Make your youth night go with a bang. All you need are LOTS of balloons. A few years ago I was leading a weekly church youth night for a lively bunch of 11-14's. We played some games together before a time of teaching, or as the kids called it 'The God Slot'.
I wanted a more unified and purposeful 'feel' to the whole evening, so I decided to try and theme some icebreakers and games together with a clearer link to the teaching. The result was several themed evenings including Balloon Bonanza.
This is a great evening for lively groups and can be played in a large room or outside on a calm day. It can be used as a youth club night, holiday club session, camp night or bring-a-friend night. Although some of the games feature friendly competition, please don't emphasise 'winners' or 'losers', emphasis the fun! What follows is not an exhaustive list of balloon related games, just ones which have worked for me. Please add your own games to my selection.
Everyone blows up a balloon, knots it and ties it to their ankle with a 60 cm long piece of string. The aim of the game is to try and step on everyone else's balloon and pop it. Of course, the rest of the group will be trying to do the same to you! Stand back and watch the mayhem. Last balloon standing wins.
Everyone is given a balloon, which they blow up and knot. Identify each player by writing their initials on the balloon with a felt tip pen. When the game begins all the balloons are thrown into the air. The aim is to keep your own balloon in the air by batting or hitting it with your hand, while at the same time attempting to knock other player's balloons to the ground. When a player's balloon touches the floor they are out. Last balloon floating wins! A variation on this is to divide into pairs with one balloon for each pair to defend.
Divide your group into equal teams. Each team appoints a goalkeeper who stands on a chair stationed at opposite ends of the room. The goalkeeper is then armed with a pin. The object of the game is to push and knock the balloon towards your goalkeeper. A goal is scored each time your goalkeeper bursts a balloon with his pin. Make sure the goalkeeper is high up to avoid pins striking any of the players.
Ask for three couples to help you with this game. Give each pair three balloons. The game begins with the couple blowing up their balloons and knotting the ends. They then place two under the girl's armpits and one between the pair as they face each other. The couple then have to burst the three balloons simultaneously by hugging each other. The winning couple is the pair who burst all their balloons in the quickest time. You need to see this to believe it!
Every person is given a balloon which they need to juggle and keep in the air. After a minute make the juggling harder by adding restrictions to the play e.g. only use your left hand, only use your right foot, no hands! If their balloon touches the floor they are out. Last player still juggling wins.
BALLOON TUNNEL BALL
This is exactly the same as the usual tunnel ball game except you use a balloon instead of a ball. Everyone is divided into teams of 6-8 and must pass the balloon between their legs as they stand/bend in a straight line. The person at the back of the line receives the balloon and runs to the front to start the process over again. The first team to go through all its members without bursting the balloon is the winner.
BALLOONS TO BUCKETS
Divide the group into two teams. Place a large bucket at the far end of the room. Give the first person in each team a balloon and a paper tube made from rolled up newspapers. The first person in each team begins hitting the balloon with the paper towards the bucket at the other end of the room. On reaching the bucket, he must get the tap the balloon into the bucket with the paper tube. When he succeeds he runs back to his team and gives the balloon and paper tube to the next person who in turn does the same and so on until the team has completed the task. HOWEVER, players ARE allowed to interfere with other teams balloons, which adds to the difficulty.
Select three couples. Have the male member of each couple sit down on a chair with the neck of an inflated and knotted balloon between his teeth. A towel draped over his front is also a good idea! The balloon is then covered with shaving cream and his female partner then attempts to shave it off with a razor blade. This is a game of suspense and tension - and that's just the audience! The game can end without a balloon burst and you can give the girls the option to burst the shaved balloon with a pin. They always think the explosion will mess up the guy, but... play the game to see what happens.
AND A POSSIBLE TALK
Here is a short illustration and talk based on the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8: 4-15). Expand with your own thoughts and anecdotes. You will need several round balloons, so ask six young people to each blow up a balloon, but not to tie a knot in it. You will also need one deflated balloon.
THE PARABLE OF THE BLOWER
Hold up the deflated balloon and suggest that some people are just like this balloon. Nothing they hear ever seems to change them. Then take one of the inflated balloons and go on to say that other people are just like this balloon. Whatever they hear is quickly forgotten. Let go of the balloon so that it flies off around the room. Holding a third balloon explain that people can also be just like this balloon. Release the air gradually - what they hear goes in, but little by little, they forget what they have heard and just end up like the first balloon. Some people however, are just like this fourth balloon. Take an inflated balloon and tie a knot in it so that none of the air escapes. Explain that what they hear goes in, stays in, changes them, and everyone can see the difference it makes.
The Parable of the Blower helps us to understand how people respond to what they hear about God. Use four more balloons to illustrate the talk in the same way as before. Some people, no matter what they hear about God, reject it instantly. 'It can't be true, God doesn't exist', and they refuse to change. Other people hear about God and think to themselves, 'Well that's OK for religious people, but it's got nothing to do with me', and they quickly forget what they heard. Others are really interested in what they hear about God. They want to find out more about the Christian life, but then lots of other things crowd in: the football match... friends to visit... homework to do...music to listen to... and responding to God gets pushed out so that soon they are just the same as the others. But some people hear about God and realise that he can really make a difference to their lives, and it's a difference that everybody can see.
Finish with a challenge to your group. How do you respond to what you hear about God and the difference he can make in your life? If appropriate, allow a time for comment, feedback or discussion.
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