I wrote the following article for The YouthWorker Movement, but the main reason I wrote it was to help out my awesome Just One Starfish Mentors with activity ideas. Feel free to pass this on if you know people who’d like it. In Christ, Erin
Can you have fun and learn about God with just a couple of people?
Whether you’re a big church youth group leader looking to make things smaller and more personal through small groups, or it just happens that on Wednesday only 2-3 youth showed up, or your entire youth group qualifies as a single “small group” at best, everyone can still get to know each other better and learn about God through these 10 quick prep activities.
The activities below are a mix of active and conversational games that will all work best with groups of 2-8 people. If your group is larger, split into smaller groups. I’ve suggested a few Bible verses to go with each activity, would love to hear from you if you have suggestions for others.
10 Quick-Prep Activities for Super-Small Groups
1. If cards
Supplies/Preparation: Prep a set of cards for each small group ahead of time
How to play:
Ask the group to sit in a circle. Write 20 ‘IF’ questions on cards and place them (question down) in the middle of the circle. The first person takes a card, reads it out and gives their answer, comment or explanation. The card is returned to the bottom of the pile before the next person takes their card.
This is a simple icebreaker to get young people talking and listening to others in the group. Keep it moving and don’t play for too long. Write your own additional ‘IF’ questions to add to the list.
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- If I gave you $10,000, what would you spend it on?
- If you could watch your favorite movie now, what would it be?
- If you could talk to anyone in the world, who would it be?
- If you could wish one thing to come true this year, what would it be?
- If you could live in any period of history, when would it be?
- If you could change anything about yourself, what would you change?
- If you could be someone else, who would you be?
- If you could have any question answered, what would it be?
- If you could watch your favorite TV show now, what would it be?
- If you could have any kind of pet, what would you have?
- If you could do your dream job 10 years from now, what would it be?
- If you had to be allergic to something, what would it be?
- If you sat down next to Jesus on a bus, what would you talk about?
- If money and time were not an issue, what would you be doing right now?
- If you had one day to live over again, what day would you pick?
- If you could eat your favorite food now, what would it be?
- If you could learn any skill, what would it be?
- If you were sent to live on a space station for three months and only allowed to bring three personal items with you, what would they be?
- If you could buy a car right now, what would you buy?
Faith Connection: Consider talking about some of these important “If” statements from the Bible
- “Jesus said: ‘If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’ ” -Matthew 21:22
- Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” -John 8:31
- “If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31
Supplies/Preparation: You will need crayons or paints, markers, scissors and a piece of white card stock per person for this activity.
How to play:
Give each young person a piece of white card. Ask them to draw and cut out a life- sized shape of a face. They can also cut out eyes and a mouth if they wish. Each young person is then asked to decorate their card face. One side represents what they think people see/know/believe about them i.e. on the outside. The other side represents what they feel about themselves i.e. things going on the inside, what people do not necessarily know or see.
This is best used in an established group where the young people are comfortable and at ease with each other. ‘Masks’ is also a good discussion starter on self-image and self- worth.
- “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” – Genesis 1:31
- “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” –Matthew 7:15
- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” –Hebrews 13:8
Supplies/Preparation: Provide large sheets of paper, crayons, markers and paints. An option would be to have old magazines for cutting out pictures.
How to play:
Ask each young person to draw a flag which contains some symbols or pictures describing who they are, what’s important to them or what they enjoy.
Each flag is divided into 4 or 6 segments. Each segment can contain a picture i.e. favorite emotion, favorite food, a hobby, a skill, where you were born, your family, your faith. Give everyone 20 minutes to draw their flags. Ask some of the group to share their flags and explain the meaning of what they drew.
(Variation: you could make “coats of arms” instead.)
- “May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers.” –Psalm 20:5
- “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” –from Ephesians 6:10-17
4. Suddenly Stories
Supplies/Preparation: A method to record the conversation (cellphone, video camera or even a cassette recorder if you want to go old school)
How to play: The leader starts a story with a sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. The next person then has to add to the story with his own sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. Continue the story until everyone has contributed. The story becomes crazier as each young person adds their sentence. Tape it and play it back. For example; ‘Yesterday I went to the zoo and was passing the elephant enclosure when SUDDENLY…..’
