catholic Apologetics (answer questions about the faith) Count to 100 Balance a glass of water on your head and walk from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ Change in to one set of clothes, run to one end, change in to another set of clothes and run back. Name 5 counselors Talk for 30 seconds without saying the words ‘Like, Umm, or Hmm..’ Tell a joke Carry 10 bats from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and back all at once without dropping any Blow up a balloon, tie it, and sit on it to pop it. Take a piece of gum and blow a bubble Find a verse in the bible Make a paper airplane and have it land in a certain area (two people) Do the wheel barrel with each other from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ Enjoy!

Honey If You Love Me

This youth group game is a great icebreaker. It gets kids to move around a bit and definitely brings out personalities a bit.  You need no materials and you can sit or stand. The game is simple. There is one or two people in the middle (depending on the size of the group) and that person must try to get out of the middle. They go up to a person in the circle and say: "HONEY, IF YOU LOVE ME, WILL YOU PLEASE PLEASE SMILE?" The person in the circle will respond: "YES HONEY I LOVE YOU, BUT I JUST CAN’T SMILE. YES HONEY I LOVE YOU BUT I JUST CAN’T SMILE." If the person responding smiles at all they take the place of the person in the middle. If they are able to say the phrase without smiling then the person in the middle must move on to someone else. There is one main rule and that is that the person in middle can not touch the person they are trying to get to smile. Other appropriate actions or accents are allowed. Enjoy!


his Catholic youth ministry game is very simple, requires just a little prep, but can be done several times. Materials Needed – Notecards Have everyone site in a circle or in a line.  What you will do is you will have cards pre-made that have a category and one answer to that category on it.  Starting with one person they have to name something from that category in five seconds or less.  There are three ways they can get out: Say something that someone else has said Not be able to come up with something in five seconds or less They say the answer on the card You have one answer on the card because the kids think it’s crazy when the first person gets out.  Play until you are down to one player. Example To Use States in the U.S. Church Staff Member Names Holidays Positions in Football (or any sport) Youth Group Family Member Names Letters in the Alphabet U.S. Presidents Priests in the Diocese or Past Parish Priests Gifts or Fruits of the Holy Spirit Past Youth Group Games Enjoy!

Pictionary Telephone Tag

Materials Needed – Lots of quarter sheets of scratch paper, pens/markers, chairs (optional) and a few volunteer helpers and printed download (available below). This has been one of my favorite youth group games to play.  It is a quiet game that draws great competition and requires team work.  The game is basically a mix of the three games mentioned in the title. Directions We use chairs that you can straddle while sitting on them.  For ease of explanation I will use 10 youth and 4 volunteers as the example.  You can adjust depending on your numbers.  For 10 youth, I would break the group in to two teams of five.  Have each team sit in a line in the chairs behind each other.  The game requires youth to write invisibly on each other’s back. What will happen is the person in the back will be given a sheet with a number of pictures.  That will person will draw the pictures one at a time on the persons back in front of them.  That person will attempt to draw the same picture on the next person until it makes it’s way to the front.  The front person will have a pen and tons of scratch paper and will attempt to draw the original picture.  They will show each attempt to a volunteer in the front.  The volunteer will check off the pictures one at a time as they are done. Each picture has a number and the volunteer in the front can communicate with the person in the back when each picture is completed.  Otherwise, there is no talking allowed.  The game is played until one team gets all of the pictures checked off. Hint(s) Be very strict with the no talking rule.  In my experience when teams start talking and anyone starts cheating in any way, it can ruin the game pretty quickly.  If the game takes too long (which is possible) then give them an amount of time they have left and the one with the most at the end of the time wins. Lastly, be sure to have plenty of extra scratch paper and pens.  The game moves pretty quick once it gets started. Materials Of course we will not give you instructions to a game like this without providing you with great printable resources to help with it.  The printout includes the sheet with eight pictures for the person in the back and score sheets for the volunteer in the front.   It is sometimes helpful to have the sheet in the back cut up so they can throw away the pictures they have done. I've included two versions of the games so it can be played twice!  The second one is a bit more difficult. Enjoy! Pictionary Tag - Game 2.pdf Pictionary Tag - Game 1.pdf

