How to Lead Team Building Activities for Youth Groups

How to Lead Team Building Activities for Youth GroupsEvery adventure begins with a single step—but the most memorable ones are those taken together. Team-building activities for youth groups are all about turning those steps into leaps. In turn, transforming that group into a united team. So while any event can bring people together and raise morale, team building is about more than that.

Team building games are most commonly associated with businesses and corporations. However, we’ve found that they’re just as effective with groups of nearly all ages. For those in youth groups, team building activities can certainly help their development. It’s about games and activities that allow your group to practice their communication skills, leadership skills, and critical thinking. Most of all, it helps them foster a sense of community among each other.

And how do we know team building can be so effective? We’ve actually put on team building events for school children and teenagers before—and they were a raving success. Here’s a picture from a Build-A-Bike® team building game we did for a group of nearly 60 students at the Summit Country Day School, a Catholic private school.

The Summit Country Day School Build-A-Bike® Event in Cincinnati, OH

So, take it from us when we say that you can conduct a team building event that resonates with your youth group. Here are 5 ways you can do it:

1. Switch Up Classic Kids Games By Introducing a Team Building Twist

There’s something timeless about the games we played as children—tag in the backyard, hide and seek in the park, or those impromptu soccer matches that needed no real field to bring us endless joy.

But when these classic activities are reimagined with a team building twist, they become powerful tools for teaching far more than just the game itself. They become lessons in strategy, communication, and unity, dressed up in the familiar trappings of play.

To give you some inspiration, here are three classic games with a team building twist. Note how these twists are designed to challenge, engage, and bond participants in ways that are as meaningful as they are fun:

Scavenger Hunts as Opportunities for Teamwork and Leadership

Take a classic scavenger hunt and turn it into a chance for problem-solving and creative thinking. Rather than only providing riddles and clues, try incorporating puzzles or fun challenges. Simply adjust the level of difficulty depending on how much you want your group to think outside the box.

If you’re looking to ramp up the competition, a scavenger hunt can easily be made into a team game. You can also use this opportunity to assign team leaders, giving some participants the chance to flex their leadership skills.

Human Knot and Hula Hoop Challenge as Ice Breakers

Human knot can be a great game to focus on communication and teamwork to untangle the group. Likewise, passing a hula hoop in a large circle without breaking hands achieves a similar effect. When first starting a round of team building, it’s always good to use an activity like one of these to get everyone loosened up.

It doesn’t take much. The game should be simple to explain but difficult to actually do. As participants get used to the game’s rules, they’ll inevitably laugh at their own mistakes, become more talkative, and start thinking toward accomplishing the same objective.

Get Physical With Obstacle Courses and Relay Races

Designing an obstacle course or relay race can work with both small and large groups. These activities only have to be as physically-demanding as you want them to be, so keep that in mind. After all, you don’t want to alienate anyone for making a game that’s too challenging. That being said, using soccer balls and tennis balls to create physical, skill-based challenges can be a lot of fun.

One idea of an obstacle course is our Amazing Builders team building game. Rather than having people literally jump through hoops, it asks them to use team work and communication to guide teammates through a “landmine” of obstacles.

2. Test Their Problem-Solving Skills with Innovative Challenges

In a world where challenges are around every corner, the ability to think critically and solve problems is invaluable.

For youth groups, engaging in innovative problem-solving activities can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth, collaboration, and leadership. Activities that push the boundaries of traditional problem-solving exercises can help put intelligence, creativity, cooperation, and communication to the test. Activities like these provide a safe yet stimulating environment for youths to experiment with different strategies and solutions:

Escape Rooms (Virtual or Physical)

It takes a bit of prep work, but an escape room is an exhilarating way to test critical thinking, effective communication, and teamwork. Puzzles should require participants to think outside the box and encourage discussion among themselves. Depending on your group size, you can set it up so that multiple teams can play, working together in a race against each other. All in all, you’ll find this is a great opportunity for leadership skills and creative thinking to emerge.

Build the Tallest Tower

Using materials like rubber bands, spaghetti, or marshmallows, challenge teams to build the tallest structure. This will require creative thinking and team work to decide on how the tower should be built. This simple game fosters engineering and problem-solving skills alongside teamwork.

Code Breakers

This popular game invites teams to crack a series of codes and ciphers within a time limit. Each puzzle solved leads to the next. Hints should only be made available when the team demonstrates exceptional teamwork or creative solutions to previous challenges. Code Breakers is designed to be adaptable for any group size. It’s great for encouraging diverse thinking, effective communication, and strategic planning.

3. Enhance Team Spirit Through Sports and Physical Challenges

The spirit of a team is not just found in the moments of victory. It’s also forged in the sweat of practice, the rhythm of collaboration, and the challenges overcome together.

While we can’t recommend this for our usual groups of corporate office workers, working with kids and youth groups provides this unique opportunity that you’ll definitely want to consider. Of course, you’ll still want to ensure that everyone in the group can participate, so plan accordingly.

