YEAR 1, 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
In this game, players will do their absolute best not to get a mouth full of salt. In advance of the night, you will need to prepare small bags containing a teaspoon each of sugar, salt or a mixture of salt and sugar. You will also need a target and objects to throw (for example: a bocce set, corn hole boards or horseshoes). Set the target at a considerable distance from players (at least 30 feet). Players will take turns tossing their balls [bean bags, horseshoes] toward the target. The goal is throw accurately and hit the target.
Before starting the game, ask students which they would prefer to have to eat in one bite—a spoonful of salt or a spoonful of sugar. Most will obviously prefer the sugar. Hold up two of the bags and ask students to tell you which contains salt and which contains sugar. Explain that in life and with God there are absolute truths. The world may tell us that there are gray areas but with God, it’s black or white. Sometimes in life we might not very easily see the absolute truth, but there is a huge difference between salt and sugar. When you mix in salt with sugar, it might look the same, but it won’t taste the same. We don’t want to get to the end of our lives and find that though the world told us the grains in our spoon were plenty sweet, what we have is salty and certainly not what we had been promised.
Instruct students that their goal is to hit the absolute truth by aiming at the target. If their ball touches the target, they will be rewarded with a teaspoon of sugar. If their ball comes within two feet of the target, but does not touch it, they will get a sugar/salt mixture. If their ball is not within two feet of the target, they will receive a teaspoon of salt.
When all have made their play, pass out their rewards. Have students all pour on their tongue at the same time. A teaspoon of salt won’t hurt, but it might be kind to have some water nearby.
YEAR 1, 2nd Sunday of Lent/YEAR 3, 2nd Sunday of Lent
This is a very simple game to play. It needs to be prepared in advance. Have some sheets of paper, colored pens or pencils, and some ideas for "Bible scenes" (see some below) and write them down on individual squares, fold them up and put them in a bucket or hat. Divide your people into three groups of equal number. Elect a member to be blindfolded as the “blind artist”. Invite each team choose one scene and to not reveal the scene to the “blind artist”. Explain that the teams may only explain to their “blind artist” what the scene looks like by describing the objects that are there and where they should go. Include rules like, “no names of characters or places”. To make it more fun (or maybe just more chaotic), group members can move around groups and disturb the other teams. This can get very noisy. After drawing the first scene for three minutes, the blind artist must keep the blindfold on as the team tapes the scene name onto the back of the drawing and sets it up for presentation. Repeat process until all teams have three drawings made by three different members in three minutes each. Then have an “art show” and ask the artist who drew the scene to try and guess what the scene they drew. If they cannot guess it, have the other teams make a guess. Wrap up the fun by asking, “What was most enjoyable about this process?” What was most difficult?” Briefly point out that the more creative effort a person put into the game, the more good work then came out of that effort. Explain that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are the new incarnation, the new hands and feet and body of Christ to participate in the redemption story. Explain that while we may not always know where the finished work of art (the completion of our earthly lives) will end up and we are completely blind, confused or afraid, as long as we put our faith in God and trust Him enough to follow His will, we know we’ll be painting a heavenly story for ourselves and those we love.
Bible Scenes: The Testing of Abraham (Genesis 22)/ Raising of Lazarus (John 11)/ Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14)/ Healing the Paralytic (Mark 2)/ The Fall of Jericho (Joshua 6)/ David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)/ The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3)/ The Temptation of Jesus (Luke 4)/ Jonah and the Whale (Jonah 2)
Fishing for Holiness
YEAR 1, 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Get together one blindfold for each team of three players. Create the “fish” and “trash” by printing the provided habits or writing them onto individual strips of paper. Lay the “fish” and “trash” upside down at a distance on the other side of the room. To begin, divide the participants into teams and ask one member of each team to put on the blindfold. Explain that the blindfolded person in to be fishing pole and the other two players are the fishermen. The only way the fishermen can reel in their catch is by giving verbal directions to the fishing pole while staying on the designated “shore” line. As the fishermen make their cast they will direct the blindfolded person to pick up a paper and only make one catch at a time. They then will have to reel in their catch by calling their fishing pole back to them. The more habits of holiness caught the better. Time will vary depending on the distance between the fishermen and the habits. Play until the majority has 3-5 catches. After the game is complete gather the groups back together and have them share their catches and their feelings about what they’ve caught. Explain that we live in a society that measures success by quantities and proofs and we can beat ourselves up when we can’t measure our progress or we can only see the negative habits. Or we can just as easily flatter ourselves when we can count a bunch of good habits. But God doesn’t work that way: God gave us those “habits of holiness” to give to others, to give back to Him; we didn’t earn them for ourselves. And for those who can only see their “habits of self-serving” that doesn’t necessarily mean you are lacking for God. Recognizing “habits of self-serving” is a “habit of holiness” itself! We all belong to God and if we are seeking him, if we are actively fishing for the Good then we are on our way to holiness.