Ships & Sailors

This youth group game is great for larger groups and does well in a bigger room or outdoors in the grass.  It is a pretty simple game, and when done with a quick explanation seems to do great!  It is something the youth from retreats and camps that I have been a part in have always remembered and wanted to do again. The game is an elimination game that cuts people out slowly until you are down to one or two people.  The leader will shout a command and everyone will follow that command.  Each time a command is shouted more people will be eliminated based on their speed or in some cases their cooperation in groups.  Will do my best to write the directions out as I you were saying them out loud so you can read word for word when saying them to a large group. Ships – When I say ships, everyone runs to the this side of the room (point to one side of the room).  The last one there is out. Sailors – When I say sailors, everyone runs to the other side of the room.  The last one there is out. Hit The Deck – When I say Hit The Deck, everyone must get down on the ground as low as they can go.  The last one down is out. Man Overboard – When I say Man Overboard, everyone will find a partner.  One person will get on their hands and knees and act as a ship, the other will put one foot on top of them and look out in to the sea.  The last group or anyone who does not find a partner is out. Three Men Rowing – When I shout Three Men Rowing, you will find a group of three.  All three will sit behind each other and row in their boat. The last group or anyone who does not find a team of three is out. Four Men Eating – When I shout Four Men Eating, you will find a group of four.  All four will sit like they are at a table and pretend they are eating a meal.  The last group or anyone who does not find a group of four is out. Five Men Pointing North – When I should Five Men Pointing North, you will find a group of five.  All five will gather close together and point north.  The last group or anyone who does not find a group of five is out. You play down to one person and that person is the winner. Leaders Tip – You will want to do number games to eliminate people so you do not have to worry about the ‘last’ group.  Meaning if you just did Five Men Pointing North and have 20 people left, do something like Three Men Rowing next because there will be an odd man out.  Be sure to keep things moving and act quickly after you eliminate people.  The quicker the games the more fun they are.  When you are down to two people, really use the ships, sailors, or hit the deck to eliminate the last person.  Also the cues ‘ships’ and ‘sailors’  are great transitions in between the other cues.  It splits up groups (alliances) and keep their blood flowing.  You do not have to eliminate someone each time you say ships and sailors, you can just make them run around a bit also and then say one of the other cues. Enjoy!
  Photo by Flavio Gasperini on Unsplash


