“I will have to admit that I use to play Angry Birds a little too much. But now I don’t have to feel bad about spending all that time glued to my iPhone last summer because it was all research and preparation for youth ministry!” -Eric McFarland
We wanted to create a life size game of Angry Birds and use that game to talk to our youth about anger in our lives and how we handle it. We knew we wanted to create some kind of giant slingshot for launching some kind of bird into some kind of brick wall to hit some kind of pig. We had several ideas, but we couldn’t get everything in order to make it work. Then, someone on our youth staff sent me the video that Shine put together. “Shine” is the middle school youth ministry at The Chapel in New York and they had come up with great ways to make it happen. So from what we learned from Shine and what we learned from our night of Angry Birds, here is what you need to play:
1. Angry Birds:
To make the Angry Birds you will need 7 playground balls (2 yellow, 2 red, and 3 blue), paint, brushes, and a simple image of the angry birds you get from doing a Google search. There is almost no artistic skills needed. Remember, these balls are going to be shot across your gym or youth area and most people won’t get a chance to critique your artwork as it is shot across the room. Get the textured 12-15 inch playground balls. Much larger than that and some younger youth might not be able to launch them. The smooth kind won’t hold the paint very well. If the balls get deflated, the paint will get cracked and fall off. Draw your simple bird face on the ball with a pen or marker. Then color in the basic white, tan, red, and blue areas. Let the balls dry for about 20 minutes, then use the black paint to trim out the areas. This is a great project for your youth leadership team. Three youth can do everything in about an hour. Let the balls dry overnight or longer if time allows and I know it will because you are doing this a few weeks before the event. We tried using much larger and lighter 24 inch balls, but they didn’t work as well.
To make the pigs, simply use green paper lanterns that can be found at novelty stores or on line. We purchased green lanterns from lunabazaar.com. They cost less than $3 each with shipping if you order early. If you wait until the week of your event, you will be paying high shipping prices. Save money, get them early. But since you are doing all of this at least two weeks in advance of your event, you won’t have to worry about that. Then do a google search for “Angry Birds pig face” and print off a nice face for your pigs. Also the youth ministers at middleschoolshine.com have some on their website for you to use. Just tape the faces on the pigs and you are ready to go. Some of our pigs got destroyed, but most were from youth stepping on them and not from the actual game. Get a few extra paper lanterns just in case.
We used a simple cargo net attached to four sets of bungee cords. We searched every auto parts store in the city and only found one for $65. Then we went to Wal-mart and found a large selection of them for $9 each. After the game the net was kind of torn up, but still usable. We purchased the bungee cords with the closable/locking ends so that we would lessen the chance of one of them coming off, flying back and hurting someone. They cost a little more, but at just $4 it was worth the price. We purchased 8 of them so that we could have 2 on each corner. Here’s what they look like:
We used portable basketball goals for the post, but you could use just about anything sturdy. We experimented with using people to hold the ends, but poles work better. Instead of using bungee cords you can also use exercise bands if you can find them cheap.
We priced boxes at our local office supply chains and moving stores but found them much cheaper at our local box manufacturer. Boxes that cost $10 at the big stores cost about $2 at the wholesale place. If you don’t have a local manufacturer in your area, you can order online and ship them to you in advance if you order early enough to use ground shipping. We ordered 50 boxes of different sizes and had too many. We could have probably gotten away with just 30 or 40, but with 50 everyone got a chance to put a box together and move it around. We had planned on taping them all closed, but found out that just putting them together and “locking” the lids worked better and was easier for the youth. Having the entire group working together with someone they didn’t know well to build the boxes was part of the process. We used boxes as small as 12x12x30 and as large as 48x48x60, but had 5 different sizes and shapes all together. After our game was over, everyone helped to take them apart, arrange them by size and bind them up with our bungee cords. They don’t take up as much space as you think when they are flat and are all stored in the back of a room for now, but they would fit in a large closet.
The Game and Lesson
We split into two teams and each team had the chance to build the castle and place the pigs while the other team got to launch the birds. After everyone had a chance to launch one bird (you could do more), the teams switched sides and repeated. The team that had made the castle and placed the pigs was in charge of returning the birds back to the launching team and that kept them busy. The launching team waited away from the slingshot in case a bungee broke. Launching more than one bird at a time was allowed, but it never worked well. Some of the younger youth needed some instruction in trajectory and help in launching. We gave a million points to the launching team for each pig knocked down and a million points for each pig that remained safe for the building team (points are free!). We let our teams build thicker walls, but next time we may make them only build a wall that is one box deep. Once your wall is 3 or 4 boxes deep, it is harder to knock down. We also had an iPhone connected to a sound system playing the Angry Birds music as we played. We played for less than an hour and stopped before most of the youth got tired of the game. We probably should have stopped after 45 minutes and left everyone wanting more.
After the game we talked about anger and several Bible verses that dealt with how we deal with anger. One of our volunteers purchased a small Angry Birds toys for every person that attended with our Bible verse written on the back. Most of the youth did not notice that our small Angry Birds they were given were actually cat toys. The cat toys were found at Wal-Mart for $2.99 for a pack of six. Hopefully it will help the youth remember our Bible study on Anger.
7 Balls $3 each $21
1 Net $9 each $9
8 Bungee Cords $4 each $32
16 Lanterns $3 each $48
50 Boxes $3 each $150*
1 Costume $40 $40
Total cost: $300
*with enough notice, you can also collect boxes from the congregation or local businesses and potentially save money here.
Our staff made sure that this youth ministry game can easily be stored, transported, and used by other churches. What a great way to share resources in your area. You can find the commercials that we made to advertise and videos of our Angry Birds game at www.youtube.com/NoelUMC.
Eric McFarland has been involved with youth ministry in the United Methodist Church for over 20 years and is always looking for new and unusual ways of connecting youth with Jesus. Eric is currently serving as the Interim Director of Youth Ministry at Noel UMC in Shreveport Louisiana and has served as the president of The Ministry Group (www.theministrygroup.com) helping connect churches and people in ministry since 2007. You can find him at facebook.com/ericmcfarland