YEAR 1, 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Get together the four ingredients you need to make floats: cups, spoons/straws, soda, and ice cream. Divide everybody into four even groups. Give each group only one float ingredient and enough for each person in the group to have 4 each. Group 1: each person is given 4 cups. Group 2: each person is given 4 sets of spoons and straws. Group 3: each person is given 4 soda cans. Group 4: each person is given 4 servings of ice cream.
Once all the ingredients are distributed, get everybody to form new groups that have all the ice cream float ingredients. There should now be newly formed groups of 4 people which have enough ice cream float ingredients to make one ice cream float for each person in the group.
When each group has made their ice cream float ask the groups to imagine that they are the other apostles wanting to write a letter to Peter. Instruct each group (as they enjoy their floats) to write one letter addressed to Peter about the apostles concerns, sentiments, hopes or best wishes after Jesus tells everyone that Peter will inherit the keys of the kingdom. Remind the groups that the apostles still think that Jesus’ kingdom is an earthly one at this point. Pass out pencils and lined notebook paper to each group and give them 5-7 minutes. Gather back together and read the letters out loud for a bit of fun. Ask the teens to identify some common themes that the “apostles” shared in their letters and why they think those themes were common. Wrap it up by emphasizing God’s authority and dominion over all creation and briefly explain how He shares that authority with His “bride” the Church.
Variations of this mixer could be: Banana splits (bowls, bananas, chocolate topping, ice cream), hot chocolate (mugs, spoons, hot chocolate mix, marshmallows)
YEAR 1, 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Share the Gospel with others. Do a project individually or as a group to share the Gospel message of peace and joy with others. Examples: an evangelization or prayer video, cards for encouragement, etc.
In It to Win It
YEAR 1, 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time
This messy, yet classic and engaging problem solving activity requires splitting the room into two large groups with the task of building an egg package that can sustain an eight foot drop. A variety of tools and other materials should be provided to the teams. After the packages have been built, each team must also present an advertisement for their package highlighting what makes it unique and how it works. At the conclusion of the presentations, each group will have to drop their egg using their package to see if it really works.
Aside from teaching the groups to work together and communicate, it also brings them together with the common goal of both winning the egg drop and successfully creating an egg package.
YEAR 1, 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Explain that, “Often times we give up too easily or too soon because we don’t see any progress being made. When times are tough, remember that God is even more present to us than we are to ourselves. Maybe we just aren’t asking the right questions and; therefore, can’t hear the appropriate answers. We often aren’t patient enough to wait for God while He’s working. Remember, spiritual consolation will always come! When our hearts grow heavy, always pray for patience.”
To play this game you will need a locked box with a prize inside. The box must be protected under “set your own” 4 letter combination lock. Set the combination to BEAR. Students will need to solve a series of clues using the scriptures to find the combination to the lock. We chose to further challenge our students by creating a scavenger hunt with clues that led them around our church to get what they would need to unlock the box (the final clue set and a Bible). Finding clue after clue that didn’t lead them immediately to a final answer required lots of patience! You can do this activity with or without this added challenge.
Give each group clue sheet and a Bible but no other hints! Instead remind them to keep working and ask God for patience, even when they’re frustrated.
If you can find the punchline to this joke, you can unlock the prize box.
A frog, a King, a poor widow and some elders walk into a barber shop. The elders turn to the king and ask what a bald man is doing here. Then . .
Exodus 7: 25-29
Luke 9: 16-17
Mark 12: 41-42
1 3 8 1 0
YEAR 1, 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Print out the “Consideration Sheet” and the “Me!” card, enough for half of the participants.