Mafia is a common game that has been used and known by just about any group I have been around.  It is a great starter game for groups of about 8-15.  If you have more and a lot of time, it works also.  Otherwise you can break in to more than one game.  We mentioned Mafia in our post on the game of Wink and in our top games as part of our starting a youth group from scratch series. Mafia is a killing game, so if you are against that.  Please check out our Wink game instead or you can be creative and change roles/stories in this game.  I will start by telling you how we typically play it, go through some pointers, and some substitutes you can use as well. Rules Start with everyone in a circle, spread out a bit if you can.  You will need a deck of cards and will have ready the following: 1 Ace for every 8 people 1 King 1 Queen 1 Jack (optional) Random numbered cards for the remaining number of people The role of each person will be given to them by the card that they receive.  The roles are assigned as: Ace = Mafia Mafia are the enemy.  It is everyone against the Mafia.  It is the Mafia’s role to try and kill everyone in the town before they are killed. King = Sheriff The Sheriff has a special role of being able to find out if certain people are the Mafia or not.  They can use this information in discussion to put the Mafia to death.  The role is important and should be protected.  They can pick one person each round, finding out if that person is Mafia or not.  They are to help the townspeople find and kill the Mafia. Queen = Medic The Medic has a special role of being able to save one person each round.  They can save themselves and protect their position or they can choose to save someone else if they know they are in harms way.  If the Mafia happens to kill the person that the Medic chooses to save in the same round, that person is saved for that round. Jack = The Village Idiot Again, this position is optional.  The village idiot is simply someone everyone laughs at.  They have no official role and no special privileges during the game. Numbered Card = Townsperson Townspeople are general people that have no other special role than their voting power.  They should strive to protect the valuable assets of the sheriff and medic if possible and work together to defeat the Mafia. The game actually work very easily. There will be one moderator that is not playing the game, but pushing the game along. The moderator will pass out the cards to everyone, giving them their role.  Make sure they do not share their card or role with anyone else.  You can collect the cards or have them put them away. Have everyone go to sleep (close their eyes and put their heads down). Have the Mafia wake up (open eyes and put head up).  The Mafia will choose someone to kill.  If there is more than one Mafia, they must agree on one person.  Once they choose someone, have them go back to sleep. Have the Sheriff wake up.  The Sheriff will point to someone that they would like to know if they are Mafia or not.  The moderator will nod yes or no, letting them know if the person is Mafia or not.  Have the Sheriff go back to sleep. Have the Medic wake up. The Medic will choose someone they would like to save.  They point at someone and the moderator will acknowledge them.  They moderator will not tell them whether or not the person they chose was killed until later.  Have the medic go back to sleep. Have the Village Idiot wake up. When the village idiot wakes up, everyone laughs in their sleep.  Have the village idiot go back to sleep. Now that you have gathered all of the information, the whole town can wake up.  If the person that was killed was saved by the Medic, tell them there was an attempted homicide.  It is up to the moderator if they want people to know who it was on.  If the person was not saved, then they are dead and out of the game.  A good moderator makes up a quick story of how the person was killed by the Mafia. Now is the fun part.  The town must meet (including the Mafia because no one knows who the Mafia is) and decide someone in the town to accuse as the killer and have them killed as well.  So it is a simple process. There is an accusation – Someone accuses one person that they think it is. The accuser says why they think the accused is the Mafia There is a second accusation – No explanation is needed The person who is being accused gives their defense. The town votes.  A majority rules and the person is killed if the majority raise their hand. If the majority does not vote for the accused, then they are safe the rest of that round. Go until someone is put to death or no one gets put to death (hardly ever happens) Then start all over with the townspeople going to sleep. The game is played until all Mafia are dead or the Mafia can no longer be voted out because of numbers. Pointers In my experience it is best to keep the game moving quickly.  Get the routine down and your head and push it along, but still allowing time for discussion.  It is pretty easy to cheat in the game and people who play it a lot tend to get bored and cheat more.  The game is most fun when you have people who know how fun it is to discuss and trick other people and the mind games go crazy. Experiment with numbers of Mafia, Sheriffs, and Medic’s.  Depending on the size of the group, you will find that some numbers work much better than others. For younger youth, those who are killed early in the game can ruin the game.  Pull out the duct tape and tape their mouths shut (don’t do that, I think it would break your Diocesan Safe Environment policies).  Seriously though, find a way to keep them entertained.  At least have an extra adult around to ask them to stop talking if they are giving information away. Substitutes You do not need cards.  You can walk around the circle and pick a mafia, then say you are picking a sheriff and tap someone on the head, etc.  Do not leave this game out because your church budget does not call for a deck of cards! You can play with a ton of people and make it a large game.  Just be sure there is something for those who are killed early to do. The more people you have the more Mafia you can include and have extra Sheriffs and Medics.  You can also choose to kill two people at a time from the town if needed. Make the game your own and have a great time! Enjoy!

Extreme Four Square

To play this youth ministry game you don’t need a four square and you do not need to be outside.  Grab some painters tape and map out a larger four square area on the floor.  Try to make it about 2-3 times as big as a regular four square and you can make it a rectangle shape (like a gym) if you need to.  Doing so will actually make the game a little more interesting. The game is played just like 4-square except with teams.  Each area should have room to allow about 3-4 people to comfortably move around.  Number the four squares in order and make teams.  You need at least four teams.  If you have more than four teams have the extras line up outside of square number four. Square number one will serve the ball by bouncing it on their side and slapping it to another square.  Whatever square it lands in has to hit it into another square before it bounces a second time.  When someone misses or hit the ball out of bounds, they go to square four and everyone else moves up towards square one.  (square three moves to two, two moves to three, etc.) You can make up your own rules as things comes up such as can teams hit it twice, can you play off the wall, etc. Ask any questions in the comments section below! Enjoy!

