I wonder how many hundreds of hours I’ve spent either as a youth or as an adult in presidency meetings trying to think up ideas for weeknight activities with the deacons quorum, or helping my wife think of ideas for young women’s.
I decided today to make the ultimate list of ideas for youth group activities. I’ve divided the list into ideas for intellectual, social, spiritual, physical, combined, or “other” activities so you can make sure each activity has an actual purpose.
If I may make two suggestions before the list, it would be this: Seeing the calamities of the last days, our Heavenly Father did not place our young men and women together in quorums and classes in order to form complete basketball teams, or just to play human foosball each Tuesday night. That wasn’t the help he intended. Each activity–even the fun ones–should have a component which will give them a spiritual “breath of fresh air” before they dive back into daily life. They need it.
The second suggestion would be to look for opportunities to serve more than one purpose in a single activity. Could you have general conference trivia and then learn to make tacos? Could you do a service project in the park and then play frisbee golf? That’s often a way to make the youth excited about doing the activities that are “good for them.” A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, as they say.
- Portraits and Perfection – Ask someone in the ward to teach photography to the youth. Help them to learn to take a professional-looking portrait with their phones. Then, have a quorum or class member give a devotional related to the activity. For example, it could be about light and darkness, or how God looketh not on the outward appearance, but on the heart.
- Stocks and Self-Reliance – We did this as a two-part activity. The first activity, we had someone in the ward come and teach about how stocks work, and then we gave the youth computers so they could make a “virtual” stock portfolio. They each place fake money into their stocks and then you have a follow-up activity a month or two later and see whose stocks went up, and who went down. A D.I. trophy can make it fun. Take the opportunity to learn about self-reliance, saving, and budgeting as well.
- Career Month – The church handbook lists one of the purposes of activities in the church is to “foster personal growth.” Many youth today have a lackadaisical view of career and goals. Select 4 people in the ward who can spend a night showing the youth their career to inspire them. Think of small business owners, social media influencers, medical or legal professionals, or any other career that may be of interest to them. Ask the person to share a time in their career that was difficult or stressful, and how their faith helped to strengthen them. We did this as 4 activities in a row during one month.
- College Tour – Invite a university professor, or a college student to take the quorum or class on a tour of the local college. Walk around the campus and show off the cool resources like the gym, science labs, dorms, etc. Then hit the best ice cream shop where the college students hang out.
- CPR & First Aid Night – CPR is a critical skill for every person. Twice in my life I’ve been placed in situations where I suddenly needed to use CPR to save someone. Have a local doctor or nurse teach CPR and first aid.
- 3D Printing – Find someone who can teach the youth how to 3d print, find their own models to download online, and print them right there! In most wards, there will be several people with printers. You might even make a batch of little toys that you could give to the primary chorister as prizes for the kids when they are reverent.
- Iron Chef – Youth sometimes struggle to always be uplifting in the way the deal with each other. They can be a bit harsh sometimes. Give a devotional message at the start about ONLY being uplifting to each other for the entire activity–even if someone has an idea you disagree with. Then, unveil a basket of random ingredients and split them into teams to cook something with it. They’ll all have different ideas, so it’ll be a perfect opportunity to learn to show respect for each other’s thoughts.
- Bring a Friend Day – Talk to the youth on Sunday about befriending others. Invite them each to bring one friend with them to the activity that week. Have each person introduce their friend and have one of the youth give a simple devotional at the start. The activity itself could be really simple–dodgeball at the church, board games, etc.
- Parent Date – For the young women, invite their dads. For the young men, invite their moms. Go on a group date to play volleyball in a park, and then cook hot dogs. Have a discussion about what each family’s rules are for dating, and invite the parents to share their experiences in dating when they were teenagers.
- Never Have I Ever – Have a devotional about goal-making. This could be a great way to kick off the youth goals program. Have them work on a bucket list for a little while to get to thinking of the cool things they want to accomplish in life. Then, play “never have I ever.” The game has seats in a circle. One person stands in the middle and says, “never have I ever.. and then something that person hasn’t ever done. For example, gone waterskiing.” Everyone who has not been waterskiing has to jump up and find a new seat in the circle. The person without a seat is now in the middle.
- Memorize The Living Christ – It’d be pretty difficult to memorize the entire Living Christ document in one night, so split it up into sections so each of the youth and leaders has one section they are in charge of memorizing. Then, work together to recite the entire thing by saying your parts. Make it enjoyable by having ice cream and a bunch of toppings. As soon as someone finishes their part, they get to choose one of the toppings to add to the giant ice cream bowl in the middle of the table.
- Live Like a Missionary Day – Invite the full-time missionaries, or a recently-returned missionary from the ward to come speak to the youth. It could be a part of the youth lesson on Sunday. Then have the youth spend one day as a missionary–perhaps on a Saturday. Wake up on time, have a companion scripture study together, exercise, etc.
- Temple Baptisms – This would be a great two-part activity. On the week before going to do temple baptisms, you could have each of the youth download the Family Search app and learn how to use “Temple Ready” to find a name to take to the temple.
- Indexing Shots – Okay, this is one of those ideas that will probably get me “politely released from my calling,” but I think it’s fun and beneficial. Get all the youth on computers and spend 5 minutes teaching them to do indexing. Get a TINY cup (you could get a tablespoon from the dollar store) for each person. Every time someone indexes 25 names, everyone else has to take a drink of rootbeer. I repeat, this is a terrible idea. Completely not okay. Also, really fun.
- Swing Dance Lesson – Find someone in the ward who can teach the to swing dance. It’ll liven up the next stake dance and help them to get to know each other.
