With COVID shutdowns at the end of the year, many of us are quickly finding ourselves needing to do our Christmas Party programming online. A few amazing youth workers (Isaac Leimeister, Samantha McEnhimer, Angel Myers, Rob Monroe, Jason Rysdyk, Richard Ball, and David Paukovitz) and I got together for a think tank to discuss how we would tackle this issue for own ministries. Let me tell you, the results were pure genius!
Icebreakers & Games
What would a party be without a few simple and silly games? While everybody has different ideas on what to play, we all agree that variety in how people can play is very important. There are some kids who may not have fast internet or who aren’t good typers, and if they are constantly losing to someone who is quicker, you’ve got a Grinch on your hands. We suggest you use one medium of interacting no more than once to keep the playing field even.
- First to Bring it to the Camera: This one was a winner for many group meetings at the beginning of the year, and it still works. With all the holiday decorations and goodies around it should be an easily exciting addition to your party. “Home Hunt” is a ready-made version of this type of game that gets everyone involved and moving – and now there’s a Home Hunt Christmas Edition!
- Kahoot!: Everybody uses their phones as a remote control, and points are rewarded and tracked by the website. This rewards players in the long run as well for knowledge over speed. We created a free game for you to use here.
- Snap Share: Give students time to be creative in a competition by asking them ahead of your event to send you some pictures of holiday hijinks. Hold contests of dressing up like famous Christmas characters, using filters, or making ornaments or gingerbread houses out of Ramen. Share your favorites on the live Zoom/stream and give a reward.
- Type-in-the-Chat Games: These are the kind you can buy, are really clever, and are a simple drag-and-drop into your presentation software. They will be winners, but like we said before…make it fair. I would suggest when doing this format to also limit people to only being able to answer correctly twice. Then after you have finished, put everyone who got a correct answer into a drawing for a prize. This helps keep someone from dominating and also gives the kid with a slower connection an equal chance of winning. “Caption Challenge Christmas Edition” and “You’ve Heard of Elf on the Shelf” are screen games that translate well online with students typing in their answers in the chat.
- All-Play Active Crowd Games: These games can get everyone involved in person AND online (like Home Hunt mentioned above) – just watch everyone’s screen for the winner.
- Crowd Charades: Who doesn’t laugh when you play charades? In Crowd Charades, the entire audience acts out the word, and one person guesses.
- First to Ten: An easy, play-it-anywhere kind of game that translates well to an online program. It’s a reverse version of the classic youth ministry game “Sit-Down-If.” Here’s how it works: a qualifier shows up on the screen. If it’s true for participants, they, put a finger up. The first person to get 10 (long version) or 5 (short version) wins. You can find First to Ten Christmas right here!
The Big Enchilada (AKA the Main Event)
You probably want to have a major hook that you can be hyping up on your social media prior to this event.
- Secret Santa: This will probably work best in smaller groups, but can make a neat substitution for those who would normally do an exchange game if meeting in person. Get a bunch of flat rate envelopes and pre-pay the postage on them, fill in the “send to” fields with the addresses of kids in your youth group, then drop them off to random members of the group. Tell them to leave the “from” section of the envelope blank and to put something in there to pass along to their fellow students (it can be sincere or totally random). Be sure to stress that they need to get it in the mail by a certain date in order to be received before your party, and that when they receive theirs they must wait until the party so it can be opened on stream/zoom in order for everyone to see the reactions.
- Escape Room/Online Scavenger Hunts: If you have seen the resources for some of these they are simply amazing…DYM has now published a Christmas Digital Escape Room!
After playing this myself, this might be the most amazing product in the history of DYM!!!! Seriously. I can’t believe how big and awesome this was! Worth.The.Price! Had a ton of fun doing this with my kids against other youth workers. You will be blessed using this in any kind of way in your church/ministry!
- Game Show: You can keep it simple with a bunch of smaller things, but tie it together in a big way! Have 6 to 12 gifts in the background of your broadcast, all wrapped in the same size box but with different wrapping papers. Tell your kids that they each contain unique and fantastic gifts (ranging from a pair of old socks to a 12-pack of Holiday Mt. Dew, and the big one a $50 gift card/free winter camp registration/whatever). Then each time a youth wins a game, let them pick one to have it delivered to their house. Added excitement will be having them tag you/share it on social media the next day when it arrives!
Speaking of Game Show style… this is hot off the press:
This beauty is a sixty-minute, done-for-you, ONLINE Christmas Trivia Party that will pit students and leaders against each other with Christmas-themed questions and is designed for use online. This event is intended to encourage small groups to grow closer together and work together throughout the event. There are three rounds of trivia questions students will have to answer. To make the evening even more engaging, there are fun Zoom games in between trivia rounds, as well as some other interactive elements during the night. This is perfect for anyone looking for a low-preparation, ready-to-go event with everything you need to have an excellent Christmas party this season online!
A Meaningful Word
If this is when kids are tempted to turn off the camera and check their Insta, consider these creative ways to engage your students with life-giving encouragement about Jesus:
- The Phone-In: Quite possibly what will keep kids most engaged is for you to shut up and put another kid in control! In the weeks prior, reach out to some students and ask them to record a 90-second video for you about what Christmas means to them and/or share a piece of the Christmas story. Sprinkle these in between the games in your party and you just hacked their little attention-deficit minds!
- The “What Is This?” Some of our youth workers are planning on maximizing the value of a real handwritten Christmas card this year by mailing something special to students. Along with the invite to the online party is something that they are going to share during the stream. It may be a cryptic and mysterious thing that has a hidden and yet unknown meaning. It may be an Advent devotion they are inviting students to participate in. But by making a physical connection for digital viewers, it will hold a far better chance of being something students won’t be tuning out.
- Video: Especially for Gen Z, using media is a great way to engage. From poignant music videos to funny skits, there are tons of choices out there. Just be sure that you adhere to copyright requests and not leave them up on your YouTube channel permanently.
We hope these ideas can help you feel confident as you plan your Christmas Party online. In this crazy season and year, lean on fellow youth workers for support – no one has to go it alone!
God bless your ministry this Christmas season!
Kyle Creel is the Next Generation Pastor for the River’s Edge Church in Iowa Falls, Iowa, a DYM Author, Co-Host of “The Small Town Youth Ministry Podcast”, and an all-around nerd.
“I want to see youth workers reach teenagers, and do so feeling equipped and encouraged. Feel free to contact me if you ever want to collaborate or have questions about any resources!”