Balloon Shock

Materials Needed Sweatpants and shirt or loose clothing for each group Lots of Balloons Directions Start this youth ministry game by telling each group (typically 3-5 in a group is good) that one person will need to put on the loose clothing over their clothes. When you say go, each group must blow up and put as many balloons in the clothes of the person in the group as they can until you say stop. Be sure put size minimums on the balloons, so that are big enough. When the time is up, tell them that the first person to pop all of their balloons wins. They have two rules. They can not use their hands or the help of anyone else in the room. The trick to this game is acting like the most balloons in the sweats wins and then twisting the game at the end (That’s why we called it balloon SHOCK!) Say go and sit back and watch the hilarious ways that they come up with to pop the balloons.

Whap Em'

This youth ministry game is probably the one game that has never gotten old at our youth group.  It is a great easy quick game that can be thrown in just about anywhere to get kids moving.  It is one of the only games I have found where kids do not hesitate to hit people they don’t even know with a pool noodle. Set-Up Have everyone make a big circle with chairs.  In the middle of the circle have a garbage can or bucket.  One person starts in the middle with a pool noodle (or half of one if it is too big). Game Play The person in the middle will hit someone sitting with the pool noodle (no face shots).  Then they will run and put the noodle in the garbage can and try to get in to the seat of the person they hit before the person who was hit grabs the noodle from the garbage can and hits them (try saying that ten times fast). If they person in the middle makes it to the chair before they are hit, they are safe and the new person hits someone else.  If they are hit before they make it back, they must go again. If you have more than about 10 people, you can definitely get more than one noodle going at a time. Other Rules To Mention – No pushing or intentionally running in to another person. – The noodle must land in the garbage can or the person starts over. – You can not hit the person who just hit you. Be sure to have some music in the background and this game can go on for awhile before they get tired of it. Enjoy!


This is a game we played when I was in Junior High and I loved it. Seems to work best with groups of about 20 or more. It is sort of like the Frogger, which we will put up soon. A great game for youth group. Have everyone sit in a circle, with chairs or on the floor. Everyone will close their eyes and the leader will pick someone to be the winker. Then you say go and everyone put their head’s up and tries to figure out who the winker is. The winker attempts to knock people out of the game by winking at them. Once you are winked at, wait 5 seconds, raise your hand, and say ‘I’m out.’ Usually works best to have those who are out do something like put their finger on their nose or put their head down. If someone thinks they know who the winker is, they can raise their hand and say ‘I think I know who it is.’ They must have a second person to back them up. So then a second person raises their hand and says ‘I second.’ The first person guesses, if they guess right, they win. If they guess wrong, both of the people are out. The people accusing should be careful because if they get winked at in the process they are out and can not guess. The game is played until the winker is caught or everyone is out. One more little thing we like to say is that if you can not wink to raise your hand while the leader is picking someone so that you are not picked. It is also important to stress to people that they can not talk when their head’s are down and when they are knocked out of the game.

The Toilet Paper Game

This game does not really have a name, but is very simple. You play until everyone or most people figure it out. Simply find an item that can be passed around.  Let's use a roll of toilet paper for an example.  The leader will start by saying “Ok, we are going to play the toilet paper game, do you know how to play the toilet paper game?”  and they will pass the toilet paper to someone else.  That person will now try to do it correctly.  You will tell them they either did it right or wrong and then let the next person try. The trick to the game that needs to be figured is out that everyone person starts by saying ‘OK.’

Search and Find Your Small Group Activity

This is a great way to get people to find their small groups. This was used for a Freshman Catholic School retreat and thought I would share it. Make the groups certain categories like: Food, Movies, Places in (your state), etc… Keep the categories very general. Then make a sticky note for each person and put something on the sticky note that would fall in the category of their small group. Every person should have something different on their back, but by asking yes or no questions to their peers they will soon find out what group they belong in. Have the small group leaders stand on one end of the room. The people must find as many members of their small group that they can, go to their small group leader and ask if they are the leader for their category. Soon all of the small groups will be figured out. It takes a little bit of prep beforehand, but is a great way to get everyone moving around before they chat in small groups.

