by Theron Cosgrave
I have a love-hate relationship with icebreakers.
On the one hand, I genuinely enjoy activities that engage people and get them talking with each other. I've seen icebreakers melt the coldest hearts and ease the awkwardness that comes with new people and new situations. However, I wince whenever I'm handed a "personal bingo" sheet. And no, I don't know what superhero I wish to be.
As small group leaders, how can we take the best of what these activities have to offer and avoid the cringe factor? Here is some advice for how your small group can learn to love icebreakers:
The Why: Have a Purpose
Before you decide to use an icebreaker, be clear on your intentions. While icebreakers are most commonly used to help new groups interact or help introduce new members to existing groups, the best activities have an intentional connection to the topic of the group meeting. For example, an icebreaker question about the best gift you've ever given might lead off the meeting that the group looked at the nativity story.
The When: Pick Your Spots
Be thoughtful about how often to use icebreaker activities. These activities are most needed early in the group development cycle, and are also effective when new members are added to the group. Groups can tire of icebreakers, so keep things interesting by using them intermittently.
The Who: Consider Your Members
As you are determining what to do, think about who is in your group and what types of activities are appropriate for your members. Some icebreakers are clearly designed for youth, and might not go over very well with an adult group. And while the intent of most icebreakers is to move people beyond their comfort zone, be sensitive to the needs of all your members.
The What: Select the Right Activity
OK, so you're sold - what should you do? Here are a few idea resources that resulted from a quick web search:
Grahame Knox, a UK Christian youth leader has compiled a great resource called "Forty Icebreakers for Small Groups." While many of the activities are geared towards teens, you can easily adapt them for any age group.
Christianity Today's "Small Groups.com" website has a list of icebreaker activities geared for almost any age group. Some activities include feedback from leaders who have tried them.
Campus Crusade for Christ's "Godsquad" website includes a good list of activities as well.
Our Challenge To You:
The positive energy generated by a fun and worthwhile icebreaker activity can increase participant focus and engagement throughout your small group meeting. Lead an icebreaker with your group this week!