Begin by sharing this lesson with the group: We are all strangers to many people for one reason or another but the most evident and dividing reason is because of our selfishness. More often than not, people look at other people as objects to take or gain something from. Examples: “She’s nice. She’ll pay attention to me.” “He’s handsome. He’ll make me look better.” “We have so much in common. I can talk to them for hours.” But it is rare when true friendship and familiarity appears in the sincere act of loving one another. Examples: “She looks lonely. I should share my company with her.” “He wants to talk. I should listen to what he has to say.” “We have so many common goals. We’d make a great team.” Explain that when we look to “take away” from people we are truly disassembling their minds, spirits and/or bodies for our own will and pleasure. We are being selfish and destructive. However, when we truly love one another then we aim to give, restore and bless the minds, spirits and bodies of others without concern for our own. Building up other people is participating in the “building” of God’s kingdom.
Briefly, ask the group what habits, securities or insecurities hold them back from building the kingdom of God. Use the previous examples as a jumping point for conversation if needed.
Wrap things up by explaining that after God inspires us with new understanding and a desire to serve one another we need to put that grace into practice and rewire our bad habits into good habits. Explain that we have to be the ones that decide to physically act out our convictions by using God’s graces.
To begin the exercise have the participants breakdown into pairs. Preferably, they would partner with someone with whom they are least familiar. Instruct the partners to choose either the job of “listener” or “storyteller”. Hand out the “Me!” card and the “Consideration Sheet” to the “listeners”.
Introduce the name of the game, (hence the “Me!” card) and explain that when trying to form good habits our bad ones are going to rear their ugly heads. Explain to the listeners that they are going to try and practice the good habit of listening… really listening. Instruct the storytellers to think of a problem (no heavy problems!) they have or have had in the past. Tell the listeners that they are to “help” the storytellers work through their problem by listening and considering the situation with them. Quickly go over the list of “Dos and Don’ts” on the Consideration Sheet and instruct the listeners to admit to the “Don’ts” as they pop up, throughout the conversation, by simply raising the “Me!” card, even if they are just tempted to think about themselves. Emphasize the point is to try to not raise the “Me!” card and to really pay attention but it is important to also be completely honest when the “Don’ts” occur. Give the group 5 minutes to work through the problem.
Swap partner rolls for a second round if time allows.
At the end of the exercise ask individuals to share their experiences about both the challenges and the triumphs.
YEAR 1, 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
For this activity, you will need large paper (butcher roll would be best), markers, tape and string.
Pose this question to the group: Have you ever being working on a project that you just couldn’t stop tinkering with? You kept erasing and rewriting or going back in with a little more paint or going back over again and again with a marker? You were probably trying to perfect your work, but more often than not when you finally stepped back, you still weren’t happy with all your tinkering. Explain that sometimes we need to be reminded that for all of our human tinkering, we aren’t the authors of creation. We try to write our own stories as though we know better than God, but He is the one controlling the narrative. We can be most in tune with creation if we will just step back and let God do his work. The paradox of real human creativity is that it is not the flexing of our human created will, the imposing of order, the dredging of up of something new out of the depths of our interiority, our creativity is most fully and freely expressed as humans when we, as artists, stand back and let be. We must remember that when we do step back, God is not sedentary. He is constantly at work creating beautiful things in the world, in our lives that are beyond our understanding.
Have the group string the markers from a still object above the paper (this is where the tape should prove helpful). Be sure to rig the markers in such a way that they graze the paper flat on a surface. There shouldn’t be any other objects in the way so that the marker can swing like a pendulum. Have participants gently pull back on the markers and let them swing such that gravity does the rest in creating designs on the page.
Not Like the Others
YEAR 1, 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
This is a team game or can be played individually if there are only a few players. For each team, you will need a clear bag (ziploc would work) with objects for the team to build a contraption. The key to this game is the usability of the objects you place in the bags, the more interesting and versatile they are, the more creative the teams become. However, some of the bags should be “not like the others”. Depending on the number of players, make the contents of one or several bags unequally disadvantaged but not impossible to use. You can use objects such as: a length of string, a length of tape wound around a Popsicle stick, paper clips, balloon, pinwheel, safety pins, toothpicks, paper pieces, straws (or pieces of straws), rubber bands, cotton balls or hair pins.
