Ministry Ideas That Worked for Me
This page is as practical as it gets. Simply put, it's an intersection of ideas. This intersection is designed for EPC youth workers to share and get ideas that have a proven track record. The ideas on this page may cover topics like worship, evangelism, retreats, fund-raising, games, speakers, books, conferences, discipleship, student leader training, missions, recruiting volunteers, counseling, object lessons, small groups, etc. The following ideas are what we've got so far...with more coming in every month. Hope you'll find it to be helpful!
From Shane Whelan
Rivermont EPC (Lynchburg, VA)
A very successful fundraiser I did with my youth group was having a spaghetti dinner on Sunday night. I bought all the ingredients and a lady who does catering at our church prepared the spaghetti (parents of youth could help in preparation) I also bought French toast and bags of salad and my wife made brownies. The youth then served the church by setting up tables, setting place settings, bringing out the food, getting people drinks, helping clean up, etc. We took donations and raised about a $1,000. God was very gracious. It was a great opportunity for the youth to serve the church and be a part of the body of Christ.
From Jessica Gabel
Fourth Presbyterian Church (Bethesda, MD)
One of the best things I have done with my girls in junior high was studying Psalm 139. Then I asked the girls to write a letter to me about why they were fearfully and wonderfully made. It was a good lesson in self confidence and the uniqueness and intentionality with which God has made them. Some of the girls really struggled with coming up with things, but the feedback has been great. I have done it with my girls here at Trinity and my girls at 4th. Both times the girls were in 7th grade. Just a thought and an activity that has really worked for me. Hope it helps others!
From Chris Houston
St. Giles Presbyterian (Charlotte, NC)
We have developed an intercessor team made up of people across the congregation who pray for the youth and leaders. Each intercessor is given one specific youth to pray for throughout the year. We send out info cards with the youth pictures and information (address, phone, email, school, grade, birthday, etc.) in hopes that they will be in direct contact with "their" youth. The leaders keep the intercessors updated on what the youth are up to (trips, retreats, etc...) so they can know specific things to be praying for. We are continuing to develop this intercessor team.
A Truckload of Game Ideas from EPC-ordianed Brian Land
Grace Presbyterian Church (Asheville, NC)
- Swedish Baseball
This variation of baseball is most effective with 25 or more participants. Teams are divided equally with one team out in the field and the other at bat. No bats or balls are used. All you need is a Frisbee.
The batter comes to the plate and throws the Frisbee out into the field. The fielding team chases down the Frisbee and tries to return it to a garbage can that is next to home plate. The Frisbee must be tossed in rather than simply dropped in. Meanwhile, the batter runs about 10 feet to the first base, then to the second base about eight feet away and begins to circle them. Every lap is one point for the batting team, and the runner continues until the Frisbee is in the can. All the players on the batting team get to be up each inning. There are no outs.
After two or three innings, the score can get quite high. You'll need to have a scorekeeper who can keep track of all the points.
If you have some daring kids in your group, try this contest. Prepare a concoction using 15 to 25 ingredients. List all the ingredients used. At your meeting, call for some volunteers to be the Irongut. If teams are already formed, choose one or two from each team.
Those who are brave enough to accept the challenge take turns tasting the potion, which is usually thick and a yucky brown color. The winner is the person who can write down the most correctly identified ingredients.
Some suggested ingredients are catsup, mustard, horseradish, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, milk, salad dressing, pickle juice, onion salt, vinegar, orange juice, tartar sauce, paprika, oregano, soda, pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and salt.
- Fun With Potatoes
Tator Contest: Have a tator-tasting contest using several different brands of potato chips. Put the chips in numbered bowls and have each teen fill out an evaluation form, judging the taste. They should keep their answers to themselves. Afterward tally the evaluations and then disclose the brand names from best to worst.
Mr. Potato Head Race: Everyone is put on a team, with the number of teams being equivalent to the number of Mr. Potato Head games you have available. The object of the game is for each team to put together their Mr. Potato Head successfully. They line up single file about 20 feet away from Mr. Potato Head, and each person on the team runs to it blindfolded and adds one more part. the first team to finish, or whichever team has the best Mr. Potato Head at the end of the time limit, is the winner.
Potato Push: Have the kids push a potato along the ground in a figure eight course using only their heads (or noses, chins, foreheads). Rather than doing it as a relay, give each person a potato and have them do it all at once in a line.
Tator King: See who can build the tallest freestanding tower using potatoes and toothpicks. This can be amazing!
This game is a fast-moving variation of dodgeball. There are no teams. To begin the game, stand everyone in the center of a kid-proof room or gymnasium and throw a four-square ball off one of the walls. At this point everyone scatters.
