Exercise Games

Chair Game

Everyone stands on chairs in a line, with the chairs touching. They then have to get into a certain order such as alphabetical, age, height, or some more interesting ones are hair length or length of shoe laces!!! Good for helping a new group get to know each other. Thanks to Andy H.

The Math(s) Game !

This is a maths game, which you probably won’t be using with every group of students you work with!! Here’s how it works.. On the downloadable PDF, you will find 2 grids full of numbers 1-42 on them. You will use only 1 grid each game – we’ve simply provided 2 grids so you can do the exercise twice and have different grids.

Divide the students up into 2 teams. Choose the top grid and give a grid to each team – or preferably project it up onto the screen. The aim of the exercise is to get a winning team who will get 4 squares (numbers) in a row. To get a square, they have to choose a number off the grid and then make up that number only using all of the numbers 1,2,3 or 4. (It’s like a mathematical ‘Connect 4’ game).

For example: they choose the number ’21’ on the grid. They have to make this number using addition, subtraction, division and multiplication – only using the numbers 1,2,3 and 4. So, the students could make the number 21 by doing this: 4×3 = 12. 12*2 = 24. 24-3 = 21. If they manage to make the number, that square gets filled in. On their next go, they try to make up a number next to 21 on the grid. The other team try to block the opposition making their 4 numbers in a row.

Hope that makes sense!! 🙂

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 Click to download the Maths game..

Tell me what you love about me and Prologue

In this exercise, you use the Adobe PDF provided (or create something similar) and print off a sheet for everyone in a group. Each student has a sheet attached to their back by sellotape. Every other student in the group must write something positive (only) on that sheet, about the person it’s attached to. Afterwards, everyone can take their sheet off their back and look at what others have said about them. Where this works, it’s very interesting and encouraging to students receiving the compliments, and it also helps those writing comments to express themselves emotionally.

WARNING – This will work best in a fairly small group, where students are very comfortable with each other. It helps if everyone gets on. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to monitor what people are writing / get students to hand in the sheet before returning it to them so you can look over them and edit out anything nasty. If you decide to do this, have another game on standby for them to play while someone checks over what has been written.

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 Click to download the ‘Tell me what you love about me’ PDF..

As a prologue to this exercise (if needed), get students to write down the things they think they are good at / their own skills. This may take a bit of encouragement for some. Alternatively, you can use the cards provided and ask students to pick ones that apply to them. When they talk about why they have chosen these particular cards, this will help them to express themselves verbally and emotionally. 

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 Click to download the prologue ‘I Am Good At’ cards..

This is actually a very powerful exercise. Thanks to SL for this amazing idea.

Listening Ear (Pastoral / counselling work)

This is an ‘ice breaking’ idea from RK, which he uses to help encourage students to start to be able to put into words their feelings/thoughts in counselling / pastoral situations. Give each student a set of 5 stones, with one of the following words on: Hope, Courage, Smile, Trust, Peace. You then ask the student(s) to put the stones / words into their own order of importance, from most to least important. Next the student is asked to explain why they chose to put the words first and last. Another question you can ask them is “What word is missing and why?” There are other questions you can explore with this – what does ‘hope’ mean in practice. How can we come to a place where we have more ‘peace’ and so on. Thanks also to RB.

Mirror Game

This was an exercise used by people training us in how young people can sometimes find things hard to achieve that others take for granted. For example those on the autistic spectrum disorder scale may take some things literally that others realise are phrases or ironic comments eg. you may say, ‘you’ve hit the nail on the head there’ (meaning, you’ve got the right answer, well done). Someone with autism may ask you where the nail is and why you hit it.

This exercise has to be done in pairs and you should have enough small-ish mirrors for each pair to have a mirror each. First of all, you as the leader must draw a picture of a pentagon (5 sided object) or hexagon (6 sides) and photocopy enough copies onto paper for each person in the group to have a copy each. First of all, give them each a pen and ask them to trace around the photocopied drawing, ecnouraging them to be as accurate as possible. 

Now, get them into pairs. Give each pair a mirror and another piece of paper. Person A is going to draw around the photocopied sheet with the shape on again. However, this time they have to do so by looking at the sheet in the mirror provided. So, Person B holds the mirror facing the sheet so Person A can look into the mirror and see the sheet and them drawing onto it. Person B additionally holds another piece of paper above the hand of Person A so Person A cannot look down directly onto the photopcied sheet! Then Person A and B swap and Person B attempts the drawing on their original photopcied sheet while Person A holds the mirror and paper.

