How to Be Cheap: Group Activities

In high school ministry we schedule at least one activity a week, but it’s hard to keep it up when most people are broke. So I came up with a list of inexpensive ministry activities (some of which could also serve as family, friend, or date activities). Some are free; others are cheap when everyone participates. These are not all my ideas, but ideas collected from people over the years. Have fun!

Lu’au: Make a playlist by borrowing Hawaii/tropical CDs from the library and/or downloading music. Ask people to dress in tropical/summer clothing. Have a hula hoop contest, a limbo contest, and search the Internet for other Hawaiian-themed games. Make desserts using pineapple and coconut. Ask people to pitch in for pineapple pizza ($5 for Pizza Hut’s Pizza Mia, plus 10% for your first on-line order).

Burning tongues party: Party like it’s Pentecost at this spicy-food themed party (invented by the Michalek home church). Ask everyone to bring a spicy dish, and have a few people bring something bland to cleanse the palate. It might be a good idea to have some Tums on hand as well. Make a playlist of songs that use the word “hot” (there’s more than enough of those).

Culinary contest: Ask everyone to bring their best gourmet creation. Provide plates, forks, and napkins and number the dishes. Have everyone sample the food and then vote on 1-3 favorites, then announce the winners. This activity allows for good conversation while people eat. It might be helpful to break dishes into categories like appetizers, entrees, and desserts. And you might judge on multiple aspects such as taste, presentation, originality, etc. if you want to get more involved.

Film festival: Ask individuals and/or cell groups to create a movie. Let people know far in advance, at least a month or two, so they can write, film, and edit their movie. People could dress up red carpet style. Serve popcorn and show each of the films. Allow the creators to introduce their movies. This could also be a contest if people voted on their favorite film. Or there could be an award given to each movie for a distinctive feature.

Dollar movie theater: Movies 10 in North Canton shows ten second-run films everyday for $1-2 dollars. These movies are shown right after they leave the main movie theaters so they’re not too out-dated. Also, the Linda Theater in Akron shows one second-run movie a week for $3. It’s neat because it’s at an old theater, but it isn’t in a great area. Both theaters have their showings listed on

Bonfire: Bring some marshmallows and a camp chair and settle in for a good conversation around the fire. Initiate a discussion topic, such as one related to the CT or home church teaching.

Take a walk: This activity is better for smaller groups, families, or couples. When it’s nice out explore the neighborhood. It’s good exercise and a great chance to talk and enjoy nature.

Themed dance party: Choose a decade (70s, 80s) or a style (swing, salsa) and dress appropriately. Make a playlist and dance the night away!

Rock Star, Karaoke, or DDR: This of course is only cheap if someone already owns the games and system. Take turns watching and playing these interactive games.

Go to the park: Another small-group activity. Check out Google maps and find a park you’ve never been to, or visit an old favorite. If it’s not too far, take a walk to get there. Don’t forget a water bottle.

Make sundaes: Ask everyone to bring a different flavor of ice cream or type of topping, and have a couple people bring bowls and spoons. Assign a few people to serve the ice cream (and the toppings if there are kids). Then strike up a good convo while you eat.

Amazing Race: Create clues that will take different teams around town in search of their next clue. First to reach the final destination wins. Ask Ted Howell about the details because he knows how it’s done.

Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of odd objects to collect or pictures to take. Assign different point values based on difficulty. Break into teams and see who can gain the most points in a set period of time. Spending money (and stealing) are off-limits. Teams who arrive late either lose points or get disqualified. Joe Allie is the master of creating scavenger hunts.

Charades: You know how to play. But it’s extra fun when you play at a fast food restaurant.

Pictionary tournament: Get two whiteboards or chalkboards and break into two teams. If people are too loud, have the teams go one at a time and see if they can beat the timer, not the other player, for their point.

Board game night: Ask everyone to bring a board game and set up some card tables.