The ball is up for grabs for the rest of the game. Anyone may handle and throw the ball after a bounce off the floor, ceiling, or wall but may not take more than two steps before throwing it at one of the many human targets (who are free to run as they please). A target is out if hit by a direct throw of the ball without catching it. A thrower is out if the ball is caught in the air or if anyone is hit in the head.
The Scatterball twist is that players who are out sit on the floor right where they are tagged; they must stay seated and may not move across the floor. They can still get throwers out by catching a ball in the air or by hitting a runner with the ball, and they may pass the ball to other sitting participants. Their presence increases the risk to running players, especially as the game progresses when more and more of them dot the floor. A thrower may collaborate with seated players by rolling or bouncing the ball to one of them. The last person left standing is the winner and starts the next game.
- Spaghetti Slobfest
For this meal, you'll need the help of a few volunteer waiters (preferably not group members). Tell the kids to be seated for a spaghetti dinner. Have nothing on the tables except their glasses filled with whatever drink you choose. The waiters then place in front of each person a paper plate with a plastic disposable bib and a pair of thin plastic gloves. make sure none of the servers talk or respond to any questions while they set the tables. Then have them begin bringing out the noodles, sauces, and meatballs, all without serving utensils.
The kids will realize soon enough that there will be no silverware for the meal, and that they must use their hands. To complete the menu, add a dessert like pudding or Jell-O. It's a meal they'll never forget!
As a variation you can set the tables with the weirdest utensils you can find. For example, one person may have to eat out of a vase with a large wooden spoon. Another person eats out of a coffee creamer with an ice-cream scoop. Someone else gets a fruit jar and chopsticks. Each place setting should be as crazy as possible.
- M&M's Candy Fun
For contests as delicious as they are fun, break out the M&M's and let the festivities begin! Here are just a few of the games you can play with those multipurpose candy-coated milk chocolate pellets.
M&M Relay: Team members run to a table where a package of M&M's are poured out for them. They must eat the whole package without using their hands.
M&M Blowing Contest: Each team must blow a pile of M&M's from one point to another-ten feet away is plenty.
Find the M&M's: Have the teams each hide a package of M&M's around rooms of their own. When all the hiding is done, teams switch rooms and find as many of the candies as they can within a given time limit. Make some colors worth more points than others.
M&M Push: Have kids push M&M's along a course with their noses, relay style.
M&M Trading: Give each kid a few random M&M's and have them trade among themselves for the colors they like best. After the trading, announce which colors are worth the most points.
Wet ‘N' Wild Baseball
Play this game with whatever baseball rules you like. Make the competition unique by using 30 gallon kiddie pools or garbage cans filled with water for bases and a Slip'n'Slide to get to home plate. This game will work best if kids are dressed in swimsuits or shorts and T-shirts. You will also need a garden hose and access to a water faucet.
Use a large plastic bat and rubber ball. After hitting the ball, players place both legs in the water-filled garbage cans as they go around. To score they must run down the third-base line and slide into home using the Slip'n'Slide. Teams may have multiple runners on a base. It's lively when several people try to slide home together.
Variation: Use a water sprinkler for first base or for all bases.
- By the Seat of Your Pants Volleyball
Divide the group into two teams. Set up a volleyball net in the room so the top of the net is approximately five feet above the floor. Each player is instructed to sit down on his team's side of the net so that his legs are crossed in front of him. From this position a regular game of volleyball is played with the following changes:
- Use a beach ball-type ball or a large Nerf ball.
- Use hands and head only (no feet).
- All serves must be overhand from the center of the group.
- Because of limited mobility, a large number of participants is suggested.
- Mr. Pickle
You may be surprised at the fun you can have with a jar of pickles and a group of kids. Here are just a few suggestions:
Pickle-oids: Make little pickle-men with different kinds of pickles.
Pickle Makeover: One person from each team becomes the model, another the makeup artist. Pickles and pickle relish are the makeup. That's right-they put pickles on their faces!
Pickle: Remember the baseball player caught in a rundown between two bases? Players in this game must run from one base to the other without being tagged. Use a pickle for a baseball.
Pickle Shoot: A shooting gallery. Shoot paper clips from rubber-band guns to knock down pickles.
- Elephant Pantomime
Have a leader pantomime washing an elephant. She does this while Volunteer One is carefully observing and Volunteers Two and Three are out of the room. Only the audience, not the volunteers, knows in advance what the pantomime is about. When the leader is finished, Volunteer One performs the same pantomime from memory for Volunteer Two, even if Volunteer One doesn't yet know what the pantomime is about. Then Volunteer Two performs it for Volunteer Three. Enjoy the laughs; then let the volunteers try to guess what they just acted out. The pantomime may have changed drastically by the time Volunteer Three performs it.
