Many church leaders who work with youth choose to start a service with an "icebreaker." These can be questions, get-to-know-you activities, or even just silly games. However, youth group icebreakers should always come with a purpose. Even the most absurd of games can lend to the theme of a message of that day. They also have the added benefit of expelling some of the energy that would later lead to distractions during the service. Enjoy these fun activities with your youth group!
Sometimes when a lot of new kids have begun attending service, it is good to welcome them to the group with a name game.
Whomp Em is a fun circle game. Have everyone stand in a circle. One player is chosen to stand in the middle with a pillow. The player in the middle can only get out by hitting someone in the knees with the pillow before they can say their name and someone else's. This game is great at relieving excess energy and can go on for a while without getting old.
Bumpity Bump Bump Bump
Just like Whomp' Em, in this game, everyone but one stands in a circle. The person in the middle says the name of someone in the circle followed by “Bumpity bump bump bump.” The person whose name has been called must say the names of the people on either side of them. Pick a random word (spaghetti, ribbit, etc.) that either a facilitator or the person in the middle can shout out at any moment forcing everyone to move elsewhere on the circle and learn new names.
Getting to Know Each Other
Even the most close-knit of youth groups will face the drama that comes along with being a young person. Playing get-to-know-you games can help the kids in your youth group remember their similarities and teach them to work together.
Speed Friending is much like speed dating! Have several small tables set up with two chairs. Players get a set amount of time to talk to each other before the facilitator blows the whistle and they must move on. Provide some topics for discussion on the table in case the groups aren't sure what to talk about.
Provide a list of questions (like "Where in the world would you most like to travel?") that everyone can see. There should be at least one question for each player. Have players sit on the floor, with one having a ball of twine or yarn. Have that player answer a question from the list. Then have them look at another player, call their name, and throw the ball of yarn at them while holding on to an end of the yarn. By the end, everyone will know a little more about everyone in the group and you will have formed a "friendship web."
Provide notecards and pens for everyone in the group, then have them write down one or two If questions (such as, "If your house was on fire and you could only save one possession, which would it be?"). Shuffle the notecards while scanning for naughty questions, set them in a pile in the middle of the circle, and then have everyone pick a question to answer.
Name that Person
Divide the group into two teams. Have everyone write down five things that few people know about them, in order of difficulty. Gather the cards, keeping them separated by teams. The other team gets to guess who it is, receiving five points if the first guess is right and one point less for each clue after that. The team with the most points at the end wins. This game can be a great way to talk about how no one really knows a person all the way except God.
Provide the group with paper, paints, markers, and other craft supplies. Have each person design a flag that represents them. At the end, have everyone share their flags with the group and discuss why they choose the symbols on their flags.
This game is best with a large group. Tell the group that, without speaking, they have to line up in order of height. Once this is done, try alphabetically by first name, alphabetically by last name, or even birthdate. The group will have fun figuring out how to communicate with gestures, and will have a hard time not laughing!
Sit Down If
This game is great if you need to keep your audience in a sitting formation. Have everyone stand up. Then proceed with to say statements that start with "Sit down if. . . " The statements can get pretty silly, such as "Sit Down if you have two pillows on your bed." The last person standing gets a prize!
Seven Word Biographies
Explain to the group that they must sum up their entire life in seven words. For example, "Born. Boring career. Found God. Changed Forever." Many ice breakers ask for opinions, but few ask about a person's entire life. This is great for the group to get to know each other, but also for the leaders to better understand where the members of their group are coming from.
Shuffle Your Buns
Have the group stand in a circle, and then place their shoes in front of them. One pair of shoes is removed, making one less spot than there are players. One player stands in the middle and says, "Shuffle your buns if. . .", ending the statement in something that applies to them. Everyone who agrees with the statement must run to a spot not next to them. Whoever is left without a spot is the next person to say "shuffle your buns. . .". As a group, come up with a funny catchphrase to say to make everyone shuffle their buns!
This game is great for large groups. Form two circles, one within the other, of equal size. Players across from each other are partners. A leader asks a question such as, "which activities are you involved with at school?" The partners give each other the answer to that question. Then the leader says, "Switch!" The outer circle revolves one spot, giving everyone a new partner. A new question is asked, and the game continues until everyone has spoken to each person in the other circle.
