One of the best small groups I was ever in was one where everyone talked freely. People jumped in without hesitation, adding their piece of the puzzle, so that our group reveled in discovering God’s truths together. But most groups are not naturally like that. People usually need help to feel comfortable enough to share. How do you set the tone, help people relax, and give some the courage they need to open up? Icebreakers!
Why does an icebreaker increase group participation? Well, take Andrea for instance. Andrea is a quiet, reflective person. When she first came to our group she was shy and would never push her way into a conversation. The icebreaker gave her permission to share and get used to hearing her voice in the group—just what introverts often need.
Once a person has shared something in a group on a surface level, he or she is much more likely to talk about deeper issues. People need to learn that your group is safe and accepting, that this is a place where they can know and be known. Giving people an opportunity to ease into sharing is vital to more open discussion.
Garry Poole, author of The Complete Book of Questions, says that questions “draw group participants into the dialogue—less outspoken individuals are coaxed out of their shells and more talkative types are reigned in to focus on the issue at hand. Asking great questions in a group setting is the quickest and easiest way to spark stimulating discussions.”
Five Features of Incredible Icebreakers
- They are low-key and non-threatening, never embarrassing!
- Everyone can answer the question.
- They coincide with the topic or passage being studied. For instance, when you study about Jesus quieting the storm on the lake, ask group members to share about a past boating experience.
- They allow people the freedom to pass if they don’t want to answer the question.
- They take no more than 15 minutes. This can be done in a small group if the leader models by going first and keeps the group on track.
What if your group knows each other well?
It’s still great to catch up with a question like, “What good thing has happened to you since we met?” or “Tell us a high and a low since we met.” Most people also enjoy laughing together over a fun question.
You never know where an icebreaker will lead, but icebreaker questions can enrich your group and your life!
Conversation Starters (Try these—even at home!)
- What’s something you’ve done that surprised even you?
- Of all the tools and gadgets you own, which one do you most enjoy using?
- What was an act of kindness you offered or received?
- How would you describe the perfect day?
- What is one lasting lesson you learned from your parents?
- What spells adventure for you?
(These conversation starters are borrowed from The Complete Book of Questions: 1,001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion, by Garry Poole.
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