Fun Ways to Split into Groups

Image via Neatorama

Image via Neatorama

Splitting into teams is a necessary chore in many games. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

Here are a few things that you can do to split into groups evenly.

1) Team Captains. As someone who was picked last all through grade school, I’ve never been keen on this approach. But I’ve found that for competitive games like Ultimate Frisbee using team captains to pick their teams can be a good way to split into groups that are evenly matched. Pick your “best sports” and not necessarily your biggest jocks to be captains.

2) Sweetness. Have kids reach into a bag of wrapped candy, like Jolly Ranchers, and pick one candy. Divide into groups by flavor.

3) Spades. Deal out a deck of cards. Divide into two groups (red or black), four groups (suits), three groups (face cards, odds, evens) or more.

4) Ol’ Blue Eyes. Divide into brown eyes and blue eyes. You may have to use a second criteria to even up the group.

5) Odd Birthdays. Everyone born on an even numbered day goes in one group, an odd numbered day in the other group.

6) Four Seasons. Divide into four groups based on whether your birthday comes during the Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall

Icebreaker: People on Vacation

icebreaker: dude on vacation

If you don’t snorkle, don’t start

What better icebreaker than to get everyone in the group on their feet and thinking about their favorite place for a vacation? But don’t blurt it out!

Icebreaker Play

First, get everyone out of their chairs and into a large open space.

Next, have them think of one of their favorite vacations. Throw out some ideas like Disneyland, the Rocky Mountains, Florida’s Everglades.

Now, everyone has to pantomime an action that would be typical of a resident of that place. For instance, if you went to Hawaii you would do a hula dance. If you went to Texas or Oklahoma you might tuck your thumbs in your belt and walk like a bow-legged cowboy.

Without talking, everyone tries to get in a group that visited the same place. At the end of time, share briefly about your vacation with the group.

Ice Breakers for Youth Groups: Human Bingo

bingo tokens | human bingo is one of the great ice breakers for youth groups

Human Bingo is one of the quickest, easiest ice breakers for youth groups, especially if you’ve got a large group and not much time to prepare.

Rules for Human Bingo

1) If you’ve got more than two dozen people in the group make sure you get each person’s name on a slip of paper as they enter the room. Give each person a blank bingo card and have them fill in each square with a signature from one person in the group.

Once everyone has their cards filled in, shuffle the slips of paper and call names at random. Players circle the names on their cards as they are called (names should remain legible). First person to get five circled names in a row, (down, across or diagonal) yells Bingo! and wins a valuable cash prize.

2) If the group is somewhat smaller than two dozen you can play by having various criteria on the card (ie “likes sushi” or “knows how to play piano.”) Players get people in the group to put their names next to one of the criteria that they meet. First person to get five names across, down or diagonally gets to yell Bingo! and wins a valuable cash prize.

For extra icebreaker action, have the winner introduce the people whose names contributed to the win.

Template for blank bingo card, click here (PDF).

Template for a bingo card with sample questions, click here (DOC).

Check this board on Pinterest to find more ice breakers for youth groups.

[Photo by Abbey Hendrickson]

Water Balloon Games: Hot Potato

water balloon games are tremendous fun

Water balloon games are good, clean, fun with just a hint of treachery. Water Balloon Hot Potato cranks up the suspense as players pass a water balloon from hand-to-hand until the music stops. What happens next is up to the person holding the bag – of water.

Time: 10 to 20 minutes
Number of Players: five to two dozen

Rules for Water Balloon Hot Potato

Arrange players in a circle not too far apart. When the music starts give one player a water balloon to pass to her neighbor. Players continue passing the balloon in the same direction as long as the music is playing.

1. If a player pops the balloon or drops it, the player must leave the circle.

2. When the music stops the player holding the balloon is “out” and must leave the circle – unless she can lob the balloon at another player and hit him.

3. The player who gets hit must leave the circle. If the balloon misses, then the thrower is “out.”

4. The game continues until only two players are left. At this point give each player a water balloon, have them count off ten paces, turn and FIRE! Players can keep lobbing balloons until one is hit.

Set Up

No real set up is necessary, just an open space to play and willing players.


Before the event make sure kids know water balloon games are on the agenda, dress appropriately and bring towels.

At least an hour before the game grab a few helpers and start making as many water balloons as possible. Float the balloons in a tub of water. Splurge a little and buy several water balloon nozzles.


Try winding up the game by inviting everyone back to the circle and giving water balloons to all but one player. When the music stops, anyone not holding a balloon is out. Anyone who breaks a balloon during play is also out.

When it’s all over, let kids grab balloons and stage all-out war!


Transition to lesson time with a few questions: What makes a water balloon so refreshing on a hot summer day? Would a soda pop balloon or a chocolate milk balloon be as fun as water balloons? Why or why not? Why do you suppose Jesus offered his followers living water instead of wine, soda or milk?

Object Lesson – Value of Time

Clock on Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed railway line | Photo S. Terfloth

Clock on Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed railway line | Photo S. Terfloth

This is a quick but powerful way to help students realize the way that they view time. Bible says that life is short (1 Peter 1:24) yet most of us feel like we have plenty of time to make things right. But what is time anyhow?

The Set-Up:

You will need a stopwatch for this activity.

Have students put away their phones. If any of them have watches ask them to remove the watch and put it in their pockets. Make sure there are no clocks in view of anyone in the room.

Have everyone stand up.

Ask the students to remain standing for one full minute. Tell them that they can sit down when they think a full minute as passed. Say “Go!” and start the stopwatch.

Some students will stand for less than a minute. Others will stand for more than a minute. Most likely a group of students will sit when they see their friends sitting.

Make a mental note of the person in the room who came closest to standing for one full minute.


How many felt like they came close to a full minute?