Ask participants to form three to five groups or, for larger crowds, groups of three to five people. Tell participants that each team must build a contraption in ten minutes. The contraption will "go" from one end of a specific room or distance to another without being touched by the participants. They may blow on them, fan them or they may be propelled by their own forces but iterate that no one can lay a hand on the contraption after it is set on the starting line. Tell them that each group will receive a bag of supplies to use in building their contraptions. Give each group one of the bags. Hold up the bag (in an inconspicuous manner) so that all groups see the bag that is being given to each group. You need not comment on the contents of the bag. If participants ask why the contents are different, just say that these are the supplies available for your group. That’s the way it is. Give participants a five-minute warning. When the allotted time is up, ask participants to put their unused supplies back into their bags. Ask everyone to set their contraptions at the starting line and begin the race. After you have first, second and third place winners, gather everyone back together with their contraptions and engage the group in a discussion about this activity. Ask, “How did you feel when you noticed the materials that other teams had to work with?”, “Would these contraptions necessarily be a fair assessment of what all of you can do?”, “Is it important to consider individual circumstances and opportunities before judging a person’s capabilities or motivation? Why or why not?” Wrap up the discussion by explaining that human beings have a weakness in needing to assess people’s appearances and assets to make a judgement. But Deuteronomy 1:17 says, “In rendering judgement, do not consider who a person is; give ear to the lowly and to the great alike, fearing no man, for judgement is God’s.” We are not called to judge people’s character when giving. God has the only claim to that job. We are only called to judge right from wrong and avoid doing wrong. Christ suffers with those who suffer and we neglect Christ’s sufferings when we are indifferent to other people’s suffering. Yes, we may not have good solutions for the poor in their desperate situations, and they may seem very far from us and our abilities. However, if we listen to Christ’s true needs in the people who are physically, emotionally or spiritually poor and act on love, we can count on God’s graces to overcome adversity and, by sharing what we have, we will never find ourselves wanting or being indifferent to those in need.
YEAR 1, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gather large sheets of paper and markers of any size and color. Have the group break up into teams of two and then have each pair take only one marker and one piece of paper. Ask the teams to turn their paper portrait style (longer sides, shorter top and bottom) and draw a large oval in the middle of the paper with a line across the bottom of the paper. (Showing an example helps). Tell the teams that they must keep silence throughout the whole activity; in fact, tell the teams that there will be NO communicate at all with each other, whether that be through a laugh, a smile, a frown, a gesture or any other form of communicating. NO communicating allowed. Then instruct the teams to work together to draw a face with the oval. Explain that there are no rules except that they have to take turns and each person can only make one mark per turn. After a mark has been made that person must put the marker down on the paper and then their partner can pick up the marker and make one mark and then put the marker down on the paper to continue repeating the process until the face is completed. Once either partner has made what they think should be the last mark for the portrait they can place the marker on the floor instead of the paper. Again, NO communicating! Instruct the teams to keep silence, and wait for further instructions. After everyone’s marker is on the floor, instruct the partners to now come up with a name or a title for their portrait. Take turns writing the title on the bottom line by writing one letter per turn in the same process.
Once every team has completed their titles have an “art show”. Ask each team to present their portrait and then ask the participants what they thought about the experience. Point out that this was obviously not an ideal situation in which to work. Ask, “How many of you would have rather just drawn a face on their own?” Explain that there will be many times in life when we would rather get things done “our way” and get things done “right” but God thinks differently. You cannot be self-sufficient and love at the same time. You cannot do good work and do it alone. (Evil is the withdrawal from God, the desire of self-sufficiency.) In fact, God, the omnipotent one, decided to leave room for us, the sinful human failures, to participate in His redemptive work for others. Over and over again, in our salvation history, God prefers unity rather than ideals. Because evil is doing it on your own and removing yourself from the family, the Fatherhood of God. Rather than getting the work done perfectly, God asks us to get our love perfect. We have to remind ourselves that, when we are gathered in His name (God is Love), we invite Him to fully participate in our work and make lasting, omnipotent marks that always complete the work perfectly. Patience isn’t about waiting for something painful to pass over and be done. Patience is about deciding to love so much so that you want to move through the pain for the sake of another.