What everyone will find is that no matter how good they are first time, the second time is much more tricky. Some people will draw highly amusing shapes when using the mirror. It’s all good. The point is about how some people see things and how we need to be very clear in our communication (which hopefully I have been explaining this exercise, LOL!!!) 

Shield of Achievement

In the shield of achievement, a shield is drawn and the young person is asked to give their own motto at the bottom. On the shield, they draw or write all the things they have achieved in their life. This then becomes their coat of arms, and is one way of giving them value that they may not otherwise see.

If you’d like the A4 PDF to accompany this, please click here…

Problem-Solving Observation Exercise 1 

This was developed from an NHS Foundation Trust exercise which my sister brought home from work. It’s a creative thinking exercise that makes you think very carefully and laterally. The answers you think are right, may not be right.. 

We’ve provided a download with 2 pages. Page 1 has the exercise, page 2 has the exercise with answers.

This exercise is appropriate for groups that have the ability to think and concentrate, only. 

 Click here for Observation 1 PDF download..

 Click here for the observation as a powerpoint… (downloadable as a zip file)

Problem-Solving Observation Exercise 2 

Another exercise developed from an NHS Foundation Trust exercise. Again, it’s a creative thinking exercise that makes you cogitate (posh word!) very carefully and laterally. This one has images with words meaning well known sayings.

We’ve provided a download with 2 pages. Page 1 has the exercise, page 2 has the answers.

This exercise is appropriate for groups that have the ability to think and concentrate, only. 

 Click here for Observation 2 PDF download..

Parents – Young People Swap

An idea from Dave A who did this at his church: one Sunday morning, he sent the 11-14s to the main church service, with the youth workers. Into his 11-14 session came the parents of the teenagers who were in the church service. The session wasn’t changed at all from the normal 11-14s. This also led to a good chat with some of the parents about the issues facing their children. It can also lead to an understanding between youth worker and parent about what goes on. You may want to try this with other groups. 

Some drama exercises

a. Chorus / choral speaking. This is to emphasise and work on diction, on working as a group, or a team and on rhythm. The group is split into smaller groups (2-5 people) and they are given different phrases to work on. Decide what they are, such as ‘Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Christian rhymes..’ OK I was jus messing. But that does have a rhythm and a tempo. Get a few phrases or lines from songs. 

Then get people to say the words at the same time, with the same rhythm, while they face each other. Then get them to do this without looking at each other. Then number them (say 1,2 and 3). Number 1 starts saying the phrase. Number 2 says the phrase one word behind Number 1. Number 3 says the phrase 1 word behind Number 2. So Number 3 will finish speaking last. 

b. Thought tracking. Get people into groups of 2 or 4, or get out 2 or 4 volunteers. You assign a task or a situation to the group. The purpose is that one person acts as the ‘thoughts’ of the first person. So for example, if there are 4 people up front or in a group, it would work like this: Person 1 and 2 are the actors. Person 3 and 4 are the ‘thinkers’. Person 1 and 2 are a couple having a domestic row. Person 3 has to reflect what they think are the thoughts of Person 1, Person 4 does the same for Person 2. So after each time that Person 1 and 2 speak a line, Person 3 and 4 then speak the ‘thoughts’..

For example: 

Person 1 – You’re late.
Person 3 – (You’re always late, where have you been, I was getting worried).
Person 2 – Aren’t I ever allowed to be late?
Person 4 – (Stop hassling me already, I’ve just got in).

And so on… This develops communication skills as we’re forced to think about what we say, and how others may interpret what we say. This challenges us to be more clear in what and how we say things.

c. Thought / conscience alley. Apart from one volunteer, the group stands in 2 equal(ish) parrallel lines, facing each other, with a ‘corridor’ in the middle for the volunteer to walk through. As the volunteer walks from one end of the line to the other, the group ask the volunteer different questions which the volunteer can answer or ignore. One option with this is to get the volunteer to take on the character of a Biblical individual, such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Eve etc. This could lead to some fun and interesting questions too! 

Trust Circle

Choose one willing volunteer who isn’t too large, preferably a small male. All the others in the group form a circle as close to each other as possible, facing inwards, with the volunteer in the centre. The rest of the group stretch out their arms towards the centre / the volunteer. He has to fall backwards and forwards against the outsretched arms. The group have to make sure he doesn’t fall as he is pushed gently from one side of the group to another. 

