Use these active, faith-building indoor games in your ministry as kids head back to school
Now that school’s back in session, the weather is cooling down—which means it’s time to move indoors. It’s transition time, too, as some of your kids move into new age groups. Now’s the perfect time for meaningful games that can break the ice and begin the new season with big fun.
We know every group isn’t created equal—so we separated these games into categories based on different group sizes. You’ll find four fun, active games for each group size. And with small modifications, you can borrow from other categories and tweak them to fit your needs.
Group Size: 2 Kids
by Patti Smith
1. Balloon Bop
Use this game to talk about keeping God’s commandments.
- a Bible,
- a beach towel,
- and 10 inflated balloons
Say: Pretend each of these balloons represents one of the Ten Commandments. Let’s play a game to try to keep all 10 balloons in the air at once.
Have Kids each hold the edge of one end of the towel and stand apart so the towel is taut. Then have the kids shake the towel. Encourage them to continue to shake it as you as each balloon—each time naming one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Continue for 30 seconds after you’ve added all the balloons, and replace any balloons that fall.
- What was it like to keep all the balloons in the air?
- Explain whether that’s like or unlike trying to keep all of God’s commandments.
- What do you think it’s helpful for your life when you keep God’s commands?
2. Going God’s Way
Use this game to help kids think about following Jesus.
- a Bible
- and masking tape
Say: Tell a friend about a time you did the opposite of what you were supposed to do. Allow time.
Say: I have a challenge for you. Let’s see if you can start at this line (point to the start line) and end on this finish line (point to the line). Have kids line up on the start line. Here’s the catch: You’re going to do this backward, either crawling or crab walking.
Demonstrate each. Then call: Crawl!
After kids finish, ask:
- What was it like to go backward in this race?
Read aloud John 1:35-40. How was the game like or unlike following Jesus? What’s the best way you’ve found for following Jesus?
3. Two Are Better Than One
Use this game to show kids that God is our partner.
- a Bible,
- masking tape,
- four paper cups,
- four wide craft sticks,
- lots of ping-pong balls,
- and two buckets.
Tape one craft stick to the side of each cup so it extends off the bottom part of the cup about 2 inches.
Tape the craft sticks to the tips of two players’ shoes to create baskets on the ends of the shoes. Designate one bucket for each player, and then spread the ping-pong balls throughout the room.
Say: When I say “go,” you’ll scoop the balls into the cups on the ends of your shoes—no hands. Then you’ll drop them into your bucket.
Check for understanding; then have kids play for two minutes. Announce the number of balls in eachbucket.
Say: Let’s play again. This time you’ll work together to collect as many balls as you can in the same amount of time.
Remove one of the buckets; then have kids play for two minutes. Announce the number of balls in the bucket.
- Explain which round of the game you liked better.
Read aloud Ecclesiastes 4:9.
- What are some reasons working together can help you do something better or faster?
- What’s a challenge you’re facing now?
Read aloud Psalm 46:1.
- How can you let God be your partner with that challenge?
4. Push ‘n’ Pull
Use this game to talk about different types of peer pressure.
- a Bible
- and masking tape.
Mark two goal lines about 12 feet apart using the tape.
Have two kids stand back to back between the two goal lines and have them lock elbows. Say: When I say “go,” try to push your opponent to the goal line he or she is facing. Have kids play; then switch the rules so kids are attempting to pull each other to the goal lines they’re facing.
Read aloud Proverbs 13:20. Ask:
- What things pull or push you in the right direction?
- What things seem to pull or push you in a direction that you know isn’t right?
- How can avoid being pushed into something?
- What can you do to pull others in a positive direction?
Patti Smith is the unconventional church lady and the director of children and family ministries in the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Group Size: 10 to 25 Kids
by Les Christie
5. Birds Fly
Use this game to learn about listening carefully to God.
- a Bible.
Gather children into a standing circle. Play this game in Simon Says fashion.