Cards: I don’t know how to play anything but War, Go Fish, and Speed, but other people do so get some Poker or Euchre or Blackjack going and have fun! With Chill we used to set up tables and do a casino night for the infamously unspendable “Chill Bucks.”

Road trip: Announce a road trip and travel to anywhere—it’s about the journey, not the destination. Head to a far-away restaurant or check out a meeting in Xenos Columbus.

Field Day Day: Remember field day at school? Plan various events like 50-yard dash, 100-yard dash, three-legged race, dizzy lizzy, tug-of-war, relays, etc.

Sports: Soccer, softball, volleyball, kickball, Frisbee soccer, or any other team torture (I mean sport) you can think up. But I think basketball and football are too rough for co-ed games.

Crafts: This is a girls’ small group or family activity. Make ornaments, gifts, jewelry, or a host of other items. Check the Internet for corny craft ideas.

White Elephant gift exchange: As Christmas approaches host a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings an object they already own but are willing to give away. Wrap the item up—the fancier, the better. Then have someone choose an item. The next person can choose the same item or a different one, and on until the last person has chosen their item. Then everyone opens them and laughs at the weird stuff people wrapped up. Play Christmas music and wear your Christmas sweater (see below).

Ugly Sweater Christmas party: (credit to Kay Homer) Everyone goes to the thrift store and buys a corny Christmas sweater and/or other Christmas apparel (earrings, turtlenecks, vests, etc.) and wears it to the party. Make a runway and have everyone model their sweater for a panel of judges. Award the winners with cheap candy canes.

Rockin’ on the River: Cover or tribute bands play downtown Cuyahoga Falls most Friday nights in the summer. Check the city calendar for these free concerts. Just beware of the concessions—that’s where they get you.

Local festivals: Look on-line for the dates of local festivals and go together as a group.

Talent Show: this is best for junior high group or younger. Hold a talent show where students can showcase their skills. Invite judges from other ministries and have them act like the American Idol judges, commenting on each act. Award everyone a prize.

$5 fashion show: Go to the thrift store or Gabriel Brother’s. Assign teams of five. Each person pitches in up to $5 to create a fashion-forward outfit. At a home where a “runway” has been prepared, each team chooses a model, dresses them, and does their hair and make-up. Put on some techno music and have the models walk for a panel of judges and audience. Give awards for the best outfit and best walk. Allow designers to explain their outfit before it goes on the runway.

Home coffee bar: For groups where hy[eractivity isn’t a problem, make some strong coffee, steam some milk, and use syrups and whipped cream to create your own mochas and lattes. Or get a blender and make frappaccinos in the summer. Check the Internet for recipes. Another great activity for good conversation.

Hiking: Check out the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and go on a group hike. Consider packing a picnic.

Swimming: Find a friend with a pool or a local lake (Munroe Falls is $4) and have fun in the sun.

Spa night/makeovers: With a girls small group, paint each others’ nails, give massages, do makeovers, and find recipes for face masks or foot baths.

Weight lifting: With a guys’ small group, get some barbells and find some space to lift and do push-ups, sit-ups, and whatever guys do to try to get buff.

Go to Walmart
: and be goofy (but not obnoxious). Challenge people to find the cheapest item. Try on a ridiculous outfit. Buy a Slurpie. Look at the fish. Play with the toys. Do a cartwheel. Marvel at the diversity created by American capitalist consumerism.

Bollywood night: With a girls’ small group, rent some Bollywood videos, buy some chutney (or popcorn), and enjoy the corniness and colors of India drama, song, and dance.

The Scariest Prayer

Have you ever prayed a scary prayer before? These are prayers that God could only answer by allowing you to suffer. Prayers like:

“God, please break me of my flesh.”

“God, don’t let me be a comfortable Christian.”

“God, please teach me how to handle failure.”