Lie Spreading Exercise 

The group forms a circle and one person is given an inflated balloon. They then pass this on to the person beside them and tell them a lie, for example, the youth leader is an alien. The next person passes on the balloon and the life and so on until it returns back to the starter. The balloon is then popped, and a piece of paper is revealed inside that simply says ‘a lie’. Each group member in turn is asked how many people they told and each person will say ‘only one person’. Then ask the for a show of hands about how many were told that the youth leader is an alien. 

The point is that while each person only told one person, the whole group soon found out. Although people think telling someone a ‘secret’, ‘rumor’, or ‘lie’ is ok, people regularly spread these rumours and lies to one or more personso that many find out. Be careful who you tell what, and make sure your facts are correct!!


This is less of an exercise, and more something that you can use to illustrate a point. Did you know that an orange with its skin on, will float? It does that because of micro-pores of oxygen on its surface (I believe!) The skin acts much like a life preserver. If you remove the skin, the orange will no longer float as the material is denser than the water around it. Get a bowl and an orange and try it for yourself – just don’t waste the orange at the end of it! 

What points can you make for this? “Jesus is our life preserver, without him, we’ll sink..” Yes, it’s cheesy and If I used it, I’d do so deliberately in a cheesy way. But I’m sure you can come up with something more profound!! 

Bring something funny

Everyone has to bring something funny to share with everyone else. This works best in an informal and natural way. Get them to bring baby photos, funny photos of them, their favourite toy when they were younger (that they still have), their first nappy or silly stuff like that. It can break the ice, or can use as a fun discussion starter in a group that is already fairly well bonded. Idea by Dan G.


A classic exercise this one, that revolves around trust within a team. One volunteer stands on the edge of a table. You then assemble a group of 10 volunteers. These volunteers stand by the table, alongside where the volunteer is standing. The volunteers stand facing each other, holding (interlocking) each other’s arms. Then the volunteer falls forward onto / into the arms of the volunteers, whose arms remain interlocked so they can catch the volunteer. 

The purpose is to build trust – a bit like the exercise where someone leans backwards and is caught by a couple of people behind them. 

The Badly Drawn House 

OK, so we used this for a kids talk (not young people). But you may be able to have a bit of fun with this. What is attached is a zipped Shockwave Flash file (you need Flash installed, from www.macromedia.com). The point is that the file contains a drawing of a house, the sun, grass. We built it up saying we had a famous piece of art to show everyone, then it turned out to be a badly drawn house on screen..

All the pieces of the drawing are in the wrong place. The files on the flash presentation can be clicked on and dragged to re-position on screen. The point of the talk is that a life without Jesus is a mess. But Jesus can put us back together again. OK, so it’s a bit cheesy and yet, it may just help or work, or simply be a laugh, or inspire you. Who knows. Or just use it for a kids talk!

Here’s the link to the zipped file – enjoy!

You find the Questions – Video 

This comes out of the experiments and suggestions of a psychiatrist in the 1960s. What you do is watch a video clip of something – make sure it’s something relevant, powerful and has a Biblical dimension. From this, you get the students into groups, get them to watch the video clip. They themselves then have to come up with the questions. They must then ask them and answer the questions from within their groups. 

You find the Questions – Bible Exercise 

You can also do this with a Bible passge. Take some Bible verses (say for example, Acts 14). Then the students either read this, or you take 10 statements from the Bible verses (or significant events, words, happenings). You then present the students with the challenge of ‘what 3 questions would you like to have asked Paul’ about these Bible verses. You can take this on to ask how they would answer their own questions, from their own knowledge of Paul, the Bible, these verses.

Who do you want to be? 

Saw this exercise done on a TV programme about modifying a teenager’s behaviour. We already have a similar exercise available under the excluded section. But here goes..

Buy a whole load of magazines – or get used ones from people in the church for free – in the areas of interest of your group(s). So I would get magazines about TV, celebrities, football, basketball, surfing, skating, music, classical music, charts, rap, bands, music tech mags, gadget mags, cars etc. etc. You will also need a large white sheet (minimum A3) for each student – and stuff like pens, scissors, glue etc. 

Encourage the young people to look through the magazines and cut out images of things they aspire to – people they respect – stuff that they engage with – places they want to go – jobs they see themselves doing etc. This is about aspirations, working towards a dream. 