- Talk about any “suddenly” passages of the Bible, or when the disciples dropped their nets at once to follow Christ.
- ”Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28
- “There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” From Luke 2
5. Object Stories
Supplies: Collect together a number of random objects and place in a canvas bag. The objects can include everyday items i.e. a pencil, keys, cellphone, but also include some more unusual ones i.e. a fossil, a Christmas card, wig, random freebies from a convention, etc. Optional: timer.
How to play:
Pass the bag around the group and invite each young person to dip their hand into the bag (without looking) and pull out one of the objects.
The leader begins a story which includes his object. After 20 seconds, the next person takes up the story and adds another 20 seconds, incorporating the object they are holding. And so on, until everyone has made a contribution to your epic literary tale.
- This activity would work well to open a study on materialism or on stewardship.
- “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given.” -Luke 19:26
6. Classic 20 Questions
How to play:
Before you rule this one out, consider how you will make a “classic” game like this fresh and new by adding the faith component. One player is selected to think of an item. The rest of the group tries to guess the item by asking a question which can only be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Truthful answers only please, anything else will ruin the game.
(A similar classic is “I Spy,” in which one player secretly spots an item and says “I spy something (color)” and everyone tries to guess the correct item.)
Faith Connection: This would work well with a study on the mystery of God, how God reveals Himself through Scripture, etc.
- “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation”. – James 5:12
7. Paper Airplane Fun
Supplies: A sheet of paper per person, optional markers/crayons for decorating. Optional prizes.
How to play: Create and decorate paper airplanes. Come up with categories for the fun and award points for the best flights– farthest, straightest, highest, shortest flight, quickest divebomb, etc. You could make targets or have participants try to get the planes through hoops. Award points and remember that points are free so award them by the millions!
- “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31
- “I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize…” -Philippians 3:13
8. Newspaper Race
Supplies/Preparation: two sheets of newspaper per player, determine the race route
How to play: Each player must race to the turning point and back, stepping only on his or her newspapers. Each player steps on one, lays the other paper down in front of him and steps on it, moves the first paper forward, steps on it and so on.
- “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” -Hebrews 12:1
- “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” -Psalm 119:32
- “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” -2 Timothy 4:7
9. Four Square
Supplies/Preparation: a flat, hard floor space where you can make a four square grid on the ground with chalk, duct tape, painters tape, paint. Number squares 1-4.
How to Play:
1. The player in square 4 serves the ball by bouncing it in his square and tapping the ball into another square.
2. The player in that space must tap the ball (after one bounce) into another player’s area, and so on, until someone misses the ball, lets the ball bounce twice, or sends it out of the grid.
3. The player who misses the ball steps out and the remaining players rotate up through the numbered squares.
4. If you are playing with more than four players, a new player enters the game at square one.
5. The player who is out waits in line to re-enter the game once square 1 is open again. Whoever is now in square 4 serves the ball to resume play.
Faith Connection: The strategy in this game is to knock other people out, how do we knock people out to better our position in life?
- “Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
Supplies/Preparation: Need a basketball and basketball goal.
How to Play:
Players line up. The first player announces what shot he is going to make and takes his shot. If he misses, he goes to the end of the line. If he makes the basket, the next player must make the same shot. If the second player misses, he gets an ‘H’, and it is the next player’s turn to announce a shot and try to make it. Each time a player fails to make a shot that his predecessor made, he gets another letter until someone has spelled ‘horse’. At that point the player is out. The other players continue play until only one player is left.
Variations: If there are large differences in height, you may want to outlaw the dunk shot. Some players allow the player who has received the “E” one more shot to try to stay in the game. If longer or shorter games are desired, different words can be spelled (PIG, GOD, JESUS, GRACE, JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION)
- You can play this game with any word, so pick a word that relates to your study or lesson.
- “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.” –James 3:3