How many felt like they sat down too soon or too late?

(If there is wide variation in the group) How do you account for the group’s perception of time?

Call out the person who was closest to one minute and give them applause. See if anyone is surprised by the result.

From here you can discuss the biblical view that life is short, and that we need to make every minute count. You can ask students about how they perceive the future – how long until they graduate? How long until they are done with college and ready to start a career?

Now matter how they perceive time now it will change as they get older. It’s important not to “put off” important decisions like having a relationship with Jesus or making peace with a friend who feels wronged. You might feel like you have plenty of time, but that could just be a trick of the mind.

Youth Group Games in a Pinch – What’s in Your Milk?

How much fun can you have without laughing? What’s in Your Milk is a quick youth group game that can be played anywhere, any time. It’s best played in a group of five to twelve or so.

The object is to pick someone in the group and then try to make them laugh by tossing out random questions. The game play starts this way: one person is chosen to be “it” by asking them the question “what’s in your milk?” The person answers with a noun of any kind, let’s say her word is “calcium.” From this point on the person who is “it” must answer every question with the word “calcium.”

The group peppers “it” with as many questions as they can think of, as long as the question can be answered by the world “calcium.” The person who is “it” needs to keep a straight face every time she answers a question with her word. She can smile, but if she starts to giggle, she’s out. She then picks the next person to answer “what’s in your milk?”


“Steve, what’s in your milk?”


“What do see in the zoo?”


“What eats bananas?”


“What swings in trees?”


“What’s in your shirt?”

Steve starts to answer “monkeys” but the thought of monkeys in his shirt cracks him up and he starts laughing.

The secret is to keep the questions coming fast and furious but to keep them obvious and mundane. When you do toss out a ridiculous question it takes the person by surprise and they start to chuckle. The laughter is contagious and the whole thing can turn into a first class giggle-fest.

Group Puzzle Game: I Can Read Your Mind


Telepathy | Photo via Public Domain Review photostream

In this game you leave the room and while you are gone the group picks an object for you to guess. When you return to the room the game host will ask you a number of questions about items in the room. “Is it the sofa?” “No.” “Is it the clock?” “No.” “Is it Brittany’s hair.” “Yes it is.”

After a couple of rounds – in which you guess the object correctly each time – the group will be pretty well convinced you can read their minds. Or more likely someone will have an idea about how you are making the trick work. If so, send this person out of the room and see if they can reproduce the stunt. Keep it up until everyone figures out how the game works.

How It Works:

Before youth group work out the signal ahead of time. For instance, if the game host points to something red then the next object will be what the room agreed on.

Bonus Extra-Tricky Version

If your group is super-smart or if you want to prolong the agony for some inconceivable reason, change the signal each round. Agree with your game host that the signals will follow a pattern – for instance red-white-and-blue – red on the first round, white on the second round, blue on the third round. Just be sure it’s a pattern you can remember.

Off-the-Wall Dodgeball

U.S. Marines and Sailors participate in a dodge ball tournament while sailing aboard USS ESSEX  | Photo public domain

U.S. Marines and Sailors participate in a dodge ball tournament while sailing aboard USS ESSEX | Photo public domain

Here’s a dodgeball game where it’s every man – and woman – for himself. No teams involved.

What’s required is a large wall and a soft springy dodgeball with a good bounce.

The object of the game is to be the last man (or woman) standing. The first person in possession of the ball slams the ball against the wall, trying to hit another player with the rebound.

If a player is hit, she must sit down where she is. She can still play by tagging other players with her hand. If a player is tagged by a sitter, the two must switch places.

Sitters can also redeem themselves if they catch a ball on the rebound. Then they can stand up, throw the ball and continue play.

Last person standing wins.

Active Games: Cardboard Tube Combat

(Clip rated “M” for Fx gore)

Here’s a wild and crazy way for your high school guy’s small group to talk about Ephesians 6:11-18. Cardboard Tube Fighting is dorky yet fun activity that gives you hands-on-experience with helmets, swords, shields and the like.

TIPS: Get cardboard tubes from your friendly local fabric store.

Allow plenty of time for construction. Box cutters are dangerous! A small handsaw can be helpful when cutting extremely thick cardboard.

Yoga ball jousting, pictured in the video, is a lot of fun but a little rough. Get two big guys running full-tilt and somebody could take a bad bounce.

Finally, keep a video camera handy! I’d love to see your clips if you decide to try this.

[Originally published May 20, 2010]

Bending the Rules – The Importance of Starting Fresh

silhouettes of golfers

Golf swings | Image

If you spend any time around young children you know how fiercely they cling to the idea of getting a “do-over.” It’s one of the fundamentals of play – you practice, experiment, repeat until you master the game.

Getting a “do-over” means that you get to start fresh. In golf it’s called a Mulligan – a chance to re-play a particularly awful shot. While some consider it cheating, the Mulligan or the do-over are excellent ways to keep a game balanced when you have players of varying skill levels. Like the handicap – strokes subtracted from a player’s score – judicious use of the do-over helps level the playing field a bit.

You can probably connect the dots here and see how this is leading to a discussion about God’s grace.  While there are some important differences between the Biblical doctrine of grace and a “Mulligan” there are some similarities. Teenagers in particular need adults and their peers to give them a do-over now and then. Developmentally they are wired to experiment and try new things. Naturally they are going to fail and sometimes they might even screw-up big time.

Being part of an active youth group is a great way to help kids get a do-over. It might be the one place they can turn to after making a poor choice (friends, drugs, hair color) and know that they can re-set and start fresh. God’s grace is what gives us the power to give some kids a Mulligan time after time.

So let’s here it for the “do-over”, for bending the rules and for second chances. In the long run it makes the game a lot more fun.