One of the most encouraging things I’ve found for the youth is to do “encouragement plates.” It’s very simple, fun, and has a major impact.
All you need is paper plates, duct tape, and pencils. Each teen gets a plate taped to their back and must go around to other teens and write something they like about him or her. I try to discourage generic comments. Each teen should write something on everyone else’s back. It’s fun because you get in chains and have lots of laughs over the awkwardness of it all. By the end of the night, don’t be surprised if you have tears from people who were moved by what was written about them.
Like many churches, we don’t have a gym, only a large “fellowship hall.” At each end of the room we set up a large trash can near the wall. Once the can is in place, you put an arc of chairs around it, making a 3 point line of sorts. Divide the group into two teams. Each team starts on their half of the room with a ball. The object of the game is to get your ball into your trash can. The only complications are, 1) you can not run with the ball, 2) you can not dribble the ball, 3) the ball can be taken from you without warning. We basically play no blood, no foul, so it gets physical. However, since you can always the throw the ball to a teammate, and there are plenty of people on the court, unathletic kids aren’t intimidated by it. A team must shoot the ball from behind the arc of chairs. If they miss or make it, a defender gets to go in the arc and throw the ball to one of their teammates. Otherwise, neither team can go into the arc. It’s a wonderful, fast-paced game that all of our kids enjoy playing.