How to Win with Games in Ministry: Trench Tested Games

Whether you want to get some energy out, build community, or just have fun; when done well a game can be a great way to get the juices flowing and break the ice in a ministry setting.


1.  Have the youth in the starting position before you explain the game.

Whenever possible, move players to their starting position then have them sit/take a knee before explaining the rules.  This will help them remember the rules and hopefully minimize questions.

2.  Keep the rules simple.

Try to keep the game to only 2-3 rules.  More than that and confusion begins to reign.

3.  If it’s an elimination game, have something to do for those who get ‘out’.

It always stinks for that first person that gets ‘out’ then has to sit and watch everyone else have fun.  Make them a judge, cheerer, boundary line, obstacle, etc. to keep them involved in the action.

4.  Leave them wanting more.

Are the youth having a blast?  Awesome!  Then have that round be the final round and leave them wanting to play the game again and again.  Otherwise, playing another round can be overkill and lead to the youth dreading that game the next time around.

5.  When points are involved, GO BIG!

It’s always more fun to win 100 points instead of 1 point.  Let’s be honest, the points add up to nothing and can be redeemed for nothing so why not give them 100 or 1,000 instead of 1?!  If it seems one team is running away with a victory, then make the last couple rounds worth double or triple the points.

6.  You are the Game Master…act like it!

  • Create an awesome name for the game.
  • If the youth don’t need to communicate during the game, play upbeat music.
  • Adjust the game and rules to best fit your youth and facilities.
  • Change the rules (or add new ones) in the middle of the game to make it more exciting (the players will assume this is how the game is supposed to go).  I’ll often add arbitrary time limits, announcing 30 seconds left (I don’t have a second hand on my watch) to raise the intensity or quickly end a game if it’s dwindling.

7.  Volunteers should play too.

When volunteers play with youth it is a shared experience and they bond, becoming more willing to open up to those leaders.



Supplies – a pool noodle cut in half

(tip: you can use pipe insulation from your local hardware store instead)

Two volunteers hold one hand with each other and ½ of a pool noodle in the other hand.  Doing so makes them the Whack-a-Mobile.  They are ‘it’ and whoever they hit with a noodle joins the Whack-a-Mobile, taking the noodle and connecting to the end of the Whack-a-Mobile so they are now the one trying to hit someone.

Rules: No head shots. If the Whack-a-Mobile gets disconnected (i.e.: they let go of each others hands) then anyone ‘whacked’ during that time doesn’t count. They only become ‘it’ if they are ‘whacked’ with a noodle, not if they are touched by someone else in the Whack-a-Mobile.

Why I Like It: 

  • It’s a forced all play game that gets everyone involved.
  • Everyone who becomes ‘it’ gets to take a turn trying to ‘whack’ others.
  • It builds teamwork when the Whack-a-Mobile grows to large numbers and people in the middle start trying to corral the remaining runners.


Supplies – none

Players pair up to play ninja-hunter-gorilla, a variation of rock-paper-scissors (ninja beats hunter, hunter beats gorilla, and gorilla beats ninja).  Players face back to back and on the count of 3 turn around while dramatically acting out their choice.  Whoever loses now becomes a ‘cheerer’ and follows the winner around, chanting their name.  As the groups chanting grow, if their leader loses then all of them follow the new winner and begin chanting their name.

            Why I Like It: 

  • It’s simple to play with no supplies.
  • It builds community among the youth and helps them to learn at least a few names.
  • It’s really cool when it comes down to the final 2 players and the entire youth group is chanting for their leader to win.


Supplies – aerial view / ladder

Split the youth into two groups.  The game leader climbs up the ladder (or tree, roof, etc.) and calls out a shape, ex: “square”!  The group to get into the shape of a square first and most accurately wins.  You can also have the teams come up with a ‘finished’ call / noise such as a rooster crow, etc.  Shape ideas: square, football, monkey, your Church, your state, a shoe/high heel, etc.

            Why I Like It: 

  • It builds team work and can get the youth to think outside of the box (ie: they can choose to have everyone create the shape outline or have a handful of people for the outline and everyone else fills in the body of the shape). I tell my volunteers to play but not help the youth create the shapes which forces several youth to step into leadership positions to help their team win.
  • It’s easy to tailor the game to my group (I live in Texas, so I always make one of the later shapes the state of Texas).


  • Try the game in the dark.
  • Play using a strobe light (note: Do not do this with running/tag games. We did this on a retreat and I ended up with a black eye – thankfully it was me and not one of the youth).
  • Change out the supplies (imagine playing Whack Attack but instead of using pool noodles, using one leg of a panty hose filled with flower).

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