Boppity Bop Bop Bop

A great game for any size group.  Typical ‘circle’ game where the person in the middle tries to get out.  Comes with several different options.  Easily create more of your own also! This game can be played with as little as 5 people and still be a ton of fun. It is a typical circle game where everyone is standing in a circle and there is one person in the middle. The person in the middle tries to get out of the middle. It is good to start the game off with the first two basic rules. When the person in the middle goes up to someone they have the option of saying one of two things. They can either say ‘BOP’ or ‘BOPPITY BOP BOP BOP.’  If they say ‘BOPPITY BOP BOP BOP,’ the person they are saying it to must say ‘BOP’ before they finish or they take the persons place in the middle. If the person in the middle just says ‘BOP,’ the person they are saying it to must not say anything or they are in the middle. You can play with these rules for a little while then add more. The rest of the rules are still said to one person, but there are also responses for those standing next to that person, so each rule includes three people. Add these in one at a time. As they get used to the new one add another, letting them use any of the previous ones also. Basically the one person who messes up their action the most (if anyone), must go into the middle. Add-In's If the person in the middle says: Jello (then quickly counts to 10),  the person they are talking to wiggles their whole body like jello and the two people beside them make a bowl around the jello with their arms. If the person in the middle says: Disco (then quickly counts to 10), the person they are talking to makes a disco movement and the two people beside them make flashing lights with their hands. If the person in the middle says: Cow (then quickly counts to 10), the person the are talking to crosses their fingers with their thumbs pointing down (making utters) and the two people beside them grab an utter and "milk the cow".  If the person in the middles says: Pirate (then quickly counts to 10), the person they are talking to points up and yells "Arrrr" and the two people beside them make rowing motions outside of the boat.  


You should split up into groups of 3-6 people. You can have more than six, but not seven people. This game is unique in that the group(s) will work together to win.  The goal of the game is to count to 50. One person starts by saying “1.” The next person continues with “2.” You go around the circle until you get to 50. The tricky part is that there are a couple of rules to follow. Anytime a person gets to a number that is a multiple of 7 or contains the number 7 (7, 14, 17, 21, 27, 28, 35, 37, 42, 47, 49) they must say BUZZ instead of the number. No one can help another person out or talk, unless it is their turn and they get one answer. If the person says the wrong number or answer, the group must start over. You can play with more than one group and make it so the first group that gets to 50 wins or play with one group and anytime someone messes up they are out. Make it even harder If that is easy enough for them, play BUZZ-FIZZ: Keep the Buzz game going as above, but add FIZZ each time a multiple of 5 or a number with a 5 in it is said (Tricky one is 35 when you must say Buzz-Fizz).

Towel Throw

Here’s a quick game that works in almost any setting…plus everybody gets to play. All you need is a hand towel (or dish towel). Here’s how you do it. Prior to the game, tie a small knot in the middle of a hand towel. (You may want to do this to several hand towels to speed up play.) Then, get everybody that wants to play into a circle, facing inward. This is an “every man for themselves” kind of game. The object is for players to throw the hand towel at the other players in the circle, hitting them BELOW the neck, and eliminating them from play. Players who are hit must leave the circle. The last 4 players standing, are the winners. Here are the rules: Players CANNOT throw the towel at people standing two places on either side of them. (In other words, they need to throw “across” the circle and not at somebody close by.) If a player throws the towel and hits another player in the neck, face, or head, the player who threw the towel is out. (Have a judge handy to make calls about this one. For instance, a player could have thrown a towel low enough, but the other player “ducked” into it.) After a throw (that gets somebody out or misses) ANYBODY who grabs the towel off the floor can throw it. There is no order for throwing. Catching is NOT allowed. Players must absolutely dodge the thrown towel NOTE: The extra hand towels can be used to speed up the pace of the game so that students aren’t chasing the towel between every throw. You can also use multiple towels at once for a real frenzy! Have fun with this addicting little game!
What Is CYMHUB? - Video

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