Play JohnBall Please! | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
November 2018

Play JohnBall Please!

By Lee Barnes

What could possibly go wrong when you give everyone two whiffle bats and toss in a ball or two? Have you ever seen a game scroll across your Instagram and you hit yourself in the head wishing you had come up with it first? That’s the way I feel about JohnBall. This game is really the sport of youth ministry royalty. I first saw it about five years ago, and was between youth groups at the time so I convinced a friend of mine to try it at a Fall retreat he was having. (Thanks Rob) They tried it and fell in love with it….and you will too.

The game is essentially dodge ball with one ball and everybody has bats to knock the ball around.

I know. Scary stuff but I have NEVER been in a game with an injury. The official rules/videos can be found at but we play it this way:

Game Play:

  • Begin with everyone in the center of the room with a bat in huddle (see picture).
  • The ref throws a ball into the circle and the game begins.
  • You can only hit the ball with a bat and if you are hit by the ball for any reason you are out.
  • If you hit a person with a bat you are out and are excused from game time for the night.
  • From this point there are two options of specific game play:
    • Eliminator-All on All- One the ball is thrown in the center the game does not end until there is one winner.
    • Team Play-Divide the group into teams and have them play until one team is eliminated
      Have fun with it! (If you really want to mix it up add a few more balls as the game goes on!)


  • Everybody gets two official whiffle ball bats. You can play with one per person but gameplay is faster with two. (Pro tip: Spend them money on the bats. Lesser bats will break quickly in the game)
  • The best ball(s) for use are the ones that they keep caged at Wal-Mart and Target. Set some of those free, bounce them down the aisles, and get them to the church.
Rev. R. Lee Barnes is the Youth & Family Ministries Consultant for the North Carolina Conference of the UMC. He offers 20+ years of experience as a pastor, youth/family minister, and parent to provide consultation, training, networking experiences, and spiritual nurture for enrichment of your church’s youth and family ministries. Lee partners with clergy and lay volunteers in small and medium-sized congregations, and in new-faith communities.