Youth Group Scavenger Hunt for Church: An Ultimate Guide

With any church scavenger hunt, there are many moving parts and logistics to manage. If you’re guiding the youth group through a scavenger hunt, you’ll need plenty of time for planning in advance. Luckily, we’ve created this guide to get you started.

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What is a Scavenger Hunt?

Scavenger hunts are a fun and interactive activity that can be enjoyed by students of all ages. It usually involves breaking into groups and searching for a pre-selected list of random items around the church or neighborhood. These hunts are a great way to get teenagers moving and exploring their community.

Scavenger hunts can also be used as a team-building activity or a way to bond as a group. If you are looking for a fun activity for your church youth group, a scavenger hunt is a great option. When done right, this game can foster exploration, adventure, and discovery.

How Do Scavenger Hunts for Youth Groups Work?

With any church scavenger hunt, there are many moving parts and logistics to manage. If you’re guiding the youth group through a scavenger hunt, you’ll need plenty of time for planning in advance. Luckily, we’ve created this guide to get you started.

10 Benefits of Scavenger Hunts for Youth Groups

1. Team Building

Because they involve breaking up into smaller groups (the size of which depends on how many kids you have participating), scavenger hunts are excellent at facilitating team building and teamwork. It forces a small group to work together and gives them a collective goal to work toward.

2. Problem-Solving Skills

To complete their list, a youth group needs to think critically about where to locate each item. Any decent scavenger hunt pushes teens towards solving puzzles and discovering new riddles. An atmosphere of competition makes this problem-solving fun and enjoyable.

3. Physical Exercise

Movement is an irreplaceable element of a scavenger hunt. The items needed to complete each list will be located around your church campus or within the community itself. This requires each group to walk or run from place to place toward their ultimate goal.

4. Learning Opportunities

Any scavenger hunt comes complete with a list of lessons to be learned. Communication, cooperation, and decision-making are all subtly packed into the excitement of the game. This allows kids to grow and develop while they’re having fun together.

5. Social Interaction

Teens in your youth group may have different levels of social interaction, so a scavenger hunt encourages everyone to participate. These hunts are not a solo activity—participating in a team is part and parcel of these games.

6. Boosts Confidence

Each item that gets found serves to boost the confidence of the group. Navigating through obstacles of searching builds tension that is released when the item is discovered. This simulates setting and achieving goals together, demonstrating how obstacles can be overcome.

7. Cultural Awareness

Working together in a small group naturally opens up awareness of different people. You can also amplify cultural awareness in how you select the list of items. Consider what a group of teens might learn by searching for specific items of cultural significance.

8. Encourages Responsibility and Leadership

Assembling in teams naturally encourages a youth leader to step up and guide the group. Leading a group through a scavenger hunt is a low-risk and attainable way to practice leadership skills. Split up your most outgoing students into different groups where they can assume responsibilities.

9. Fun and Enjoyment

Teaming up with friends and enjoying the thrill of the hunt are a few elements that make scavenger hunts a fun experience for students. Despite all the other elements we’ve discussed, don’t lose sight of the fact that this is meant to create good times and memories for teens!

10. Alignment with Goals and Values

To reach the finish line, every group must work together and reach a collective goal. Competing against different groups pushes them to focus on achieving each task collectively. The goal is clear, but the path to get there is something they must discover for themselves.

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Planning Your Scavenger Hunt

Choose an Appropriate Theme

Planning a scavenger hunt begins by selecting a relevant theme. Theme selection and creativity require comprehensive planning and organization. Is there a commonality that the items to be found share? They might be relevant to a specific season or spiritually significant items found throughout the church. Use this theme to find a relevant name for the event.

Decide on the Rules and Prizes

Each scavenger hunt has the same basic rules, but you need to get specific. What is the time limit for the hunt? Can teams leave the church campus? Are they allowed to call friends for help? These are guidelines you must consider. Even more important to consider is the prize selection and distribution. Small items, gift cards, or food are all popular options.

Make a List of Items to Gather or Activities to Complete

The core of each scavenger hunt is the list of things to collect. The number and scarcity of this list will determine how difficult the list is to complete. Decide if the students must complete the entire list or just a certain percentage. Think about this carefully, and ensure that they’ll be able to locate the items, or else they’ll get frustrated.

Designate a Person Responsible for the Hunt

To run smoothly, your hunt will need someone responsible for overseeing everything. Since you’re reading this guide, that person is likely you. This person is the one to organize clues and challenges, instruct the group on the rules, and make sure that they’re followed.

Create Clues or Instructions for the Hunt

Depending on the complexity of your list, the groups might need some hints or clues about where items might be found. For example, if an item is altar candles you could suggest that they’re found in the same place where the ushers work—possibly the church usher’s closet. An important rule to consider is whether or not the students are allowed to keep their phones during the hunt.

During the Scavenger Hunt

Provide Directions and Time Limits to Participants

Start by gathering at the starting point and reading the directions to everyone. Remind them of the guidelines and time limit for the hunt. Count heads to make sure everyone is accounted for. Then you can kick off the hunt—maybe with a fun sound effect like a gong or air horn.

