Christian teens can learn compelling messages through the challenge games they play at youth camp. Rock climbing, rope courses, paintball and zip-lining are exciting, high-energy challenges, but the team-building exercises are often the most life-changing and perception-altering challenges that teens encounter during camp.
Play this game indoors in the dark. Tell three-quarters of the group that they’re smuggling Bibles into a foreign country where Christianity is banned. They have to hide their Bibles in their clothes and transport them to a location marked by a lit flashlight, which you’ve hidden, representing the missionary church. The only catch is there are border guards and police patrolling the area -- roles assumed by the rest of the campers. Tell the “guards” that when they catch a camper, they should question him about the gospel message, asking questions like “What are you carrying?” “What is a Bible?” "Who is this Jesus?" Campers are sent to jail for wrong or inadequate answers or lying. If they explain the message well, then they are released. Once a camper delivers her Bibles to the church, she can return to the starting point to get more Bibles.
Shrinking Life Raft
Tell the group you have good and bad news. The bad news is that they’ve been ship-wrecked in shark-infested waters. The good news is that they have a life raft -- represented by a large blanket. After everyone is standing on the life raft, say, “I forgot one thing. This life raft shrinks.” Have everyone get off the blanket, fold it in half, then instruct everyone to get back on. Continue to fold the blanket in half, and teens will become more creative in getting the entire group to fit. After the game, say, “The church is like a life raft. We want everyone to get on, but sometimes it’s hard work and we have to get creative.”
Blow up 50 balloons. On one half, write phrases that bring a person closer to God. On the other half, write phrases that draw a person away from God. Divide the group into two teams on either side of a line. The game starts when leaders throw good and bad balloons equally on each side of the line. Teens determine if the balloons are good or bad by reading them. They want to keep good balloons on their side and throw bad balloons on the other team’s side. Stop after all balloons have been in play for a few minutes. Groups get one point for good balloons and negative one point for bad balloons. Say, “We only have a limited number of years to live, so we have to throw out the bad stuff in our lives immediately, just like you did with the balloons.”
Back to Back
Tell teens to pair up and sit on the ground back to back with their partner. The goal is for each pair to stand straight up without using their hands. When a pair stands up successfully, add a third person. Keep adding one person every time a group stands up. It can be accomplished with groups as large as 20. Afterward, ask, “How did you communicate with your group?” and “What was harder about having a bigger group?” Use this as an analogy for Christians helping each other get back up after falling into sin, rather than criticizing them or pushing them down.
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Michelle Watson has been an editor and freelance writer since 2010. She has edited hospital magazines around the United States and written on a variety of health-care topics. Watson is also a licensed high school English teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a teaching credential.