The question then is how to get from where you are to where you want to be. This is a whole other exercise. If you look on the excluded section, you’ll see there are various PDFs available to download that address this issue – click here

Addition – If you have someone clever at working with Shockwave Flash, you could also invent a game where you have lots of body parts of famous people, then on computer, students can use the mouse to drag these parts around the screen to create the person they’d want to be. Obviously this takes a lot of time – and you need to have and understand Macromedia Flash! There is a template as part of Macromedia Flash that shows you how to do this. 

Dropping the sin in

Get a bucket of water. Every person is given a medium sized stone. The stone represents something – a sin – that you want to get rid of. You can always get more than one stone for different things you want to confess, or get out of your life. Simply walk to the front and drop the stone into the water and really ask, believe, claim using the Bible for God to deliver you from the sin or stronghold, or help you fight it and overcome it in the strength of Jesus.

Use Bible verses – speak Scripture out loud as it has an authority and power. (You don’t have to, no pressure and it’s no ‘magic formula’ but can really help strengthen. After all, it is the Word of God!)

Thanks to the lads at PRBC for this one.. 

God Circles

Give everyone a piece of paper. On the paper get them to draw 2 overlapping circles, one above the other. In the ‘overlapping’ part, get each person to write their name..

In the top circle, get people to write where they are with God. This can be in writing, or as a percentage, so for example, if you’re nowhere with God, the circle stays blank. If you’re feeling 50% committed to God, then half the circle would be coloured in. On the circle beneath, you write / draw where you’d like to be with God (in my case, I put 100%, knowing that I’m far off this right now).

On the back of the piece of paper, encourage people to think about how they are going to make the top circle into the bottom circle (hopefully the bottom circle will be fuller than the top circle, meaning people want to give more of themselves to God!) You may want to give some steps about how to deepen our relationship with God.. being available, obedience, holiness, reading the Bible, prayer times, going to church or cell group, hanging out with Godly people doing stuff for God, serving God, listening to positive or Christian music (whatever your musical bag..), listening to teaching CDs etc.. 

Thanks to Minz for developing this one too.. 


Every person gets a piece of A6 paper (quarter size A4) and a pen. On this, on just one side they have to write a summary of how they became a Christian. On the flip side they have to write a summary of what God has done in their life since they became a Christian.

Often tetsimonies focus on the previous life or can go on. This encourages a balance in testimony giving and in keeping it concise.

What’s God Done

Get volunteers to speak out about what God has been doing in their life over recent weeks. You may need to work with a young person to sort this, maybe doing the above exercise but specifically limited to God’s recent work. Then, in front of the others, get them to read or speak out, or get someone else to do it for them if they prefer it. This is also a good opportunity to train them and give them an opportunity up front. 

Grill A Christian

Get a group of people in the church in a group and get the young people to quiz them with different questions on their faith.

Get A Talk Out Of This Object

Get everyone into groups and give each group and object, a story or a movie clip or something similar. From this they have to go away and make a spiritual point from it – they have to find a Bible verse for the talk and then give the talk in under 2 minutes. If any are good, they can be the base of future talks!! You could even record the talks and put them on a CD or book, give credit to each group and give them out to all the young people!

Get the points out of the Bible verses

If you want some interaction to get young people thinking and feeding back, read out the Bible verse from a session – telling them to listen carefully. Then give out pens and paper and get them to write down their top5 points or so from the passage you’ve read out. Then get people to feed back to the group and include the comments and affirm them where appropriate!

Summarise something

This comes from an idea someone had from The Bible to summarise it in 50 words. What you do is to read out a Bible verse that you’re teaching on and then hand pen pen and paper. The task is to summarise it in no more than 30 words. We’ve done this and had some amazing responses!


Like on Countdown on Channel 4. Get a word, mess up the order of the letters and people have to guess what the real word is. So for example: mbobgin = bombing. Do a load of words like this. Up on projector, on sheets etc. Obviously only suitable for those with good levels of literacy. You can make it simpler or harder if need be..

Gospel Summary

You have to summarise the Gospel message in 12 words, none of the words can begin with the letter ‘S’. This is a great idea I found in a letter from Ian Nicholson of the Matrix Trust in Guildford. In fact you could develop this further to the Bible story, a summary of your character etc. Have 12 words, 4 words, 20 words.. and so on! 