The group sits on the floor in a circle. A toaster is in the middle, along with a facilitator, bread, and several toppings. Everyone takes turns stating facts about themselves. Whoever is talking when the toast pops up must eat the toast with one of the toppings. With each piece of toast, the toppings will get stranger and players will state facts more quickly to avoid them!
Before a more serious service, it can be good to play something lighthearted. More silly youth group icebreakers can help everyone feel more comfortable around each other and keep them coming back each week.
Have everyone sitting or standing in a circle. In the middle of the circle, place three articles of clothing, such as a large sweater, a scarf, and a hat. Also place some delicious but difficult to chew food, such as marshmallows or chocolate. One player receives two dice. When he rolls doubles, he passes the die, runs to the middle of the circle, puts on the clothes there, and attempts to eat as much food as possible. Make it even more difficult by making players pick up the food with a fork or chopsticks. The only goal of the game is to eat some of the food before its gone!
Ping Pong Ball Messages
Write the letters to a message on ping pong balls, and place them in a bucket. The bucket can be filled with water or slime, depending on how gross you want to make it. To make the process go faster, also include blank ping pong balls for the spaces in between words. If you have a larger group, have the same message in several buckets, and have the team that unscrambles the message the fastest win! This is a great way to introduce the verse of the day.
Have everyone form a pair that links elbows. One pair is it and has to chase after all the other pairs. When they catch another pair, the pairs link elbows, forming a group of four. They must stay together for a tag to count, and only the people on the end can tag. The winners are the pair of people who are still free!
This game is a mix of Telephones and Charades. There are two teams, with each person on each team numbered. The first person on each team goes outside of the room to hear a situation that they must act out without words. The second person on the team goes outside of the room to see the first person act out the situation. Then the third person watches the second person act, and so on. It goes down the line and the team that is closest to guessing the actual story at the end is the winner.
Best Meme Contest
Bring funny pictures of the leaders along with any submissions from the youth. Have the players look at the picture and then write a clever meme. Establish a point system for first, second, and third funniest memes. Bonus points for humorous and appropriate biblical references. The player with the most points at the end wins!
Everyone takes their shoes off and leaves them to the side. Now players must crawl around, trying to pull off other people's socks. The last person to still have one or both socks on wins!
Church Scavenger Hunt
A church scavenger hunt requires a lot of advanced planning, but it's great for having kids who only come to church on Wednesdays to get to know the place better.
Each player attaches five clothespins to their sleeves. The goal is to get their clothespins off of their sleeves and onto someone else's by the end of the night. If this game is played at a lock-in or other more laid-back event, it's a great way to keep an on-going source of competition.
Break everyone out into even groups. The facilitator yells out words that are frequently featured in popular songs. Groups win a round by singing a song with that word in unison. This game is sure to be popular with anyone who has watched Pitch Perfect!
Act & React
Players pick a scenario from a hat and the player must act out the emotions from that event. For example, someone who picked "about to get married" might act fluttery and nervous. Other players guess what is happening. To make the game even harder, make the rule that the actor can't talk.
Birdie on a Perch
Everyone pairs up and decides who will be a birdie and who will be a perch. Then form concentric circles, with the birdies on the outside and the perches on the inside. Have the birdies walk clockwise and the perches counter-clockwise to music. When the music stops birdies must run to their perch (their partner's knee). The last pair to find each other is out. The winners are the pair that find each other first in the last round.
In this game, partners sit next to each other in a circle. One partner is blindfolded. The partner who is not blindfolded must throw their shoe in the middle of the circle. The blindfolded partner must go to the middle of the circle to receive the shoe with only their partner's voice to guide them.
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Have out several rolls of toilet paper and a few people who volunteer to be mummified. Form equal teams around each mummy. The first team to completely wrap their mummies with toilet paper wins! Be sure to take some pictures.
An oldie but a goodie. Play some funky music and have everyone dance. When the music stops, the players must too. Anyone caught moving with no music playing is out!
