Dead Sea Scrolls: A Socially Distant Youth Group Game

Following state safety guidelines, we have been able to meet with our small middle school youth group outdoors, with masks, for a short time (40 minutes). While it is wonderful to be able to see one another in-person, it has also been challenging to acknowledge how much has changed about youth group. 

“Catacombs,” a youth group game mashup of tag & hide and seek with an early Christian story is the favorite game of our youth group. Before COVID, we played it every week. 

Most youth groups have their favorite game: Romans and Christians. Judge. Sardines. Having served multiple churches, I can tell you that games are a revered tradition. Even when the history lesson isn’t accurate, It is best not to mess with them.

However, Catacombs doesn’t work in our outdoor space or allow for social distancing. Knowing the kids were disappointed about losing this tradition, I attempted to create a game that works within our space and safety guidelines. It needed to have the intriguing back story and involve running and chasing. Here’s what I came up with:

Dead Sea Scrolls 

This game has worked well the last two weeks and even generated lots of questions about the Bible and where it came from. Win!

You will need:

Pool noodles for the taggers

One or more pieces of paper rolled up like a scroll hidden in your play area

Options: Put the Bible verse of the day on the scroll as an intro to discussion time.


Have a leader explain the back story (below) and the rules.

  • The Essenes must collect the scrolls and bring them to safety in the caves (base).
  • Romans attempt to tag Essenes with pool noodles. If tagged, you must freeze and count to 40.
  • If a Roman tags an Essene holding the scroll, then that scroll is lost. If Romans get all the scrolls, they win. If the Essenes get the scrolls to the safety of the cave (base) they win.
  • Explain the game boundaries based on the area you can play in.


The ancient community of Essenes wrote down sacred stories and texts. They had to hide the scrolls in desert caves because the place they lived, Qumran was destroyed by the Romans. Shepherds found these scrolls in 1946- around 1900 years later. On these 900 scrolls are some of the oldest versions of what we have in the Bible we read today.

Today, you are the Essenes. Your task is to deliver these sacred scrolls to the safety of the caves.  (Youth group leaders) are the Romans coming to your village. You must first collect the scrolls, then deliver it to the cave/base. If you get tagged then you must sit down and count to 40.

The scroll(s)  are hidden somewhere, explain boundaries. Once you find the scroll, you must deliver it to the caves, name the location of the base. Only one person may touch it – you must be very stealthy. If the Romans tag the person with the scroll, that scroll is destroyed. The Romans win by destroying all the scrolls. The Essenes win by delivering them to safety. 

Ready, set, go.

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