Student ministry is messy. It’s messy because we get down deep into the lives of students lives and it’s messy because we as youth pastors love to get messy with games. Here are 10 good, clean messy games you can do with your group:

Food Fight – make a list of easy to throw, SOFT items. Have volunteers and students bring mass quantities of the items. Rope off an area outside and let the madness begin. I typically introduce the items in rounds (water round, spaghetti round, potato round, etc.).   Go to a hardware store for heavy-duty plastic to for the ground. This insures kids falling into the mess.


  • Sin is messing and how to clean it up (James 5:16 & 1 John 1:9)
  • The real fight – Ephesians 6:12

Shaving Cream Pictionary – Use a white-board and some shaving cream.   Cover the whiteboard with a shaving cream canvas.   Play regular Pictionary or use a list of Biblical stories or themes from your lesson.

Finger Paint Pictionary (same as above, but use finger paint and a surface you don’t mind ruining.)

Seek “n” Find in Pudding – Make a large bowl of pudding. Hide tiny objects that might go with the themes mentioned below. Have a kid/volunteer find the items with his/her mouth. For additional fun, make two sets and have a guy and girl race to find the items.

Theme: Christ wants to find you – Luke 15

Tomato Tag (tomato and t-shirt) – grab a box of tomatoes and cut them in half before the event (don’t do this too much ahead of time or the tomatoes will go bad). Have each kid bring an OLD, white shirt. Give each kid a half of a tomato. You can play a variety of games with these (any variation of tag, or sharks and minnows).

Banana split slip ‘N’ slide – do a traditional slip ‘N’ sllde, but add banana split supplies.


  • Some things don’t go together – just like a slip and slide can ruin a banana split, sinful behavior can ruin a witness.
  • Some things make some things better – some people think that a slip n slide is better with a banana split. Point: Life is better with Jesus (John 10:10)

Will it Stick – give a student a garbage bag to wear and COAT THE TRASH BAG IN SYRUP. Grab a bunch of food items. Have a volunteer or another student throw items at the student wearing the trash bag to see if they will stick. Suggested items (bread, chips, cereal, hard candy, peeps).

Variation: invite two pairs to play and see which team can get the most items to stick.


  • Lesson review – do this activity at the end of your meeting. Then, ask the students what about the lesson will stick with them. (could also do at the end of a camp week or retreat).
  • Post-High School faith – what decisions will you make in college that show that your faith is alive in college.

Piñata with Applesauce – buy an empty piñata. Instead of filling it with candy, fill it with applesauce or any other goopy mess. Use the applesauce piñata like any other piñata.   However when the piñata breaks open, your students will be surprised.

Theme: The inside really matters – 1 Samuel 16:7. Even though the piñata looked good on the outside, the inside was rather disappointing.

Chocolate Volleyball – Set up an outdoor volleyball set. Play regular volleyball (except cover the volleyball with chocolate sauce). You will need to re-coat the ball from time to time.

Theme: If you play volleyball with a chocolate volleyball, you will get chocolate on you. If you let non-Christians be your influencers, you will act like them. (I Corinthians 15:33)

Chocolate Nine-square – same idea as above, but make sure to play outide!

Bonus Time:

Color Volleyball – Set up volleyball outside. Cover volleyball with color paint. Play volleyball. You will need to recover the ball with paint from time to time.

Theme: The color paint is contagious – it spread. In the same way, our youth group should spread the Good News of Jesus.

How to do messy!

As fall is here, youth group is back in full swing. If your youth group is like mine, they want GAMES – MESSY GAMES. Nothing can build momentum like a big night of messy games. However games, especially messy games, can trash your youth room and your career. Here are some tips on how to run messy games:

Caution Students– Caution students to wear clothes they can ruin. Nothing will destroy a new pair of back to school jeans like a food fight. People love spontaneous fun, but messy games are probably not the time or place. Warn students that the games will be messy and encourage them to wear clothes they can get dirty.

Get Parent Consent – Communicate not only with the kids but also the parents. Nothing like picking up a messy kid in a new car! Also LOOK over consent forms for allergies. You better check before doing a peanut butter game.

Contain the Mess – Make sure you rope off or set boundaries. The food fight shouldn’t spill over to the sanctuary or the Senior Pastor’s office. Watermelon softball is great in the field out back, but not so much in the foyer.

Clean-up – Go ahead and recruit people to help clean up. Some people don’t want to get messy, but they still want to contribute. Clean-up will give them the chance, to serve and keep you out of trouble. Youth ministry is past being a church janitors worst nightmare! Get a clean-up crew.

Camera – Messy games are the perfect place for photos. Kids having a blast throwing water balloons, food, etc. are GREAT publicity. These photos are also keepsakes to bring out on Graduation Sunday. Get someone who doesn’t want to participate to take photos.

Cut-off – Make sure students know and respect one adult that can bring things to a halt when they are close to getting out of hand. The person should be halfway between the adult that starts the food fight and a drill sergeant. In other words, not someone who doesn’t know when to stop and not the person who doesn’t want to have any fun either.

Connect to a Point – Don’t miss the opportunity to use the game to teach spiritual truth. Your food fight is a chance to talk about the battle (Ephesians 6). Your mud fight is a chance to talk about getting clean (1 John 1:9). Your kiddie pool of Jell-o that students use their toes to find objects in is the perfect place to talk about seeking God.

Follow these tips and you will knock messy games out of the park!


John Pape is the youth minister at Orrville Christian Church in Orrville, OH.  He has been in full-time youth ministry for over 17 years.  He and his wife, Kim, have two children.  Google 22q.  #22qAwarenessDays

Twitter: @johnpape2

email: [email protected]