5 Socially Distanced Games for Youth Ministry
Uno is a fascinating game. It was created with such simplicity, and yet every game of Uno feels different. This could be due to house rules, a loose interpretation of the game, or many other factors. Yet every new place I play Uno in, I feel as if it needs to be relearned. The beauty of the game is how quickly we can pick it back up even with new rules.
Games in your youth ministry might feel exactly like Uno over these past several months. There were games we believed would be successful, which struggled, and others, which have become impossible to play. I wanted to take a quick moment to share five games with you, which will keep your students safe and having a fun time as you return to this school year. Here are five socially distanced games for youth ministry!
Look Up Look Down
This game is incredibly simple, and yet it has immense replay value. What you'll need…is nothing! You just need the people playing the game! You'll ask students to create a circle, socially distanced of course, and then look down at the ground. Once you count to three, every person looks up and stares at another person's face in the circle. They have to look at the face of the person. What will happen is people will lock eyes because they both chose to look at each other.
If you are looking into someone's eyes and not the side of their face, you are out! Those individuals step away, and you repeat the game until there is only one person left. This super simple game allows people to get to know new people while also creating a buzz of energy in the room. It will keep your students safe, require no supplies, and it has high replay value. You'll hear lots of laughs and cackles as people scream, "WHY WERE YOU LOOKING AT ME??? COME ON!!!"
Food Competition/Speed Eating
Most of us love to eat, and if we don’t, we do it anyways for survival purposes. If you've watched any of our Game Tip Tuesday episodes, you'll know I love eating and student ministry together. One of my favorite games is speed eating/food competitions. This doesn't always have to be speed eating, but food can always be involved.
One idea here is to use gross food and see who can eat the most, or you could have a single item to see who eats it the fastest. I'd encourage you to have water on hand, and make sure you don't create too good of a prize for speed eating games. Your middle school boys will forget that choking exists and try to swallow an entire Chickfila chicken sandwich whole!
Some recommendations I would make for food include Krystals burgers, Little Debbie snack cakes, and candy bars. For the gross side of things: Vienna sausages, baby food, and cat food Oreos always make for winners!
Balloon Bounce/Minute to Win It
There was a day when I traveled across the southeast visiting youth groups, and every ministry was playing Minute to Win It games. Like old Hillsong music from the mid-2000s, I see you From the Inside Out; we just decided to stop using them one day. Let me ask you this question: why? Did the games become suddenly boring or uninviting to people? I will always be a fan of Minute to Win It games for three reasons. Pre-made videos, a plethora of ideas, and shockingly they only last a minute!
These are three major reasons people struggle with games, and Minute to Win It answered all of them. We didn’t know what to put on screens, we didn’t have ideas for new games, and our timing during games was not great. Balloon Bounce will always be a favorite because everyone was on the same playing field. I have a beard, so Face the Cookie always seemed to be a struggle for me in the last 25%. Balloon Bounce involved inflating two balloons with air, tossing them into the air, and then placing one hand behind your back. You have to keep both balloons off the ground, and the loser is the first to let their balloons touch the ground. Balloons are incredibly cheap to purchase, and you could play this game over and over again, seeing different winners each time. Most minute to win it games were designed to be played solo, and during social distancing/COVID times, they still allow our players to have the space needed for their safety.
I remember going to a regional Awana competition where we had scripture memorization and sword drill competitions all Saturday. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term sword drill, we were not handing out swords to elementary-aged children. This is the south, but we aren't THAT crazy most days. A sword drill involves someone holding a physical bible in front of them, and then a random verse of scripture being called out. The participants race through their bibles, find the said verse, and arrive at the verse wins!
There are a few reasons I love this game. If you let students know they'll need a physical bible to compete in the game next week, then the odds of them showing up with a bible increase. Most youth ministries nowadays seem to spend more time on the Holy App than in the physical book, and for some people, that's a big deal! Another reason I love this game is that it highlights the importance of knowing God's word…or at least where the book of Amos is. You can use this game to lead into a series on the importance of quiet times or daily devotions.
The last reason I love this game is that you can play it 31,102 times without ever repeating. Your students will use their own book, standing in their own space, and they won’t even have to remove their mask to play if you are in a part of the country where masks are required!
Lip Sync Battles
Out of the entire list, this is my favorite. Lip sync battles have been part of my DNA since I was young. My extended family hosts a lip sync competition every Christmas when we gather. Grandparents, uncles, and aunts, even seven-year-old cousins compete. Music brings us all together, and few things feel better than moving your lips while you sound like a famous singer. It creates laughter, fun, and energy throughout your room.
Anyone can lip-sync because you don't have to be able to sing!! You can involve your crowd by having them vote on the best performance, and you'd be surprised how many secret performers you have in your youth group. I'll never forget hosting a lip sync battle while working at a church, and one of our shy students signed up to sing the Grinch theme song. As he slithered across the stage with a sneaky smile, the crowd LOVED it. He swept the competition, and this man was a legend for years to come.
Lip sync battles will always create a neutral space, and we can keep our students safe during COVID with them as well.
These are just five ideas for socially distanced games, but there are many more out there. What are some of your favorite games? Let us know in the comments below!! Here at YM360, we appreciate everything you do as you serve on the front lines of caring for the next generation. Times are tough right now, and we want to serve you as best we can. If there is anything we can do to help or question we can answer, please let us know! Thanks for reading, and good luck with your next game!!