Read aloud Proverbs 2:1-5. Then say: Let’s play a game to think about this. In this game, you’ll do what I say. We’ll be making all kinds of animal movements or noises, but here’s the catch: You’ll only copy me if what I tell you to do makes sense for that animal. Give a couple of examples, such as saying “birds fly” or “cats fly” while flapping your arms. Here are a few more ideas for times kids will copy you: cats meow, snakes slither (push arms together and weave them left and right), bunnies jump, and penguins waddle.
- What strategies did you use to copy the right motions and sounds in this game?
- Tell me about a time you misunderstood something someone said to you. Why do you think it’s important to listen carefully to others? to God?
6. Cotton Nose
Use this game to practice encouraging others.
- a Bible,
- masking tape,
- petroleum jelly,
- cotton balls,
- a table,
- and paper plates.
Have kids get in groups of five to eight, and put a dab of petroleum jelly on the end of each person’s nose. For each group, set a plate of cotton balls on one end of the table, and set a second empty plate on the opposite end of the table for each group. Then designate a start line and have each group form a line behind it.
Read aloud 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Say: Let’s use this game to practice encouraging others. This is a relay race, and your team’s goal is to get all the cotton balls on your plate to your team’s empty plate at the other end of the table. Only one person can go at a time, and you must use only your nose to pick up the cotton balls. Got it? Check for understanding. This is going to be tough, so cheer on your teammates as much as you can. Shout encouraging words, clap, and chant for your teammates.
Begin the race. Afterward, ask:
- When it was your turn to race, what encouraged you to do your best?
- What ways did you notice others encouraging their teammates?
- How can you apply this kind of encouragement to your life?
7. Elephant Stampede
Use this game to discuss the benefits of teamwork.
- a Bible
- and one pool noodle that’s been cut in half.
Choose two kids to be the Elephant, and give them each one of the noodle pieces.
Say: We’ll work as a team in this game. Our Elephant will chase everyone else and try to tag you with a noodle. If you’re tagged, you become part of the Elephant by holding hands with the person who tagged you with the noodle. The person who tagged you will hand you the noodle piece, and you’ll work with the rest of the Elephant to tag others, handing off the noodle piece to the person you tag. The object is to be the last person tagged.
Check for understanding; then let kids play. Afterward, ask:
- Explain what you enjoyed more—trying to escape being tagged or being part of the Elephant.
- What did you do to work as a team in this game?
- What do you like or not like about working with a team?
Read aloud 1 Corinthians 12:20-25.
- What are the benefits of working as a team?
- What adjustments can you make to be a team player?
8. Ocean Wave
Use this game to talk about distractions that keep us from knowing that God’s always with us.
- a Bible
- and one chair per child.
Have kids sit on chairs, forming a circle. Choose one child to sand in the center, leaving one chair empty.
Say: God’s always with us. Read aloud Joshua 1:9. The Bible says he never leaves us. Let’s play a game to help us think about that. Our friend in the center of the circle will try to sit in the empty chair. Here’s the catch: The empty chair will be constantly changing, kind of like an ocean wave. When I say “go right” or “go left,” that means everyone will move the direction I said by moving to the next chair over, but you’ll continue to move from seat to seat in that direction until I say differently. Your goal is to keep our friend in the middle from seeing the empty chair quickly enough to sit in it.
Start the game. Whenever the center child is able to find a chair to sit in, the next person in the center will be the person who permitted him or her to sit.
- What was it like to spot the open chair in this game?
- What distractions make it difficult to sit?
- We know that, like the open chair, God is always with us—but what kinds of things distract you from knowing he’s with you?
- What strategies can you use to avoid distractions that make it hard to see God?
Les Christie chairs the youth ministry department and works closely with the children’s ministry department at William Jessup University in California.
Group Size: 50+ Kids
by Nick Diliberto
9. Angry Ping-Pong
Use this game to talk about the effects of anger.
- a Bible,
- ping-pong balls,
- fine-tipped permanent markers,
- and a supply of cardboard building blocks.
Put kids in groups of 10, and give them a few minutes to build towers with their blocks. Then give each group four or five ping-pong balls. Have each person write at least one thing on each ball that makes him or her angry.
