Creating a shared experience can expedite the forming of friendships and greatly increase the process of bonding.  This is especially helpful with new small groups.  Whether it the beginning of a retreat, the start of the semester, or one of the first gatherings for a mission trip, here are some great games that will ensure laughter, fun, and great memories occur.  Two of these games need no supplies, and one of them simply needs balls (tennis, bouncy, etc.).

Note: for all games the leader should be playing with the group whenever possible. 

Count Off

Have the group stand in a circle.  Your goal is to count to a eight, if you have eight people in the group (adjust the number to the number of people you have).  However, you cannot go in a specific order or around in a circle and there can be no signals to indicate who will say the next number.   If two people speak at once or a number is said twice, then you have to start over.

Bonus: Once you’re able to count to 8, try increasing the number and see how far you can go!


Have the group stand in a circle.  Your goal is to count to 100 by going around the circle.  However, any number divisible by 3 (3, 6, 9…) or containing 3 (13, 23, 30, 31…) must be replaced by saying “buzz”.  Any number divisible by 5 or containing 5 must be replaced by saying “fizz”.  To increase the challenge tell players they must say “buzz fizz” if the number contains or is divisible by 3 and 5 (15, 30, 35, 53…).

Bonus: Any number divisible by 7 or containing 7 is replaced by the word “woof”.

Group Juggling

This one is great for learning names.  Start the group by standing in a circle.  The leader takes a ball (a squishy ball, tennis ball, or bouncy balls are hilarious!), says someone’s name from across the circle and throws it to them.  That person says someone else’s name and throws it to them.  People cannot throw it to the person next to them or to someone who’s already received the ball.  Once each person’s name has been said, the ball should end up being thrown back to the leader.  Repeat throwing the ball to the same people in the same order, saying their name each time, so that everyone can remember the order.

Here’s where it gets fun.  The leader starts by throwing the ball, then after it’s been tossed a couple of times, the leader adds a second ball.  Slowly, the leader will begin to add more balls to the group until it’s chaos of people trying to catch balls, retrieve dropped balls, and maintain accurate throws.

Let the hilarity ensue!

Increase Your Game

For any of these games, you can choose to add consequences.  Generally, I wait until the group is comfortable with each other and would see the consequences as something fun.  Possible consequences for messing up could be: running around the circle, doing a three jumping jacks, doing three push ups, only talking in an opera voice, only speaking like you’ve just inhaled helium, etc.  Have fun with it and get creative!

Comment below if you have any easy and quick small group games that you use regularly!

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