Over the years I have come up with many different youth ideas. Most of them are epic, I mean, epic ideas, but when I start to think about all of the stuff that it takes to make them come to reality I realize that they probably aren’t the best use of my time.
At my current church we have Youth Vacation Bible school that is sort of designed around these epic moments, so I have gotten to play a little more than I used to. This year I decided to finally try something that had been in my head a long time and make a giant soap foam pit.
For the youth I made a game out of the pit throwing balls down under the soap that they had to dig around and fish out. For the kids (when we did it a month later) we simply filled up the pit and let them play.
The best thing about this soap foam pit idea is how easy it is to set up compared to how memorable and cool looking it is. So here is how you do it.
Set up tables in a 16×16 foot square (2 8 foot tables to a side)
For the kids version I staked down an 8 foot piece of floor board that I had cut to about a foot and a half so that the kids had an easier way into and out of the pit.
Cover the pit with a tarp (see the pictures).
Fill the pit with just enough water to coat the bottom to at most half and inch. You can do more if you want, but that should be enough. The reason why you want to put water in the pit is that it keeps it looking like you have foam longer. These easy homemade foam machines don’t put out as much as a big professional one and the foam disappears as people play in it so a nice covering of water helps the foam to spread out, and it is fun to play in too.
If you are doing the pit on grass and don’t mind your tables getting wet you don’t actually have to buy the tarp. The bubbles will sort of stick around in the square. If you are doing it this way I would suggest thinking about making the square smaller or adding a 4th bubble machine because of the disappearing factor.
Set up at least 2 (and I would suggest 3) foam making machines like you see in the youtube video (see link below).
I don’t know who that kid is in the video, but I sure am glad he came up with the idea. Basically all you need are some bungee cords, a towel, a trash can, and a shop vac that blows, not just suck. (You would be amazed how few people have these that go both ways, btw.) We just made an announcement in the bulletin and asked to borrow them.
You will need to start making the foam about 30 minutes before you plan to use it. Any earlier and it will disappear, any later and you won’t get the full effect that you are looking for.
Be sure to keep all of your electrical connections above ground and dry. We used card tables to get our shop vacs and plugs of the ground.
You will need to keep filling up the trash cans with water and bubbles. You may want to experiment before the big event just to be sure you know the optimal levels of each, and and what it looks like when it runs out of one or the other.
The youth loved the idea and having the game and competition helped break down some of the hesitation they would have had for jumping in. For children of course it was a blast. The parents had a good time standing and watching and taking pictures.
We also made a small pool of bubbles for the very little guys. We used a air mattress pump, a bucket, and a dish towel to create a mini effect.
I have been in a handyman type mood lately, don’t really know why, but I think that after years of making things on the computer I have this need to actually create something real and tangible. On top of that I have a job where the actual “results” of what I do are hard to see and quantify and are never really finished, so it is nice to make something and be able to say, look, it’s done.
So last weekend I thought that I would take on this project that I found when looking for the “Geek Dad” project book. If you check out the link and scroll down there is a video where the guy makes a sort of demolition derby for radio controlled cars using LEGOS as what you are destroying.
It turned out to be rather easy (I got to use a hot glue gun which always makes me happy) and lots of fun too. Me and my boys played it a few times and then we had some of my sons friends (and their fathers) over to the house to play a couple of times too. We have taken the “arena” up now, but the cars are still in the garage and they get crashed at least once a day.
Anyway, I kept thinking that this would work really well for a youth lesson. Possible hooks might include:
There are things in the world that are trying to tear us down as Christians
Sometimes the friends you choose can be destroying you more than building you up
Sometimes you can be hurting your friends when you should be building them up
Try to live at peace will all men because if you keep on biting and devouring each other you will be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:15)
If you get 4 cars (which is a little difficult because you want cheap cars so it may be hard to find 4 that are on different frequencies) it would up the destruction and allow more people to play.
In Ephesians 6:10-13 Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to put on spiritual armor because the day of evil is coming. He warns them that their struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against a spiritual foe. To this end he says to put on the full armor of God. This object lesson is a fun way to talk about the need to protect yourself. Some of the projectiles thrown won’t be very damaging, while some could be devastating. The same is true in our lives. Some attacks are easy to shrug off, but some could be devastating. That is why we need to put on the full armor of God.
Bonus stuff: Any time you get students working together it is a good thing. Add to that the fact that God is creative and we who are “in his image” are also creative and you have a pretty neat (albeit long) object lesson.
Make a 2 foot by 2 foot square on the floor. About 4 feet away place another square directly across from the first one. This will be the starting place for 2 teams. Add additional square pairs as needed. The picture here is of my set up.
How to Play:
Divide your group into teams. Optimal team size is probably 4-6. Groups will be working on 2 separate projects, building a wall, and building a catapult. So 4-6 allows teams to divide that work.
