Overly Complicated Games

I once played a variant of kickball with my youth group where you had to choose three items from a bucket of sports equipment (i.e. a kickball, a frisbee, and a basketball). You then had to launch the three items into the field of play. After launching the third item, you began running the bases in whichever direction you chose (1st to 3rd or 3rd to 1st). You had to round the bases twice to score and you were able to keep running until all three items were returned to the bucket. An out was charged for each throw item that was caught and you could also be tagged out. And there were 10 outs in an inning. Sound confusing? It was. The score after the first inning was 24-19. I was sure I had missed a critical rule somewhere. At some point I started making up new rules up just to speed things up. I was getting looks that said, “I'd rather be taking the SAT right now.” Needless to say, I never played that game again.

The biggest determining factor in a more complex game is the learning curve. Is the game easier to understand once you start playing or does the confusion simply result in continued chaos? It also helps if you aren't the only person present who understands the game. Take sometime before introducing the game to the whole group to explain it to a handful of leaders and students so that they can answer questions too. If your explanation of the rules is going to last longer than the game itself, you might want to reconsider.

Simple & Addicting Games

Often times the simplest games become the most legendary in youth groups. I think that happens for several reasons:

First, They are easy to learn and easy to teach. I remember one summer, a game called "Hiyah" became all the rage in my youth group. Basically, we stood in a circle and yelled loudly as we karate chopped the air. It took less than a minute to learn yet we spent hours playing it.

Second, they can be played anywhere. The best games don't require a large space or special equipment. One great game that I learned from another youth leader requires only a half-filled water bottle. It's called the Bottle Flip game and it's astonishingly simple. You sit in a circle and try to toss the water bottle and have it land standing up. The only rule is that you can only use one hand to throw it and the bottle has to flip around (you can't just drop it). I've literally seen youth become more enthusiastic about bottle flipping than a game winning touchdown from their favorite team in the Superbowl.

Third, they aren't exclusive. Most of these games don't require a specific ability. Anybody can join in and have a chance to win. There's nothing wrong with athletic or strategic games, but groups tend to embrace games that are inclusive.

What are some memorable games that you've played with your youth group? Please share in the comments!

Publication date: May 18, 2012