Hoarding | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
July 2018


By Sam Halverson

What happens when you combine hula hoops and a seemingly impossible task? A simple-yet-brilliant team building game. As your students struggle with competing loyalties and a seemingly impossible goal, they will be forced to think outside the box as well as shifting their focus from individual success to group success. Here’s how it goes:

What you’ll need:

  • Plastic hoops (Hula hoops) or pieces of rope or tubing formed in a circle – one for every two people.
  • Lots and lots (and lots) of small, soft items. Stuffed animals work well (though aren’t much help if wet). Brightly colored bean bags also work. They need not all be the same thing. Try to have at least seven per person. More is always better here.
  • A large space to run and spread out.

What to do:

  • Have individuals pair up with one other person
  • Lay out hula hoops (or similar-sized circles) on the ground or floor, allowing about 20 feet or more between each circle. These should be scattered and not all in a straight line.
  • Ask pairs to stand with their circle.
  • Set a pile of the soft items in the center of the playing space – not in anyone’s circle.
    Tell students that they will be given ten minutes to collect all the soft items into their circle. They can take items out of someone else’s circle, but may not throw them. They may only carry them or hand them off to get them back to their circle. Once again, the goal is to get all the soft items into their circle.
  • Start the game and watch what happens.

The Key to The Game:

While you have not stated this, it is helpful for you, the leader, to know that the circles can be moved. This is really the only way all groups can achieve the goal – to all lay the circles into one pile and to place all soft items into all the circles at once. This will most likely not happen right away, though (and if it does then most likely someone has played before or has read these instructions). Watch the dynamics as people take from others in order to get ahead, as they try to protect what they have, and as some seem to just give up or hand all their soft items over to someone else.

After ten minutes:

Ask what has happened so far. Has anyone been successful? Why or why not? Is it possible to achieve the goal? How many couples could achieve the goal at once? What needs to happen in order for all the couples to reach the goal at one time?

Allow the participants another three or so minutes to try to achieve the goal, but ask them to try to make it so all groups reach the goal at once. Then discuss these final questions:

What worked this last time? Why didn’t you think of doing that earlier? What stood in the way of you recognizing the possibility of combining all the circles? How do we do that in the world? Why do we think that in order to “win” or “get something” we have to take away from others? What would it take to see other possibilities?

The Most Important Part of This Type of Game:

The most important (and often most forgotten) part of leading initiative activities is taking the time to debrief after the activity. Without a proper reflection or discussion of the experience you have done nothing more than an activity, and the learning will focus only on how to succeed next time. A good debrief involves helping participants reflect on leadership, listening, communication, process, expectations, problem solving – things that can be applied to life skills and how the group interacts in normal routines.

It is also important to note the difference between initiative activities (like the ones here) and what is referred to as “low ropes” or “low element” activities which involve some sort of stationary setup and should be facilitated by someone trained to facilitate low ropes activities.

Each of the following initiatives should be done in groups no more than 5 to 12 people. If you have more than 12 try dividing into more than one group (two groups of 7 or three groups of 5 or 6) or have a few people (not just the leaders) stand aside for an activity and be the “watchers and listeners,” quietly observing the group dynamics and reporting what they saw and heard when the activity is over.

Sam Halverson has served as a youth minister in the local church for over 35 years. He is an ordained United Methodist elder currently serving as Associate Director of the Office for Congregational Excellence for the North Georgia Conference, directing and resourcing youth ministries for the conference. Sam is author of three books for youth ministry; the most recent is One Body: Integrating Teenagers Into the Life of Your Church (The Youth Cartel). Sam and his wife, recent empty nesters, live in Canton, Georgia.