I’ve prayed these before, and they’re scary, and God has answered (or at least started to). Last Memorial I prayed not to be comfortable. Two months later I found myself at Cedar Point with the high school ministry. I hate roller coasters, overpriced junk food, and broiling my Irish skin in the sun for fourteen hours, and I developed a massive headache from the sun as well. So it’s fair to say Cedar Point was part of the answer to that prayer. I had fun, but uncomfortable fun. I could say the same about playing sports and going to the high school football games. Not exactly my bag of chips, but it’s exactly what I prayed for.

I’ve prayed to be broken of my pride (very scary—pray with caution!), and God granted me a string of failed friendships and discipleships. He also graciously gave me loyal friends to bring me through. I got what I asked for, but I have a feeling He’s not done answering that one yet.

But just recently I’ve started praying the scariest prayer, one I think every Christian should pray.

“God, please show me if you want me to be a missionary.”

That’s missionary as in cross-cultural, overseas, long-term worker in the global harvest. I’ve prayed this prayer at various times since the age of twelve, but never with such earnestness and immediacy as now. At twenty-three, I’m old enough (though not experienced enough) to actually go, and my husband is also praying the scariest prayer with new interest and even urgency.

“God, please show me where You want me to serve, whether here, extra-locally, in Taiwan, Thailand, India, or even Iran…if that’s even possible.”

What’s so scary about this prayer?

Frankly, that bit about Iran (or any closed Muslim country) is terrifying. I can’t even watch the “torture” scene in The Princess Bride! How the heck could I handle it if I actually got tortured? I’d probably cave in a second, which is also scary because I could seriously damage the Christian faith and the whole region’s ministry. But then the child-like faith part of my brain (a very small part, unfortunately), says, “God would get you through it.” I have a hard time believing it, but there are plenty of testimonies of persecuted, beaten, tortured believers who somehow manage to “rejoice in suffering” just like the Bible says. So it must be possible.

Perhaps scarier than getting tortured is seeing my kids (the ones I don’t have yet) or husband get tortured or killed. I would be devastated if Neil died. But he could die anywhere, anytime. So I guess it just boils down to trusting God again. And Elizabeth Elliot is a real testament to how God provides even in that type of sorrow. (See the movie End of the Spear with a box of tissues nearby).

Even if God led us to a field where torture/execution wasn’t an issue, it would still be incredibly difficult to leave this amazing, one-of-a-kind fellowship, my family, the comforts of home, the English language, and everything we’re used to.

And then to go learn a new language, go through training, and start working with a team of strangers (if we’re lucky enough to join a team), and try to reach people and grow churches and raise leaders in a foreign place? And have a family there, too? Crazy talk.

But we’re talking it, more than ever before. We’re talking to Seann and Amy Gibson in Taiwan, who say that learning how to fail is crucial to being a missionary because pioneer missions work includes a lot of failure. We’re talking to Ellen Livingood, a missionary Neil met in Perspectives, about the process of getting onto the field. We’re going to talk with Martha McCallum who grew up in Kenya, who says that character is the critical element to becoming a missionary. We want to pick her brain on what that means and looks like to develop. We’ve been talking to fellow Perspectives students who are at varying points in the process of praying and getting answers to the scariest prayer.

And there’s the issue of replacing ourselves here, too. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, both here and there. But one third of the world’s population couldn’t hear the gospel in their language if they wanted to—there are simply no believers among them. Neil said, “becoming a missionary is the most logical thing a Christian could do. It just makes so much sense.” I have to agree with the engineer. It seems uncanny that Neil and I are both interested in missions, willing to go, old enough to do it, young enough to be trained, and have such a great foundation in the Word and doing relational ministry. Plus Neil’s gift for evangelism and my English-teaching skills would certainly come in handy.

But I’m not trying to convince anyone, least of all God. I just want to hear the answer to the scariest prayer I’ve ever prayed. If the answer is to go, I’m sure there’ll be much scariest prayers to come. I think every Christian should ask God what role He has for them in His global plan. Perhaps right now He wants You to pray we figure out God’s will for us.