I've already posted articles on leading youth bible studies with ideas to promote discussion and participation. You can also download the eBook 'Creative Bible Study Methods for Youth Leaders.'
But even with creative discussion starters and teaching methods you may still need to break the ice! Do you have a new group of young people who don't know each other well, or they may be nervous about contributing to a discussion? This is where some carefully placed Icebreakers can get things moving and encourage interaction.
Icebreakers (and games in general) are no substitute for a prayerfully planned programme of discipleship, linked to opportunities for young people to live out and express their faith. BUT Icebreakers can enhance your teaching by helping to stimulate friendship, cooperation and participation. They can provide positive momentum for small group study and discussion by:
- Helping a new group get to know one another.
- Helping new members to integrate into a group.
- Helping young people feel comfortable together.
- Encouraging cooperation.
- Encouraging listening to others.
- Encouraging working together.
- Encouraging young people to break out of their cliques.
- Developing social skills.
- Building a rapport with leaders.
- Creating a good atmosphere for learning and participation.
WHY THESE ICEBREAKERS?
The 10 icebreakers which follow are some of my favourites and ones I've used successfully over the years. There's no point in writing down the ones which bombed – we've all been there! There are 7 'getting to know you' games and another 3 fun group games. They can all be used with a small group and across a wide age range. You will need very few props and they can easily be used in a home as they don't involve water, flour, bananas, shaving foam or ice cream. Those games will come later!
It's probably impossible to say who first thought up any of these games and they are constantly adapted by every generation of youth leaders. Most came to me by word of mouth from friends and colleagues, or seeing them in action. A couple even date back to when I was a spotty teenager in a youth group myself and on the receiving end!
ICEBREAKERS AND YOU – A 10 SECOND CHECKLIST
- Be enthusiastic, whatever happens, be enthusiastic!
- Choose volunteers carefully and don't cause embarrassment.
- If something is not working move quickly on to the next activity.
- Timing is important. Don't flog them to death. Use only 2 or 3 icebreakers as a 20-30 minutes introduction to your programme. Finish each icebreaker while to young people are still enjoying it.
- Choose icebreakers appropriate for your age group. No group is the same and your understanding of what will and will not work with your group is a core youth work skill.
THREE THINGS ABOUT ME
Ask everyone to write on a piece of paper THREE things about themselves which may not be known to the others in the group. Two are true and one is not. Taking turns they read out the three ‘facts’ about themselves and the rest of the group votes which are true and false. There are always surprises. Here are my three: I am 41 years old, I have a cat called Rufus, I was born in Sri Lanka. What do you think?
Divide the young people into pairs. Ask them to take three minutes to interview each other. Each interviewer has to find 3 interesting facts about their partner. Bring everyone back to together and ask everyone to present the 3 facts about their partner to the rest of the group. Watch the time on this one, keep it moving along.
Each person is given a sheet of paper with a series of instructions to follow. This is a good mixing game and conversation starter as each person must speak to everyone else. For example;
- Count the number of brown eyed boys in the room.
- Find out who has made the longest journey.
- Who has the most unusual hobby.
- Find the weirdest thing anyone has eaten.
- Who has had the most embarrassing experience.
- Who knows what 'Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia' is a fear of. Nearest guess wins.
If that's too easy you can try Arachibutyrophobia, Alektorophobia, Ephebiphobia or Anglophobia. (Answers at the end of the article!)
Ask the youth group to line up. Works best with 8-10 in a line. If you’ve got a bigger group, split them up and challenge each line to complete the task first. Ask the group to form a new line in order of….
- Height, from smallest to tallest.
- Birthdays, from January through to December.
- Shoe size, from smallest to largest.
- Alphabetical first names (A-Z).
- Alphabetical mothers first names.
- Alphabetical grandmother's first names!
- Anything else you think up.
MY NAME IS....
Go around the group and ask each young person to state his/her name and attach an adjective that not only describes a dominant characteristic, but also starts with the same letter of his name e.g. generous Grahame, dynamic Dave. Write them down and refer to them by this for the rest of the evening.
THE QUESTION WEB
You need to have a spool of string or wool for this game. Ask the young people to stand in a circle. Hold on to the end of the string and throw the ball/spool to one of the young people to catch. They then choose a question from 1-20 to answer. (A list of 20 sample questions is given below. Adapt for your group.) Holding the string they then throw it to another member of the group. Eventually this creates a web as well as learning some interesting things about each other! At the end of the game you could comment that we all played a part in creating this unique web and if one person was gone it would look different. In the same way it's important that we all take part to make the group what it is, unique and special.
- If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit?
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- If your house was burning down, what three objects would you try and save?
- If you could talk to any one person now living, who would it be and why?
- If you HAD to give up one of your senses (hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting) which would it be and why?
- If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
- Do you have a pet? If not, what sort of pet would you like?
- Name a gift you will never forget?
- Name one thing you really like about yourself?
- What's your favourite thing to do in the summer?
- Who's your favourite cartoon character, and why?
- Does your name have a special meaning and or were you named after someone special?
- What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
- If you are at a friend's or relative's house for dinner and you find a dead insect in your salad, what would you do?
- What was the best thing that happened to you this past week?
- If you had this week over again what would you do differently?
- What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about God?
- What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
- If you could ask Christ to change one problem in the world today, what would you like him to change?
- What book, movie or video have you seen/read recently you would recommend? Why?
Give each young person a simple worksheet with the following 'If' questions. Allow ten minutes to complete and then share the answers together in the larger group. The responses to the final question may prompt ideas for future discussion and teaching!
- If you could live in any period of history, when would it be? Why?
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
- If I gave you £10,000, what would you spend it on? Why?
- If you could change anything about yourself, what would you change? Why?
- If you could be someone else, who would you be? Why?
- If you could have any question answered, what would it be?
AROUND THE WORLD
The leader begins by saying the name of any country, city, river, ocean or mountain that can be found in an atlas. The young person next to him must then say another name that begins with the last letter of the word just given. Each person has a definite time limit (e.g. three seconds) and no names can be repeated. For example;
First person: London
Second Person: Niagara Falls
Third Person: Switzerland
The first player says: "I went to the supermarket to buy an Apple (or any other object you can buy in a supermarket that begins with an A). The next player repeats the sentence, including the "A" word and adds a "B" word. Each successive player recites the sentence with all the alphabet items, adding one of his own. For example; 'I went to the supermarket and bought an Apple, Banana, CD, dog food, envelopes, frozen fish'. It's not too hard to reach the end of the alphabet, usually with a little help! Mild panic can set in when ‘Q’ or ‘X’ approaches.
The leader starts a story with a sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. The next person then has to add to the story with his own sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. Continue the story until everyone has contributed. The story becomes crazier as each young person adds their sentence. Tape it and play it back. For example; 'Yesterday I went to the zoo and was passing the elephant enclosure when SUDDENLY.....'
YOUR PHOBIAS ANSWERED (and I’m not kidding!)
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - Fear of long words (not a giant hippo in sight!).
Arachibutyrophobia - Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. ( I think I might have this!)
Alektorophobia - Fear of chickens. (no McDonalds then!)
Ephebiphobia - Fear of teenagers (tough phobia for a youth worker!)
Anglophobia - Fear of England or English culture. (Be afraid, be very afraid!)
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