To ensure that the leader performs a good pantomime, suggest that she do the following: Pull the elephant in on a rope. Tie the rope to a stake. Dip a rag in a pail and wash the side of the elephant, jumping high to reach the top. Crawl underneath; wash his belly and legs. Go to the front and wash his trunk, inside and out, and wash the elephant's ears as well. While washing under his tail, hold her nose, and generally try to be as creative as possible.
- Egg Walk
Lay eggs all over the floor. Then blindfold a volunteer who must walk across the room without breaking any eggs. However, before the blindfolded player begins, have helpers silently replace all the eggs with unshelled peanuts. Then watch the fun.
- Submarine Ride
A volunteer lays flat on a table with a person standing at each arm and leg. The legs are the left and right rudders. The arms are Torpedo One and Torpedo Two. A jacket is put over the volunteer's head with one sleeve directly on his or her nose. This is the periscope. The captain (a leader) yells. "Left rudder!" (Person at left leg raises leg.) "Right rudder!" (Raise right leg.) "Torpedo One!" "Torpedo Two!" (Raise arms.) "Up periscope!" (Sleeve is lifted straight up.) "Dive! Dive!" (Leader pours water down sleeve and into the volunteer's face.)
- Scrambled Legs
Divide your campers into teams of six or seven; each group forms a circle, facing out. Then everyone's ankles are tied to their partners' on either side of them. The object of the game is then to shuffle around the room as a ring and collect strips of cloth or other material that were previously hung from the ceiling, walls, etc. Have a different color of strip for each team. The first team to collect all strips of its color and deposit them in a centrally located bucket wins.
- Ping-Pong Flour Blow
Have two teens compete to see who can be the first to blow a Ping-Pong ball out of a round bowl. After the winner is declared, blindfold the same players and let them try again. Have the loser go first. But just before the original winner takes a turn, dump a cup of flour in the bowl.
This game requires four teams of equal size. Each team takes one corner of the room or playing field. The play area can be either square or rectangular. At a signal, each team attempts to move as quickly as possible to the corner diagonal from their corner. The first team to get all its members into its new corner wins that particular round.
Now for the fun. For the first round, announce simple running as the way for teams to travel to their corners. But after that you can use any number of possibilities: rolling somersaults, hopping on one foot, skipping, crab-walking, etc. There will be mass bedlam in the center as all four teams crisscross.
- Chocolate Donut Feed
Tie a donut onto several rubber bands so that the whole thing is about a yard long. Dip it into chocolate and while one kid is lying on her back, have another kid try to feed the donut to her. The donut usually bounces around like it's drunk, getting chocolate all over the person lying down.
- Weight-Guessing Contest
Brag that you have an uncanny ability to guess people's weight within two pounds merely by picking them up. Select three volunteers, two of whom you secretly weighed earlier. Have all the volunteers sit on the floor and tuck their arms under their drawn-up knees. First, pick up the volunteers who are in on the joke (one hand under their knees and one hand on their backs to support them). Guess their weights correctly. When you pick up the third volunteer, have an assistant secretly slip a cream pie on the floor underneath the victim. Then drop him onto the pie.
- Snoot Shoot
The idea of this game is to see how far players can propel a Kix, Cheerio, or other bit of breakfast cereal across the room-using the air from their noses! To play, mark out a line behind which each player must stand. Players must then place the Kix in one nostril of their choice. When you say, "Fire!" they should hold the other nostril shut and exhale through their noses with as much force as possible. Furthest distance wins.
- Mad Mad Mattress
For this game divide your group into several teams. Each team needs a mattress. If the mattresses are small, then give each team two mattresses that are placed side by side; or tailor the events to fit the size of the mattress. The team stands around the outside of the mattress. The leader then gives an instruction, and each team must perform that task on the mattress. The first team to correctly complete the task receives points for that round. Each task must be completed entirely on the mattress. Some sample tasks:
- Build a six (or 10) person pyramid.
- Get 12 people sitting in a circle with their feet together in the middle.
- Get 4 people to stand on their heads in each 4 corners of the mattress.
- Get the whole team on the mattress. (Works well if you have large groups.)
- Get four girls up on four guys' shoulders.
You can make up more tasks of your own. It's a good idea to have a referee at each mattress to determine when the task has been completed successfully.
- Weigh Game
gather as much weight as possible....the most wins. Can have people hold each other on their backs or whatever...only rule is only one person on the scale holding all of the weight. By the way, you will break the scale. If you borrow one, plan on replacing it!
- Group stand up
Back to back - start in pairs, go to 4s....go up to about 20.
- Twin Basketball
5 on 5 basketball (indoors is nice on the knees) but each person is attached to his defender back to back wearing a giant sized t-shirt (or underwear). Play with a playground ball or something lighter than normal. Need more oddities? Play with a not-to-easily-broken water balloon.
