[ym360 Note: From time-to-time, we get some really good ideas for youth group games or activities we want to pass along. This is an idea one of our contributors, Richard Parker, has done with his youth group for years with great results.]
For quite a few of years now, we've done a really fun youth group activity centered on March Madness, the NCAA men's basketball tournament that will commence this week. The activity is really fun, builds a little buzz in your youth group time, and, in my experience, can even help in attendance. Here is how it works . . . There are actually two separate contests. You could do both, like me, or just choose one.
The first is the more traditional way of doing it, involving the March Madness brackets. I go on the Internet (simply Google "March Madness Bracket") and find a good printable bracket and make a copy for each student. Each student gets to fill out their own bracket, and at the end of the tournament the student predicting the most wins out of the 63 games wins. Now, you say athletes have a better chance of winning because they know more about basketball, right? WRONG!I would say in all the years I have done this students who are basketball savvy have only won the contest about 50% of the time.
March Madness Grab Bag
The second part of our March Madness activity is nothing more than the luck of the draw. The first week I make slips with each team ranked 1-8 in the tournament and put in one box, and then make slips with all the teams ranked 9-16 and put in another box (depending on the number of students you have, you might want to make multiple copies of each). Each student draws one team from each of the two boxes. If their higher ranked team wins during the first weekend (each team has a possibility of playing two games), they get 100 points per win. And if their lower ranked team wins they get 200 points per win (everybody loves the underdog, right?). The next week we start all over and put all the Sweet Sixteen teams in a box and each student draws one team. If the team's original rank is 1-8, students get 200 points per win; if the team's original rank is 9th or below, students get 300 points per win. Finally, the Wednesday (or whenever you meet) before the Final Four, I put the team names on slips so each student can draw one. For each team win (including the championship game), students get 400 points. To make the environment a little more exciting, I put a big bracket on the youth bulletin board and put each student's name by the team or teams they have drawn for that week. I also put a leaderboard tally sheet up so students can see how they are doing. If it looks like you might have a tie at the end of March Madness, the week before have the students predict the score of the championship game and let that be the tie breaker. To keep the campaign going all four weeks tell your students they must be present at the final meeting to win a prize. Now, keeping up with the contest takes some work (which also means this is a great time to involve your student volunteers, or student leadership team to help out). But the results for our youth group have always been great. It's an awesome team-building activity, and creates some pretty fun shared experiences. All in all, I've had a blast doing it over the years. I hope you will, too.