Five Suggestions for Using Icebreakers Well in Sunday School/Small Groups

Thursday 15th November, 2007

I have written about the values and benefits of and reasons for using icebreakers previously: Nine Reasons to Use Icebreakers in Sunday School/Small Groups, Using Icebreakers Purposefully in Sunday School/Small Groups, and Hooks: Launching Powerful Sunday School Lessons. In Nine Reasons to Use Icebreakers in Sunday School/Small Groups, I shared material from a blog entry by Grahame Knox (pictured above) which focused on teenagers. It is entitled Breaking the Ice -- Using Icebreakers in Small Groups.

In that entry, Knox shares a "10 second checklist" for using icebreakers. That list contains an excellent set of suggestions for making use of icebreakers even more effective. Knox's suggestions are in all capitals followed by my commentary. When you use icebreakers, plan to incorporate these suggestions:

  • BE ENTHUSIASTIC, WHATEVER HAPPENS, BE ENTHUSIASTIC! Make sure you fully understand how to do the icebreaker. Your lack of confidence or hesitation will communicate volumes! Be excited and positive! Make it fun. Your leadership can make or break involvement in icebreakers!
  • CHOOSE VOLUNTEERS CAREFULLY AND DON'T CAUSE EMBARRASSMENT. One negative to asking for volunteers is that you get the same ones over and over. On the other hand, drafting people to participate or share verbally in front of the group can embarrass people (especially since the number one fear is public speaking). When possible, enlist personally in advance allowing individuals to decline if needed.
  • IF SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING, MOVE QUICKLY ON TO THE NEXT ACTIVITY. Watch and listen. You'll be able to tell by scanning the room. When an icebreaker is fast or flat, move on. Generally, the key is getting people talking. If the room is quiet, give additional instructions, finish the icebreaker, or move on to the next icebreaker or activity.
  • TIMING IS IMPORTANT. DON'T FLOG THEM TO DEATH.... FINISH EACH ICEBREAKER WHILE [THEY] ARE STILL ENJOYING IT. It is much better to move on at the peak of enjoyment. Leave them wanting more! This means generally it is better to be too short than too long. Squeeze as much excitement and conversation out of the icebreaker while avoiding the beginnings of boredom.
  • CHOOSE ICEBREAKERS APPROPRIATE TO YOUR [GROUP]. You know your group better than anyone. Be will ing to try new things, but remember what was flat. Consider their preferences and physical abilities when choosing icebreakers. Consider their needs and how the icebreaker might prepare for the learning experience to follow or how it might develop their relationships more deeply.

Along with these great suggestions, it does make a difference to consider the context in which the icebreaker will be used. What I mean is that you have different considerations when you are using the icebreaker during a fellowship time than you do when you are preparing the group for a Bible study experience. Whe n preparing for Bible study, icebreakers work best when they are connected in some way to the direction of the study.

Have you used icebreakers with your group? Share what you did and how it helped by pressing the Comments button below. If you have never used an icebrea ker, Don Bromley has written a list of icebreakers that you can choose from or might make you think of even better ones for your next Bible study or fellowship. The list is entitled Getting to Know You. Pray. Prepare. Use icebreakers well. Be revolutionary!

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