Say: Let’s play a game. Your team’s goal is to knock down any other team’s towers. Use the slingshots and the ping-pong balls to do this, but stand at least 15 feet from any tower you’re aiming at.
Show kids this distance. Then say: Think about the things you wrote on your ping-pong balls.
- What things have that anger “knocked over” in your life or in others’ lives?
Read aloud Ephesians 4:26-27. Ask:
- What does it mean to you that anger can be a foothold for the devil?
- What can you do to deal with your anger in a God-honoring way?
10. Candy Chaos
Use this game to help kids think about greed.
- a Bible,
- masking tape,
- and a supply of individually wrapped hard candies.
Spread the individually wrapped candies around the center of the meeting area. Form two teams, and use masking tape to designate an opposing end zone for each team.
Say: You team’s goal is to bring back as many candies to your end zone as you can. You can only have two candies in your hands at a time, so you’ll have to go to your end zone and unload before going back for more candy. Here’s the catch: If you’re tagged by an opposing team member, you must drop any candies in your hands and go back to your end zone before trying again. The team with the most candies at the end of the game wins.
Have kids play for as long as you want, but don’t monitor whether kids are following the rules.
Say: Chances are even if you did follow the rules exactly, you may have been tempted to stretch or avoid a rule in some way.
- How was this game like or unlike life?
Say: Greed is a strong desire to have more of something that you really don’t need. It may cause you to be on an endless chase after the next biggest thing.
- In what way can gree have a negative effect on your life?
Read aloud Philippians 4:11-13.
- What are the benefits of being content or satisfied with what you have?
11. Joy Ride
Use this game to show kids it’s possible to have joy in all circumstances.
- a Bible,
- glow sticks,
- and foam balls.
Form teams of about 10. Then group teams so four teams compete with one another in one square-shaped quadrant. Keep teams about 20 feet apart from the other times in the quadrant. Give three balls to each team so the square has 12 balls.
Say: Try passing these balls from your team to the team on your left. We want to keep the balls moving, so pass them quickly. However, if you let a ball drop, then you’re out and must move outside your square.
Have kids play for two minutes. Then say: That wasn’t too bad, was it? Now let’s play with the lights off—same rules apply. Turn off the lights.
- What do you think will happen?
Take several answers. Say: Good news—even though the lights are out, I have something that will help you. Give teams enough glow sticks and tape so they can tape one glow stick to each ball. Then play until only one team is left with any players.
Say: The game got harder when the lights went out, but the glow sticks made a big difference. Sometimes life can be like that; when things are easy, we feel pretty lighthearted. But sometimes it feels like the lights go out. Read aloud 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
- When it feels like the lights go out, explain whether you still have the joy to sustain you.
Read aloud Philippians 4:4. Ask:
- How are the glow sticks like or unlike joy during a dark time?
12. Gossip Charades Remix
Use this game to talk about the effects of gossip.
- a Bible,
- and paper.
Write five prompts that kids could act out in about five seconds. For example, a cow is eating grass. Make one copy of each prompt for every 10 kids in your group.
Put kids into teams of about 10, and have each team form a circle.
Say: Let’s play a game of Charades. Here are the rules: I’ll give the same prompt to one person in each of your teams. That person has five seconds to act out the prompt, but only the person sitting to the left of him or her can look. The rest of you will close your eyes. When I call time, the person who watched will act out what he or she thinks was on the paper for the person to his or her left. Everyone else will keep their eyes closed. Once you’ve acted, you can keep your eyes open. We’ll continue until the last person watches the charade. The last person on each team to watch will guess what was on the paper.
Play several rounds, alternating who starts each round and regulating the five-second increments for acting.
- What surprised you about this game?
Tell about a time a piece of information changed as different people shared it with others. Read aloud Proverbs 20:19.
- Why do you think God asks us not to gossip?
- What can you do to keep yourself from gossiping?
- How can you avoid being part of another person’s gossip?
Nick Diliberto is the creator of preteenministry.net and oversees Pursuit (4th-6th grade) and Junior High (7th-8th grade) at Northshore Vineyard Church near New Orleans, Louisiana.
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