Pass out the materials and instructions to each team. Modify the rules as needed.
Give students around 20 minutes (maybe even longer) to create their walls and catapults
When everyone is finished groups that are across from each other take turns firing their catapults at their opponents structure.
Points are awarded as indicated on the instruction sheet
Get an adult volunteer to choose the best design awards.
Create a structure using only index cards and tape that can protect your mini-figs from being knocked over.
Create a device using the materials given (and the rules set up below) that can knock over the mini-fig of the opposing team.
You may only use the index cards and tape you were given.
You may not use ANY other building material
Other building material includes the structure being propped against anything or being supported by anything other than the floor.
Your building must be within your designated square
Your launcher must be made with the materials given.
You may use anything you were given to create your launcher, but you may not use anything else.
Your launcher must fire on it’s own power (you may not fling a spiked ball with a spoon in your hand for instance)
Your launcher must have a base that sits on the ground. You will not be allowed to hold your launcher in the air
You may stabilize your launcher when firing it, but it must stand on its own.
You must shoot from behind whatever walls your team has built
Tally up the total points after you have taken all 6 shots
Knocked down mini-fig 1000 Points
Knocking down part of the structure 500 Points
Knocking down part of your own structure -500 Points
Successfully firing spike ball over your wall 100 Points
BONUS: Best launcher design 1000 Points
BONUS: Best structure design 1000 Points
Team Name: ______________________________________________
Total Points: _______________________________________________
We did this tonight in our youth meeting. It took WAAAAAAY longer than I had planned, but everyone seemed excited about the process so I just cut the rest of the lesson short. This would be a great way to spend an extended time at a retreat or d-now weekend. We could have easily spent an hour crafting and firing these things.
You may want to build something yourself before the time starts. I had a catapult already built and that helped teams to get an idea of how to proceed and the general scope of the project.
I bought a bunch of plastic boxes from Dollar Tree to put the material in. I have been giving out lots of small bits lately and wanted something that I could reuse. I am surprised that no team used the box in their design.
If you can find sugar cubes I would suggest using those as building materials instead of the cards. I couldn’t find them anywhere around me. If you go with sugar cubes award 100 points for each cube knocked down.
I found the porcupine balls in the party favor section at Walmart. They were 6 for 97 cents.
You can probably get away with less stuff than in each box, but I wanted to be sure that the students had the materials needed to really pursue whatever idea they could come up with.
Games where you must go around and get signatures have been staples of youth ministry from back in the days when church were debating whether listening to Stryper made you a Satan worshiper. We opened our Dangerous Prayers retreat with a version of this game that looked at risky behaviors. Our setting was for youth and adults so there was a better chance at finding someone who had been in the service and as such had maybe been shot at.
I like using random trivia games to introduce a topic. My goal is to have questions that people who have some trivia knowledge can answer and some questions that are really just going to be guesses for most people. I typically do these type questions as screen games, but this week I tried to add an active component to our typical Trivia game. This is what I came up with.
Prepare 3 buckets for each team labeled A, B, and C.
Prepare 10 balls labeled 1-10 for each team (I used practice golf balls because I found them on sale)
Teams should consist of at least 2 people and no more than 10, so plan your buckets accordingly.
Place a piece of tape on the floor with enough space so that the teams can stand behind it.
Place the buckets arranged in A,B,C groups about 10 steps from the taped line. (You may want to practice tossing whatever ball you have into the buckets and adjust your distance depending on how hard or difficult you want it to be to make shots)
Place a 10 question quiz with multiple choice answers (A,B, or C) in a sealed envelope for each team.
How you Play:
Divide your group into teams (no more than 10 people/team)
Give teams the numbered balls (make sure they have numbers 1-10) and the sealed envelope with the quiz
Have teams pass out the balls to everyone in their group. If you have fewer than 10 people in a team then people would get multiple balls.
Once teams have a numbered ball they are not allowed to trade with others.
When you say go teams must open the envelopes and read the questions.
They will decide together as a group what is the answer to each question
Then the person who has that number ball will toss the ball into the teams choice of answer. (See play sample below)
If the ball misses a bucket or goes into the wrong bucket any person may retrieve the ball, but it must be thrown again by the person who was originally given the ball.
Players must stand behind the designated line to throw balls.
Give a set time limit (say 7 minutes because they must read the questions) for the game to be played
When time is called 1 point will be given for each ball in the appropriate bucket.
What we did was have teams rotate one space over and score the answer as I called them out. You can either call out which balls are supposed to be in which bucket (for instance in A you should have 3, 7, and 10) or you can go through each question and give the correct answer. I had students designate one person as the correct answer holder and one as the incorrect holder and they took the balls out of the buckets as we went over the answers.