Sports and physical challenges present a unique arena for youth groups to experience these moments firsthand, blending the thrill of competition with the deep satisfaction of teamwork. With the right game, every pass, jump, and sprint is an opportunity to learn about trust, leadership, and the value of a shared goal.

Team Sports (Soccer, Basketball)

These classic sports highlight the importance of working towards a common goal. They foster friendly competition and physical activity. You can also include team building elements by driving home how sports can teach youth about strategic planning, dedication, and the importance of every member of the team.

Ropes Course/Team Obstacle Challenges

Ideal for larger groups, these physical activities can push groups to work together, overcoming fears and building trust, with a focus on achieving a shared experience.

Capture the Flag

Reinvented for modern play, this classic outdoor game splits the group into two teams, each tasked with defending their own flag while attempting to capture their opponents’. The game is a dynamic blend of strategy, speed, and teamwork, requiring participants to communicate effectively, devise plans, and adapt to changing situations on the fly.

4. Incorporate Opportunities for Creativity in Your Team Building Games

If physical activities and skill-based games aren’t what you’re looking for, then you would do well with creativity.

Creative team building games help light up the spark of imagination within each participant. These activities are designed not only to entertain but to open up new avenues for communication, empathy, and understanding among team members.

There are a ton of ways you can implement creativity. Some ways include arts and crafts, comedy and improv—anything that doesn’t have a single “right” answer or outcome will suffice. Here are just a few ideas:

Crafts Corner Challenge

Set up a crafts corner with a variety of materials such as paper, markers, glue, scissors, and recycled items. Each team gets a theme and a limited amount of time to create a piece of art or a functional object that represents that theme. This challenge encourages not just creativity but also innovation and resourcefulness, as teams must work with what they have to bring their vision to life.

Role-Playing and Improvisation Games

These are great ways to encourage creative thinking and quick problem-solving. These fun activities allow groups to react to unexpected scenarios, where there’s no such thing as a “mistake” or “wrong answer.” It’s great for helping people come out of their shells—you’d be surprised at how often the quietest person in the group becomes funny and outspoken when given the chance to shine.

The Silent Line-Up

Challenge the group to arrange themselves in order without speaking, based on criteria like height, birthday, or shoe size. This game requires participants to think creatively and work together non-verbally, enhancing their ability to communicate through gestures and understanding subtle cues.

5. Reflect and Build on the Experience

The journey of team building doesn’t end when the activities conclude, though. The ending is perhaps the most important part of the team building experience.

While any game can technically bring a team together, the important part is instilling the team building lessons throughout. The ending is where you can give everyone the proper takeaway before they go back to their normal, routine life.

Additionally, reflection sessions provide a valuable space for everyone to voice their thoughts, feelings, and learnings from the experiences they’ve shared. It’s an opportunity for each person to recognize their growth, appreciate the diversity of their team, and understand the dynamics of effective collaboration.

Feedback and Reflection Session

After participating in team-building activities, have a debrief session where youth can discuss what they learned about leadership, teamwork, and themselves. This can be a great way for youth leaders and pastors to encourage group members to articulate their experiences and insights.

Planning for the Future

Engage the entire group in planning future activities, giving them a sense of ownership and a chance to apply their leadership and teamwork skills in a real-world context. This not only reinforces the team spirit but also solidifies the bonds formed during the activities.

Celebration of Achievements

Create a ceremony or informal gathering to celebrate the successes and milestones achieved during the team-building activities. This can include awarding certificates for leadership, teamwork, creativity, and other contributions. Celebrating these achievements helps acknowledge individual and group efforts, boosting morale and reinforcing the value of everyone’s participation.

Skill-Building Workshop

Organize workshops focused on specific skills that were identified as areas for improvement during the team-building activities. These could cover topics such as effective communication, leadership development, conflict resolution, and creative problem-solving. Offering targeted skill-building sessions ensures that the learning continues beyond the initial activities, helping participants refine their abilities and apply them in future team settings.

Next Time, Give Team Building Activities for Youth Groups a Try!

The journey through team-building activities is much more than a series of games and challenges. It’s a foundational experience that equips youth with the essential skills needed to navigate the complexities of life.

As far as the benefits of team building activities for youth groups goes, leadership, problem-solving, and effective communication are just the tip of the iceberg. Participating in these activities can help young individuals learn to trust, collaborate, and innovate together. This sets the stage for a future where they can confidently face obstacles with a team-oriented mindset.

Just remember, youth group leaders, coaches, and educators play a pivotal role in this developmental journey. By integrating team-building activities into your regular programs, you can contribute to their emotional and social well-being. Overall, you’ll find that a good set of team building games can help give youths a safe environment to practice empathy, respect, and understanding. And that’s exactly what you need to encourage them to bring their best selves forward.