Assign Teams and Assign Leaders to Each Team

Organizing the students into the right groups is an important step to make the activity successful. Part of this is assigning an adult leader to each team. This helps ensure rules are followed and gives a lucky adult volunteer the chance to engage with the youth. Team building and collaboration are both goals for ensuring fun and engagement through the activities.

Monitor Activity Throughout The Hunt

While the hunt is happening, spend the time wandering around and checking on each team’s progress. They’ll be hard at work deciphering cryptic messages, so you might offer a helpful clue if they seem stuck. Encourage their progress to keep the game fun and fair.

After the Scavenger Hunt

Have Participants Reconvene at a Designated Place

At the start of the game, set a clear finish line to gather once each list is complete. This could be the same as the starting point or a different place, such as the church’s youth room. This is where the final judge stands to check each list and make sure all of the correct items have been found.

Award Prizes and Celebrate with Team Pictures

Once all groups have finished, wrap up with a short and fun award ceremony. You can recognize the winning team, and potentially hand out other funny prizes like most enthusiastic or most competitive. Take photos of each team to commemorate the event. You can even take candid photos during the game to show everyone participating in a team.

How to Organize a Scavenger Hunt

Determine the Purpose and Theme

Set the theme of your scavenger hunt to help determine the list of items. A few ideas for potential church scavenger hunt themes could include:

  • Holiday (eg. Christmas or Halloween)
  • Bible verses
  • Local landmarks
  • Church history
  • Bible characters
  • Sports
  • Pop culture

Select the Location

Where the teens will be hunting is an important consideration, too. Take time to explore the location and make sure it’s safe and permissible to host the event there. Potential locations where you could host the scavenger hunt include:

  • Your church campus
  • A public park or zoo
  • Community center
  • A neighborhood
  • Nearby shopping mall
  • A local library or museum

Divide into Teams

Selecting the right groups is vital to get the teens to challenge each other and collaborate with team members. Divide the overall number of participants into even groups to make everything fair. Keep each team to between four and eight members so no group is too big. Aim for a mixture of personalities so the students have a variety of strengths and perspectives.

Design Clues and Challenges

Take the time to compile your list of items to be collected. Following the clues and solving the puzzle takes up most of the game, so you should compile this list with that in mind. Be sure to have backup clues for each item in case a group doesn’t understand the first one.

Set Boundaries and Rules

To keep the game fun and keep everyone safe, the rules will need to be clear and enforced. Adult volunteers help to watch each group in observing the rules. A few rules to consider include:

  • Stay together as a group. No team member left behind!
  • No leaving the designated location.
  • No stealing an item from another team.
  • No excessive running, especially racing against another group.
  • Have fun! The point of the game is to enjoy it. 

Prepare a Map or Guide

Depending on your location, it could be helpful to give everyone a map. This guides each team and gives them hints as to where an item could be hiding. If you have permission, it might be fun to place obstacles in the way, like you’re designing an adventurous course.

Place Clues or Station Volunteers

The game won’t be any fun if the items can’t be found, or the clues are too hard. So set the items out in advance, but not somewhere that they could be taken by someone not participating in the game. Positioning adults at certain places in the path can help with directing the participants and leading the way to the next clue.

Provide Instructions

The rules and clues keep the game running smoothly and keep all participants safe. Remember that it’s the role of the person in charge for instructing on the rules. Print off a sheet of paper instructions (and keep it to a single page) for each team to keep with them as a helpful reminder. 

Monitor Progress

Spend time recording the progress of each team. This can be informal since officially announcing each step would be unnecessarily time-consuming. But watching each team and checking in with the adult volunteers helps you gauge how the game is going. 

Plan a Conclusion

If you hope to make the experience fun, you’ll need to celebrate the victory. That’s not just for the winning team, but for each team who participated. Plan out a closing ceremony and begin to enact this once the first team begins hunting for the final clue.

Ensure Safety

Fun is important, but it should never come at the expense of implementing safety measures and guidelines. That’s why rules and adult volunteers are needed. Here are some safety tips:

  • Plan out the rules and enforce them.
  • Scout out the site in advance.
  • Give each adult volunteer a walkie-talkie for communication.
  • Know any health conditions of all students.
  • Have contingency plans in case of an injury or incident.
  • Get signed waivers from the parents of all students.

Consider Special Needs

To make your game inclusive for all students, be sure to take into consideration any special needs students. Are all clues accessible for students in wheelchairs or with crutches? Are the clues appropriate for any students with learning disabilities? The goal is to make these teens feel included. 

FAQs

How can I ensure that the scavenger hunt is suitable for different age groups within the youth group?

Create different levels of difficulty for the clues and items to be collected. Use age-appropriate language and concepts in the clues. Choose items that are relevant to the interests of the different age groups. Provide adult supervision for younger children.

What safety precautions should be taken when organizing an outdoor scavenger hunt?

Check the weather to see if rain or excessive heat is in the forecast. Remind students to dress properly for rain or sun. Come prepared with items like sunscreen or bug spray to share as needed. Scout out the area to make sure there’s no dangerous terrain. Hide items in areas where they’ll be accessible and protected.

What materials or resources will we need to set up a scavenger hunt?

Here’s a list of items that you should consider securing as you plan your scavenger hunt:

  • Items to be collected
  • Clues and instructions
  • A map or guide
  • Adult volunteers
  • Walkie-talkies
  • A prize for the winning team(s)
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