- Handyman on Demand – Ask an older member of your ward, or a single sister, to take a few days and write down a wish list of several projects they’d love to have a handyman fix if they could (door that sticks, toilet that runs, a hole in drywall, etc). If you have a big group, split them in smaller groups and pair them with an adult to teach each fix. Plan for it to take two activities in a row so you can knock out several projects and really make a difference. Bring brownies at the start of the meeting and ask the member you’re serving to give a 5-minute devotional message where they share a life lesson.
- Quorum/Class 5k Challenge – One of my top concerns for youth today is that life has become too comfortable, and makes their anxiety spike when they inevitably face trials later on. A really meaningful activity may be to spend a few activities learning to run and then sign up for a 5k to do together as a quorum. Bring in an adult in the ward who is knowledgeable to teach them how to run effectively (surprisingly, there’s a lot to learn). A fun idea for the training day is to bring a treat and they can have as many calories as they burn in the training.
- Attend a Sports Game of a Quorum or Class Member – Make it fun. Paint faces, cheer like crazy, and generally be totally unruly during the game.
- Service and Shooting – Ask a brother in the ward who shoots guns where there might be a spot on public land where you could go clean up all the junk, old tires, glass, and trash that often gets left in common shooting areas. As soon as the youth fill up the truck bed with bags of trash, have some fun. Learn to safely shoot 22 rifles or shotgun with proper supervision.
- Self Defense Night – Ask someone knowledgeable in the ward (perhaps someone who does jiu jitsu, or who teaches classes) to teach self defense.
- Where’s Waldo – Bring the whole group to the mall. Without any of the youth seeing, have the leaders put on disguises that make them look different, but don’t make it obvious. Put on a wig, a hoodie, ball cap, etc. Then have the youth go around the mall in groups and try to find the hiding leaders. When they find one, the leader gives them a point card. Winner is whatever group gets the most point cards. This is a super fun activity, but do this one with caution if you have some troublemakers in the group.
- Baking Bread for the Sacrament – This wouldn’t work with a huge youth group, but if just one group of girls and one quorum of boys are combined, this could be perfect. Split the group up into teams of 2 or 4. Have each group bake a loaf of bread from scratch. Invite a young man to talk about how they prepare the sacrament each week. With the bishop’s permission and if it can be done without making the bread overly noticeable during sacrament, you could use one of the loaves of bread for the sacrament service for that Sunday.
- Service Scavenger Hunt (With a cool app) – Okay, we’ve all seen a service scavenger hunt. You have a list of service they have to do (clean someone’s window, do the dishes, read a story to a kid, pull weeds, etc). The youth are split into teams and have to do as much service as possible. Here’s how to make it fun–use the free version of GooseChase.com which lets you put all the activities and points into an app that one person on each team downloads. The youth take pictures with the phone as proof and then it sends all the points and pictures back to the organizer of the event to show at the end. Makes it really fun.
Activities Young Women May Enjoy
- Cinnamon Roll Army – Learn to make cinnamon rolls with the girls, and then have each class member pick one person in the ward they want to deliver one to. Go as a class and hand-deliver the cinnamon roll to each person the girls picked.
- Yoga, HIIT, or Pilates – Ask a fit lady in the ward to teach the girls her favorite exercises and share with them how she got fit, challenges she faced, and how she came to enjoy exercise. Afterward, make protein shakes and read in For the Strength of Youth the section “Your Body is Sacred.”
- Sew Fizzy – Ask the young women to bring an article of clothing they like, but that isn’t totally modest, or has a hole in it, etc. Ask a lady in the ward who is good at sewing to come teach the young women how to patch a hole, sew, or modify clothes. Afterward, you could have a soda bar by getting a couple 2-liter bottles of soda and some mix-ins like cherries or vanilla to have them make their own drinks. As they drink, read pages 24, 25, and 27 in For the Strength of Youth and investigate with the girls what the purpose of modesty even is. Let them lead the discussion and DON’T talk about rules today–only the gospel principle they are based on.
- Bishopric Service – Members of the bishopric spend a lot of time serving the ward. The young women make dinner for the bishopric and their wives (including the secretaries and clerks). It could be something as simple as spaghetti, or soup in a bread bowl. Invite them to just have a nice relaxing meal. At the end, have each couple tell the story of how they met, dated, and married.
- Serve the Primary Chorister – Ask the primary president if your class could be the designated substitute teacher for the primary chorister one Sunday. The girls could make signs or games during your activity that they could do with the little kids, and then ask the chorister to take a day off and enjoy Relief Society while they handle singing time for a week.
Activities Young Men May Enjoy
- Knots, Fishing, and Fishers of Men – We did this as a two-part activity. On the first mutual night, we met at a leader’s house and taught the young men how to tie 4 basic knots they can use all their lives. We also made it fun by having rootbeer floats while they heard a devotional about Christ calling the disciples to be fishers of men. Then, on the next activity, we went to a local pond and went fishing. A goofy trophy from D.I. for the biggest fish can make it memorable.
- Weight Lifting – Ask someone in the ward who has built a strong physique to spend a night teaching the young men how to properly lift weights to avoid injury, and what lifts they can do to get the quickest results. Afterward, make protein shakes and read in For the Strength of Youth the section “Your Body is Sacred.”
- Learn to Cut Hair – I saved a ton of money on my mission because I learned how to cut hair. Find a young man that is willing (and ask his parents before) and have the young men cut his hair. When we did this activity, the young men did a really nice job, and in the end most of them got their hair cut that night. Most men get their hair cut twice a week. At $20 each time (plus a tip), that’ll save them $1,080 while on their missions.
- Last Activity of the Year – One special thing I’ve done for all my young men is I buy an inexpensive countdown clock when they leave the quorum. The clock counts down the days until the person turns 18. I write them a note about preparing now for serving a mission and receiving their endowment.