We’re constantly being told that children and young people aren’t active enough, and in Christian youth work we should be concerned with the whole development of our youth group, not just the more obvious spiritual aspect. ‘Exercise’ can be a dirty word, but doing an activity together that is fun and challenging has all sorts of benefits for your group – building relationships, allowing space for discussion, as well as the obvious outcome of getting fitter together.
1. Go for a walk – start simple! It needn’t be a long country walk either, just a wander around the block can be a great way to spend time together. Feel free to turn it into a prayer walk, or to use it as a way to scout out places where your group can get involved in some social action, or simply use it as a change of scenery to allow for good conversation. Take it to a whole new level by going for a night hike, or heading out into local woodland or countryside.
2. Climbing. Doing something new and challenging is a great way to build relationships with your group. These days there are plenty of indoor climbing centres dotted around the country and lots of those will offer good value taster sessions, especially if you’re bringing a group. You’re pretty much guaranteed a great evening out, and you’ll have tons to talk about when you get home – faith, fear, trust… it’s all in there!
3. Capture the flag. Another free activity that just needs access to some local woodland. The competitive element of capture the flag, or similar wide games, will soon have member of your group up on their feet and running around. You can find rules for loads of different wide games at the scouting resources website and a useful best practice document at the scouts website.
4. Nerf Gun Battle. If you have access to a hall or to a church with moveable furniture then a Nerf Gun battle can be a stunning way to spend a few hours burning off calories with your youth group. Set up will take some time as you will want to create some kind of assault course around your venue with places to hide, room to run, and stuff to crawl under. Some members of your group are bound to want to help create this. Once you’re set up, split the group into two teams, or go for a everyone for themselves arrangement, and let mayhem commence. You’ll have to be ready to adjudicate, and you’ll need to decide how many hits someone has to sustain before they’re out, but all those kinds of rules can be worked out on the hoof… You may need to invest a small amount of money in Nerf guns for members of your group who don’t have access to one, but you’ll be running this activity time and again, so it’s money well spent. Plus Nerf guns are really very cool…
5. Couch to 5k. If you’re really committed to getting your group active, or you have a group of young people who are never going to join you for a traditional sit-down youth session, they why not sign yourselves up for a couch to 5k plan from the NHS. The couch to 5k plan aims to get anyone from the sofa to running a 5k race in just nine weeks, it’s simple to do and a really excellent way to get anybody active. Add in the goal of running a free parkrun together at the end of the plan and you’ve got the most fantastic activity to do together, heading towards a goal that will leave you all feeling on top of the world. If you want to take this really seriously you could sign up to the Leadership in Running Fitness award from Run England.
Don’t forget that you will need to do a risk assessment on any of these activities, and that if you take your group away off site then you must have parental consent.