- Giant Basketball
2 or 4 giant teams (20 or more). Give each team a bunch of unique color balloons (each team has their own color). They want to blow up their balloons on one side of the court, pass them into play, pass them up the court (you cannot run with them but pass them in the air either to yourself of to others), and make them in the goal. At the same time you want to stop the other 3 teams from making baskets (2 teams go one direction, the other 2 go the other so there's lots of collisions.
From Rob Craig
Grace Chapel (Farmington Hills, MI)
Here is an outreach idea that we have done 5 years now with much success. We call it March Madness because we do it in March, but it can be done at any time. The idea is competition-based ministry.
We devote a whole month to this outreach (every Wednesday night of the month). We divide our group into 4 teams that will compete against each other for the month. Teams earn points for bringing friends (mucho points), wearing a team uniform (camouflage, Hawaiian shirts...), attendance, bringing their Bible, and for winning events (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams are awarded points).
At the end of the month, the team with the most points wins an all expenses paid night out (dinner and an event). We also invite guest speakers to come in every week to deliver the lesson. This year our theme was "My Middle School Years". Also, to spice things up, we hold raffles at the end of the night. We give away, CD's, cameras, GameBoy's, Dicmans, Mp3 players, gift certificates to stores... We also gave away a GameCube on the last night.
We see a lot of new faces because of this event, and we get a good number of them interested in our group and we see them again. My goal wasn't necessarily for everyone to get saved at the event, but to see them start coming to our group and our events. As they become a part of our group, our prayer is that they would invite Jesus to become Lord of their life.
From Steven Jessen
Myrtle Grove EPC (Wilminton, NC)
Praying Parents: Not all parents can come every week to help. But many parents can commit to one or two weeks a semester to come to your meeting "just" to pray. We have several parents meet each week in a separate room to pray for us during our meeting. They pray for the youth, the leaders, the schools, the families, special events, and any other specific needs that I put on their prayer sheet. It is incredible to know your ministry is being directly supported by prayer. "For unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor, labor in vain." Recruit a prayer coordinator to set up the prayer schedule. Also I have recruited some shut-ins to pray for us during our ministry times. In this way little old ladies, who can't be directly involved, can have a tremendous impact on our ministry through their prayers!
From Mike Gorr
Grace Chapel (Farmington Hills, MI)
- Here's a fundraising idea: Do a car wash at Wal-Mart. Often Wal-Mart will match the amount of money you raise (up to $1,000).
- Here's a game idea: A company called RecFX produces a Nerf-like product called Finger Blasters. They are rocket-like slingshots that you shoot with your index finger. A box of them will run you about $80-but well worth it. We turned off the lights and used Finger Blasters to play indoor Capture-The-Flag in our church for 5 _ hours one overnighter! Definitely worth the money. Plus RecFX gives you a list of games to play with them. Contact them at: (800) 486-7671.
- Here's a teaching idea: I've used postmodern teaching DVDs from www.nooma.com. These DVDs are done by Rob Bell from Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI. These DVDs cover issues like sexuality, suffering, and God's Kingdom on earth now. My kids dig them because they're very visual and help us launch us into some great discussion and conversation. Each DVD is about 12 - 15 minutes. For more information, visit this site: http://www.mars-hill.org/
From James Sinsel
Trinity Presbyterian (Florence, SC)
- Fund Raiser: Do a church car wash on Sunday Morning. While the adults are in service, have the kids walk around the parking lot and wash cars. You will need a really long hose or multiple hoses, water, soap, sponges, etc...After the service have a booth at the exits for donations.
- Fund Raiser: During Christmas, ask the managers at Wal-Mart if you can do gift wrapping in front of their store.
- Message Illustrations: One time I put up a tent in the youth room and spoke about cleaning out our tent (dwelling place for God).
Sermon on the mount, I took students outside and walked around the property sharing brief messages from Matthew. I was unable to feed all the students with 5 loaves and 2 fish, so plan to have enough food for students. If more show up than you planned for then let God work it out.
We have also held services outside for a change of pace.
From Marc Santom
Student Ministries Director
Looking for an effective way to plant some gospel seeds in your community? Have a top-notch car wash...and charge absolutely nothing. Refuse to take any donation, no matter how small or large. People will go crazy occasionally get downright mad that you will not accept any donations.
We had one guy throw $10 out of his window and peel out of the lot! But we found it to be an appropriate situation in which to equivocate the gospel. If people's pride won't let them accept a free car wash, how will they ever accept a free "life wash"? As their cars are being washed, we hand them a sheet of paper that tells them the reason why the car wash is free-because it follows the example of Jesus' free offer of eternal life.
In addition, we also have candy for the kids, coffee for the adults and people taking prayer requests. A good number of people were willing to let us pray for them and their needs right there on the spot. It has never failed to produce great kingdom fruit.
Got a cool ministry idea that has worked for you? Spread the wealth of your experience with other EPC youth leaders by getting your idea on this page! Email your idea to Student Ministries: