One of the things I picked up from the Japanese was their appreciation for group games. My initial response to join a bunch of Japanese adults playing clapping games at a youth hostel was “No way. That’s for kindergartners!” But once I gave into the hilarity, it was the most fun I had had in years. Good clean fun seems in short supply these days, but one place it prospers is in “youth ministries” at churches. Youth leaders have the job to keep American teenagers engaged, responsible, helpful, generous, and highly entertained, without demeaning others. The games included in this book are the best games some of the best youth leaders know. Because they are church ministries there is a small amount of church lingo, but mostly the “all-stars” trot of some very funny and high-spirited games that will work for anyone. The selections range from competitive photo scavenger hunts to New-Games-style encounters with no “winners.” These were all designed for teenagers, but good clean fun is highly contagious among adults, too.
Blackout Musical Chairs
Play this game in a completely dark room. If you can’t darken your meeting area, have kids play blindfolded.
Set up a circle of chairs, all facing out. Place one less chair in the circle than you have kids in the game. Tell kids that they’ll be playing Musical Chairs…with a twist. Unlike regular Musical Chairs, this version is played in the dark.
Ask kids to form a circle around the circle of chairs and to stand with their arms folded across their chests. When the music starts, kids are to march slowly around the circle in the clockwise direction while maintaining the crossed-arm position. When the music stops, kids will have five seconds to find a chair. Anyone still standing or sitting on someone else after five seconds will be eliminated from the game.
Bob in the Basin
This game will create memories for your kids, especially if you bring a camera and take pictures of the contestants. To prepare for the game, find a new toilet. Toilets are surprisingly inexpensive at builders-supply stores or department stores, or you can borrow a toilet from a local plumber or plumbing-supply store. Make sure the toilet is completely clean and then seal the trap with duct tape or an easily removed plug–the toilet needs to hold water in the bowl.
Set the toilet in your meeting room before kids arrive. Then cut the bottom out of the cardboard box and set it over the toilet. Make absolutely certain no one knows what’s in the box until you’re ready to reveal the secret. When the kids arrive, have them form two teams. Explain that teams will compete in a game many of them played as children: Bobbing for Apples. Show the apples you’ll be using and assure the kids that you have towels for drying their hair. Explain that, just as in the usual game, kids must grab the apples with their teeth or lips–no hands!–and lift them from the water.
If everyone understands the rules, remove the cardboard box to reveal that kids will be bobbing for apples in a toilet. Pause a few seconds, giving kids a chance to reconsider. Don’t force anyone to participate, but remind kids that their team has a better chance of winning if everyone on the team participates.
It is essential that you have an absolutely new, unused, never installed toilet for this game. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to share that information with your group. It adds a certain elegance to the game if–as kids participate–you hint broadly that you picked up the toilet at a very reasonable rate when the old city bus station closed.
Kings of the Mountain
Ask kids how many of them have played King of the Mountain. The idea of that game is to see who can claim the top of a pile and then kick and throw off any challengers. Explain this is a cooperative version of King of the Mountain. Instead of seeing how many people one person can toss off, the goal is to see how many kids can simultaneously stay on top of or in a certain space.
* Sofas can hold far more people than you might expect. The usual safety concerns about keeping the sofa firmly planted on the ground apply – but any sofa that has made it into a youth room has plenty much sagged to capacity already.
* How many kids can fit into a phone booth? Note: Do not close the door! For an even greater challenge, use a cellular phone to call the booth after your kids have packed themselves in! (You got the number first, didn’t you?)
* How many kids can get at least part of their bodies into a Hula Hoop? Count fingers, toes, ears – whatever. Better yet, how many kids can fit into a Hula Hoop so that their bodies don’t touch the ground outside? Encourage kids to link arms so that their bodies hold each other in the Hula Hoop.