Stephen's Thoughts, and Other Nonsense...

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Youth Group Ultimate Challenge 2011

This thought occured 6 years ago about Youth, challenges, games, youth-games & youthgroup.

Part of running a youth group involves coming up with new a fun things to do. As part of this, a couple of years ago I started a tradition of running an Ultimate Challenge every year or two. This is now the 3rd or 4th of these I have run (I can't remember the exact number), and I figured I might as well post about it for anyone else out there interested in this sort of thing.

What is an Ultimate Challenge?

An Ultimate Challenge is a big team game revolving around an ambitious challenge each team needs to complete over the course of the night for the glory being the Ultimate Challenge Masters. It is a large-scale team game that everyone can be involved in and contribute to. It's great for getting people to know each other, as they need to work together as a team to complete the challenge posed.

First you need to decide on the challenge. In this case the challenge that my youth group had to complete was to elevate an exercise dumbbell at least 30cm above the ground, for as long as possible, using only modeling balloons. Once you know what the challenge is, you need to work out how many teams you want and then source the right amount of items for each team. Each team needs the same starting materials, to keep the competition fair. For this, I sourced two packs of modeling balloons (i.e. the long thin ones) and two exercise dumbbells. Having all the equipment, the final bit you need in advance is to write up the instructions/letter to your teams which outlines the objective and rules of the game. You can see my instructions letter here. My advise is to be creative and make it something worth reading, if a little cryptic. Depending on the complexity of your challenge, you may want to put cryptic or specially-worded rules and objectives that more observant team members will pick up on while others will miss.

On the day, you need to arrive early and set up each room - covering windows and doors, so the teams have privacy. The items and instructions letter needs to be placed within their room too, so they can easily find them upon entering their room. That said, it is often fun to keep some information a secret to reveal halfway through (like the item they will be propelling across the room, as I did in one challenge).

Once the teams are working away on their challenge, I generally wander between rooms checking they know what they are doing and offering helpful (and no-so-helpful) advice in the process. It is good to set a time limit and keep them updated with how much longer they have.

Ways to make it fun

The most important part about the night is that it is fun, so there is no point setting an impossible challenge as both teams will just get stressed out. It is also good to throw twists into the challenge (like provide items halfway through they need to use), or withhold information for a while. It helps if you have a good idea of how to solve the problem yourself, so you can assist if they have troubles.

Bringing junk food and drinks to your competitors is also good, as it gives you an excuse to see how they are doing and they think you are doing something useful too.

Challenge Ideas

These are some of the challenges I have done in the past

  • Build a bridge out of Pasta and hot-glue, suspend it between two hanging ropes, and see how much weight it holds
  • Move a small object from one table to another without human intervention using newspaper, straws, paper clips, etc
  • Propel an object along a piece of string, with points for style and other such random measures
  • Elevate a weight at a specific height using modeling balloons
Have fun and try new and wacky ideas!

I've been running this for a few years now, and my youth group love doing it. But everyone is different. I encourage you to take the idea away and run it with your youth group and see how it goes. After the first one, you will have a pretty good idea if your youth like it or not, and you will also no doubt find ways to change it to make it more fun in the future.

I'd love to hear from you if you do try this, or are just thinking of trying it! Any suggestions for future challenges I could run will be appreciated too :)