youth group games lesson

Youth Group Games with a Lesson

4 Tips for Making Youth Group Games Great

By Dan Colwin October 8, 2018

I’m not great at coming up with youth group games, but I sure love to play them. (To say I’m competitive would be an understatement.) On the other hand, Gretchen, a volunteer in our youth ministry, has an endless supply of ideas for fantastic games and fun activities every week. I appreciate what she does so much. At Sunday night youth group, her games create an amazing team atmosphere and always produce a ton of laughter.

But it seems like games can create a giant gap between two vocal factions of youth workers: those who think games are the heart of youth group and those who think games should be left in kids’ ministry. Both sides of this argument make valid points. For too long, our youth ministries have been too event based, lacking in depth and void of solid discipleship. At the same time, I’ve seen great fruit come out of games in youth ministry. They pull a child-like spirit out of all of us, while teaching key lessons about faith and community. I often find myself in the middle of the argument over games, quietly wondering, Can’t we all just get along?

Whether you love games or despise them, I’ve seen four effective ways to incorporate youth group games with a lesson.

1) Teaching

When it comes to most students, experiential beats abstract every time. So when you can use a fun game to hammer home a teaching point, you’ve created a real win. For example, if you know you’re going to teach on spiritual gifts, start the night off with a game where each team member is given a different ability or special tool to help reach the goal. This way you can give students a practical picture of how different parts can come together for the benefit of the whole group. Games and activities are powerful illustrations for your teaching because, after students have returned home, the games are what they’ll remember. That’s why each of our Deep Discipleship lessons include a Live it Out activity. We want students to experience a given truth in action.

2) Team Building

Games are some of the best ways to build unity and teamwork. Students can bond with and deepen their trust in each other when they have to overcome a challenge together. Team building games also tend to bring relationship conflicts to the surface, allowing you to help students work through these difficult situations. Need a great team building game? Check out this free resource.

3) Community

Youth group can terrifying for a new kid. Icebreaker games or interactive experiences create a comfortable atmosphere where students can be themselves. A few years ago, our group made a dance music video called The Interlude at a retreat. We use The Interlude almost every week to create an inclusive environment where all are welcome into the community. We play the video on the big screen and have everyone dance to it together. Because if everyone looks stupid, no one does.

“If everyone looks stupid, no one does.”

4) Fun

Sometimes you need a game for the simplest reason of all: because it’s fun. Remember that we aren’t dealing with grad students, interns, or employees. We’re ministering to teens. They spend most of their day sitting in desks, listening to lectures. So use a game to help them let loose! Play ultimate Frisbee, dodge ball, or kickball so students can simply enjoy being kids. Plus, games show students that being an adult can be pretty fun too. Fun has value in and of itself.

Do you use games effectively in your youth ministry? How have you seen games contribute to the overall discipleship of your students? I would love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

Dan Colwin

Dan Colwin is director of partnerships at LeaderTreks. He and his wife, Clare, live in West Chicago with their son, Everett, and little puggle, Roxy. They love their church family at Life Church in Wheaton, where they volunteer together in the youth group. He enjoys spending time outdoors, taking walks, having fires, reading, building Legos, working in the garden, and watching movies….  Read More