Tallest Free-Standing Structure 

1. In groups with pieces of toilet roll, a roll of tape, paper, lollipop sticks etc. The group have to make the tallest free standing structure that supports an egg 

2. The group has to simply make the tallest free standing structure

3. The group has just newspaper and tape and has to make the tallest free standing structure

4. Combine these ideas and make different kinds of shapes or different challenges.. the strongest bridge, the best Eiffel Tower etc.

An Exercise

Where the young people pair off and start talking. One of them is an evangelist who has to bring the conversation with the other person around to Jesus. Full marks to one of the young people at our church who was the evangelist. The other young person was talking about rock music. So our trainee evangelist replied, ‘there are lots of rocks in Jerusalem..’ The ministry calls!

It’s Theatre Darling

Yep, the old theatrical gray cells starting turning and memories of theatre arts at school came flooding back. Get young people to role play situations. Invent dramas. Get them to make up a comedy, give a theme and guidance or let them improvise. Get them to replay famous incidents or Bible stories. One good fun ice breaker is to get everyone in a straight line standing next to each other, get them to shut their eyes and try to walk forward at the same time. It can be fun!

General Ice Breakers

Ask easy, fun or silly questions. A lot of young people find it hard to talk out loud so just be sensitive to this.. questions – Where is the best place you’ve been? What is your favourite piece of clothing and why? If you were a car, what would you be and why? If you could change your name to a really funky name, what would your name be? If you could have special powers what would they be and why?

Bring An Object

Encourage everyone to bring along something that they like, can identify with, that describes their life, or their hopes for the future. They can then be encouraged to talk about their feelings. Similar methods to these are used in counseling and pastoral sessions

Set your own challenge game

Get the group into teams. The winners of the game are those who achieve the most difficult challenge. The teams have to decide their own challenge and they have to accomplish it fully. They must give a copy of the challenge to you before they set out and provide evidence of achieving it. The winner(s) get(s) a good prize like movie tickets. (Thanks to Chris from ICE for this game)

Helping Out

Young people sitting in the room moaning about things? Time to get them outside to get their hands dirty. You can get some rubber gloves or cheap medical type gloves and get them out and around the church clearing up litter, cleaning graffiti, mending fences etc. Good youth work involves young people understanding that their lives are about giving too!


Get magazines and get young people to cut out images of people they respect, they don’t like, people they aspire to be like, good role models, bad role models etc. Then talk about why they have done this. As ever, you’ll know which young people to ‘sit on’ and ‘encourage’ in this kind of exercise!


Get a lot of scenarios around a point you are looking at, for example if you were looking at honouring your parents (Exdous 20), then have questions around the parent/guardian-young person relationship. For example, ‘you’ve been told you must be in by 11pm but you arrive home at 12.30am’ and discuss aspects of this statement. What would the young person do if they were the parent? What could they have done?

Guess who

Everyone writes down an amazing or interesting fact about themselves secretly on a bit of paper. These get handed in and people have to guess who did what. Good for getting to know each other

Make yourself into

Divide the group into teams. Then give each team instructions to become an object. Examples are a cuckoo clock, a fishing boat, a crab etc. The group have to make that object using themselves – everyone must take part as far as possible


Yep, create some beats with your voices and get people to copy. Then expand the beats to make it more complicated. Yeh I guess you have to be musical to do this but try it. I use this a lot with lads in school and they think it’s pretty cool. I get them to copy me so they can sound cool too and make up their own beats. 

To beat-box simply, think of a simple hip-hop beat. These can be as easy as a bass drum followed by a snare. Now put the 2 sounds together in time one after the other. Try adding a hi-hat/cymbal effect. Change where you put the beats. Try using different sounds like ‘scratching’ or adding ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ etc. It’s kinda hard to explain. Put simply, try and copy the beat of a song you know well. Build up – get people doing different parts or ‘instruments’. Wicked bro..

Quick Draw

Bit of fun (but watch out for dodgy young people!) Just like the quiz game. Get a whiteboard and have 2 or more teams. On pieces of card have loads of things people can draw – like different kinds of animals, household objects, cars, cartoon characters, whatever. 

For each word, a new member of the team (or one person who the team elect) does the drawings and the team have to guess what is being drawn. The drawer is not allowed to communicate in any other way other than the drawing. There is a time limit to see how many each team can get within the specified time. The winner is the team with the most words guessed correctly (without help!)

Make the words

Yep it’s an old classic I know. Get a long word like ‘ACKNOWLEDGE’ or a Bible name like ‘GIBEONITE’ and get people in groups to make as many words from the main word as possible. Make up your own rules about how small the words can be etc.