Strange Disease Diagnosis
A player who has volunteered to be a doctor leaves the room while the patients decide what cooky disease they have. Explain that it should be fictitious. Something like thinking they are goats or being allergic to air. Bring the doctor back in and let the insanity ensue!
Weird Talent Show
This is a great game to bring people up to the front. Host a talent show for people with weird talents or attributes. This a chance for youth group members with extremely long fingers or an ability to burp the alphabet to finally be in the spotlight.
Here is a short game to bring attention to the front of the room. Project an image of a zoomed-in object. Have everyone guess what it is and throw prizes to whoever guesses right first.
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Everyone is blindfolded and assigned to an animal. They have to make that animal's sound and group themselves with other people around them who are the same animal.
Everyone sits in a circle, looking at the ground. On "Heads Up," they must look up into someone's eyes. If two people are staring at each other, they must both scream and get out of the circle.
In this game, one of the players is selected to be the murderer. Do so in such a way that players cannot tell who is chosen, perhaps by handing out slips of paper, one indicating that the player is a murderer. Players can either form a circle or just mingle about. Any player who is winked at by the murderer must wait five seconds and then die a fantastic theatrical death. A Player who thinks they know the murderer can raise their hand and say, "I accuse." They ask for someone to second them without either naming who they will accuse. Then both accusers count to three and point to who they would like to accuse. If the two point to different people or both accuse an innocent person, both accusers die. Two accusers must point to the killer for the killing spree to end.
If your church has an outdoor space, make the best of it! Outdoor games are great for expelling excess energy, and you will notice the improvement in behavior during the service!
Ultimate Frisbee is a great outdoor game, even for kids somewhat intimidated by sports. It's non-contact and quite simple. To start, a team is chosen to pass the frisbee to the other side. The holder of the frisbee cannot take a step, although they can pivot. Points are only scored when a player passes a frisbee to a teammate in the end zone. Vary how many points are needed to win by how much time you have.
Big Bad Wolf
Have one player volunteer to be the wolf. The wolf stands apart from the other players ("the sheep"). On go, the wolf runs and tags as many players as possible before they cross an established safe line. Players who are tagged help the wolf tag more sheep in the next round. The winner is the last sheep left whom the wolves haven’t tagged.
This game is great for smaller groups or for large groups broken up into teams. Have everyone on a team in a line with their feet touching. The goal is to cross a finish line. The catch is they can't move forward unless everyone’s feet are connected to the group. A third party watches and blows a whistle when anyone has broken contact. At this point, the entire group must go back to the starting line and start over again.
Choose 1-2 hunters (depending on the size of the group) to try to tag the rest of the group (the ostriches). When an ostrich senses a hunter nearby, he must stick his head into the snow and thus avoid getting captured (or maybe just the top of his snow cap, depending on the weather). Make sure that it is a warmer day and the snow is soft.
Play a giant game of twister! All you need are stencils, spray paint, and a lawn. This is a great summer game—just make sure everyone is dressed modestly.
Frozen T-shirt Game
Play this game on a hot summer day! Soak t-shirt for each contestant in water and freeze it overnight. Each contestant receives a bag with a frozen t-shirt. Whoever can get the shirt on the fastest is the winner.
Giants, Wizards, Elves
Essentially a giant game of Rock Paper Scissors, this game is a riot to play. Divide the group into two equal teams. Instead of rock, paper, or scissors, a team can choose to be giants, wizards, or elves. Giants stand on the toes and roar, wizards cast a spell and say “shazam,” and elves cup their hands over their ears and say “EEE!” Giants beat elves by crushing them, elves beat wizards by outsmarting them, and wizards beat giants by casting a spell on them. Before a round, teams huddle and choose a creature. Then the troops gather across from each other. The team that chooses the winning creature runs and tags as many of the other team as they can. Tagged people join the other team. The team that captures everyone is the winner!
In this version of Tag, everyone tries to tag everyone else. Everyone who is tagged must sit down, and the last person standing is the winner. It can go by fast, so it can be fun to hold several rounds.
There you have it, 41 Youth Group Icebreakers. Check out our extensive list of icebreaker questions.
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