YEAR 1, 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Write out each task listed below (or make up your own) on individual pieces of paper: one task per piece of paper. Provide the proper supplies for each task to be completed. Fold the written tasks and place them into a basket, hat or bucket. Have all the participants write their names on individual pieces of paper and drop them into a new basket, hat or bucket. Tell the participants that they will each pull a task from the basket and be judged on how well they complete their task. Explain that occasionally you will hear the facilitator yell, “SWAP!” At that time all the participants have to stop what they are doing and listen as the facilitator calls two names at a time. Each pair called has to swap tasks with each other. No one is to start working again until everyone has swapped and the facilitator starts the clock again. Emphasize that there will be multiple swaps and it is possible that participants end up with their original tasks so everyone should work well no matter which task they are completing. Explain that at the end of the game each participant will have to take full credit for their completed task and proudly stand before the group and show off what they’ve accomplished.
Have everyone pull a task from the basket and, on your mark, let them read it and begin.
After about 1.5 minutes yell, “SWAP!” and make sure no one moves. Take the name basket and quickly pull out two names at a time and have those individuals swap projects. Leave those names outside the basket so that you do not pull them again. After everyone has swapped places, start the tasks again by yelling, “Get set, GO!” or the like.
Place all the names back into the basket and shake them up well. After another two minutes or so yell “SWAP!” again and repeat the swap process. You may do this as often as you would like. But once you notice that people are close to completing their tasks call one final “SWAP!” and give them 30 seconds to complete what they have to do.
Gather everyone around and have one person at a time present their “accomplishments”. Emphasize that they have to “proudly” take credit for the project and share the best attributes. After everyone has presented and you’ve all had a good laugh, ask the group if they liked taking credit for what others did or if it was “nerve-wracking” or frustrating. Ask, how they liked watching someone take credit for or change or destroy the hard work they did. Then explain that this is experience is much like the Christian life which is all about giving up our accomplishments and giving them to someone who needs them and taking on the accomplishments of others that we need (sharing, unity, etc.). Sometimes it is frustrating and nerve-wracking It may seem unfair and futile BUT ONLY IF we aren’t really working for love of Christ and our brothers and sisters. We have to learn to give all our credit where it’s really due: to Christ, our God. We have to learn to free ourselves from our attachments and desires and open ourselves up to charity and generosity so that we can all reach the heavenly finish line together.
YEAR 1, 5th Sunday of Lent
Read Matthew 5:38-42 aloud: “[Jesus remarked,] ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. ’But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.’”
Explain that Jesus is not recommending that we play nice with one another even when they don’t deserve it.
Jesus is commanding us to give Him our own prideful, stubborn and malicious hearts so that He can make us loving hearts like His. It appears as if we are being “walked over”, stepped on, taken advantage of, but this is not true when we unite our suffering to the suffering of Jesus Christ crucified. Jesus tells us that only by acknowledging the reality of sin (that which injures, destroys, harasses and mocks life) and juxtaposing it with God’s love can we break down its barriers and redeem the injury it causes. Jesus commands that we remove ourselves from our pride so that we can serve the sinner and destroy the effects of the sin.
“It is not in our power not to feel or forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming hurt into intercession.” (Universal Catechism 2843)
“We have a special authority over the soul of someone who causes us to suffer. Their actions have bound them to us in the mercy of God. Mercy is love that suffers the evil of another to affirm his dignity so that he does not have to suffer alone. Whenever someone hurts us physically or even emotionally, he has demeaned himself even more. He is even in more need of mercy.” (Cfr, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q.30)
Acknowledge that one of the biggest inhibitors of our spiritual growth is lack of forgiveness: we can’t draw closer to God because we don’t want to draw closer to love.
Invite the group to tackle this dilemma by first identifying these problems with Christ’s solutions.
Divide the group into three to five teams and have them elect a captain. Hand the captains a “‘Be the Bridge’ Scattergories” page and one writing instrument. Explain that the teams are going to try to come up with unique solutions to the problems you are going to call out. If teams share any answers they won’t receive any points for those answers. Warn the teams that they only have 30 seconds to deliberate and answer each hurtful scenario with a “Deed” (an action of charity), “Word” (what you say in compassion) and “Prayer” (intercession-the opposite of the hurt inflicted) that will intercede with mercy for the person who hurt you. Emphasize that mercy means to counteract sin with love so the teams’ answers are required to be a counteraction to the particular sin/hurt.
Wrap things up by explaining that Confession is the “primary organ” of the Church. She needs that organ to survive and, in turn, thrive. Emphasize that, if we want to draw closer to God, then we need to draw closer to the sacraments to learn about love and become love through them.