Three Fun, Instant Activities for Summertime | UMC YoungPeople
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June 2024

Three Fun, Instant Activities for Summertime

By Jeremy Steele

Summer is a crazy time. While the rest of the church goes on vacations and has leisure time with their families, many youth ministers are going full speed with extra mission trips, camps, and game nights.

In the midst of all of that, you are still expected to have a youth group, teach a lesson, and maybe even do Sunday school as well! But who has time to prep for a lesson when the bus broke down last week on the way back from your mission trip and won’t be fixed by tomorrow when you are supposed to take everyone to the beach for a fun day!?

Don’t worry—we’ve got you! Here are three lessons to keep in your back pocket for when the sky is falling, or you just need a minute to breathe instead of studying.

1. Debate night

Give students the opportunity for self-directed learning as they prepare arguments on different sides of a debate. This one can be extra engaging when you give them several debates in one night that lead from the silly to the serious. Here is an example of one such potential progression:

  • Is a hot dog a taco or a sandwich?
  • Which makes the better pet: a cat or a dog?
  • What is more important for a friendship: honesty or loyalty?
  • Is it easier to connect with God alone or with other people?

Pick individuals for each side or divide the group in half for each debate. Then, give students a limited time to prepare. Ask students to present their arguments and give each side a limited time to respond. If you have talkative students, ensure that you use discussion techniques that make space for youth who process a bit more slowly or prefer to write out or type thoughts before verbally responding.

2. Self-Reflection Scavenger Hunt

Take your youth group into a sharing time by beginning with a no-planning scavenger hunt. Instead of planning clues and locations, invite students to look around the church and/or the church property to find items that illustrate where they are in their lives. You can even give them a list of subjects and ask them to find an object symbolizing each. Here are some prompts to get them going:

  • Something funny that happened this year.
  • How is it going with my family?
  • How do I feel about my relationship with God?
  • Where am I not being the best version of myself right now?
  • What are my hopes for the fall?

Once students have found their items, give them time to share their items and answers with one another. These can be really personal, so respect students’ desire to stay quiet and not share personal details.

3. Wonder Week

Give students the space to ask questions and wonder openly about God and life. Take a moment to introduce the idea by explaining that having questions and doubts about God is normal and can even be healthy because those questions lead us to learn more about God by studying or having new experiences. This activity is all about that. Tell students you want to give them space to wonder about God. Give them some paper and writing utensils (maybe 3x5 cards or sticky notes if you have them). Tell them to begin their sentences with “I wonder…” and write down whatever question or curiosity they might have.

Let them know beforehand that you will share the responses out loud, so they are welcome not to put their names on the wonder statements. Invite them to hand them to you when they finish. Take time to read each one out loud and ask if anyone has thoughts about it. You can give your thoughts but be careful not to go first because it can shut down the students’ processing if they feel you have provided the definitive answer. This activity is less about lifting yourself, as the leader, up as THE expert or giving THE answer; instead, this activity is about building a culture and an expectation that it is safe to wonder about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and more in the ministry you organize.

So, don’t freak out. It’s going to be okay. When you can’t plan a lesson, just check back here or copy and paste these into the notes on your phone!

When he's not playing with his four children with his wonderful wife, Jeremy is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, CA. Jeremy has spent over twenty years working in youth and children's ministry and continues to train children and youth workers as well as writing and speaking extensively in that field. His most recent book is the "All the Best Questions." You can find a list of all his books, articles, and resources for churches at