Written by Mike Sheley

Winter and Christmas provide plenty of opportunities for traveling.

Whether we are talking about junior highers hopping in the family minivan to visit Grandma’s house or loading up in the church van for winter camp or a retreat, there will be plenty of time spent huddled together in small spaces.

Here’s a few apps, some fun technology tools, not just to pass the time, but to actually help junior highers enjoy the time on the road and maybe…just maybe…build some relationships with their family and friends.


Gabbit: Road Trip Edition

This app includes six conversation starters in one! For parents and youth leaders, it’s like an electronic version of Mad Libs! Or it’s like having that one student or leader who can always get everyone talking, even about the most random topics.

The makers of Gabbit describe the conversation categories as:

“Made Ya Think (thought-provoking & surprising facts), Seek & Say (look for things and then talk about them), Bad News/Good News, Fill-in-the-______, What’s for Dinner?, and Once Upon a Time (turn-taking storytelling).”

If you like this app, they also have other editions for family, youth and couples.


Rory’s Story Cubes

There are tons of fun games that you can play in the van, some that are just smaller versions of popular table games. But in a moving vehicle, small pieces are easy to lose. That’s true with dice like those in Rory’s Story Cubes…which is why this digital version is worth the small price tag for it’s portable, app version.

The description and instructions are simple:

“9 cubes, 54 images, over 10 million combinations and infinite stories. Shake to roll the cubes. Create a story using all 9 face-up images.

For about $2, you can purchase the app. For more flexibility and creativity, you can purchase other sets of dice to use or mix in for $1-2 each. There’s a built-in option to choose how many dice you use each time too, to make it simpler or more complex.

From young siblings who can’t even read to older teens, everyone in a junior higher’s family can participate with this app. Suddenly, you’ll find time flying by and this app coming out as a new family or ministry tradition!




Part of the fun of road trips are the pictures you take and share with others. However, whether you are a junior high ministry leader or the parent of a junior higher, finding a safe and fun way to share photos can be difficult. There is always at least one parent who doesn’t want their child on social media yet or one cousin in the same boat of the family of a junior higher.

Let Cluster come to the rescue. I found out about them as they also make a similar app being used by some of our local middle school teachers with students and families in their classes.

My junior high son loves this app! It works very similar to Instagram, without the social aspect. It’s private. So set up Cluster as the way students can post, tag and comment on pics during the trip to your winter retreat or conference. Create a separate one where you post pics to share with parents of the trip. I’ve even used this when I traveled and was away from my family. My wife and kids were able to not only interact with pictures I posted, but they also posted pics of things going on back home for me to see and interact with while I was away.

So whether you use these apps for yourself and your youth ministry with junior high students or pass these on to the parents of the junior highers in your ministry so they can use them over this winter break from school, we hope these free and low cost apps will brighten everyone’s Christmas and New Year!

Liked this blog post? You’ll also enjoy this one…

Photo Booth Fun Using Apps!


Mike is the Middle School Pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, where he oversees their ministries for 5th-8th graders.  He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 15 years with most of that time focused on preteens and junior highers.

Photo by limecools and used under a Creative Commons License from https://flic.kr/p/7BtVA