I have written about using icebreakers before in a blog entry entitled Using Icebreakers Purposefully in Sunday School/Small Groups. Icebreakers serve some of the same purposes that “hooks” do with Bible study groups. My blog entry entitled Hooks: Launching Powerful Sunday School Lessons lists three from Glenn Brooke:
- Get their attention and interest.
- Generate expectations.
- Set up the key elements of the lesson to be relevant to the individual.
In addition to these purposes, icebreakers also provide some additional benefits. Consider the following list which is from a helpful blog entry by Grahame Knox (pictured above) entitled Breaking the Ice — Using Icebreakers in Small Groups. While the suggestions are directed toward youth, they also apply to adults. Nine of the reasons from Knox’s list are included and are in all capitals followed by my commentary. In some cases, “young people” has been changed to “people.” Knox says, “Icebreakers can enhance your teaching by helping to stimulate friendship, cooperation and participation. They can provide positive momentum for small group discussion and study” by:
- HELPING A NEW GROUP GET TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER. Until there are trusting relationships, there is very little indepth sharing. Icebreakers can help them talk about lighter, fun topics which make them more comfortable to begin getting to know one another. In fact, early in the group the icebreakers will likely be directed more toward fun, personal sharing.
- HELPING NEW MEMBERS TO INTEGRATE INTO A GROUP. The same applies when a guest or new member joins the group. Until they get to know the group and vice versa, discussion will tend to be more superficial. Icebreakers can help the guest/new member to know and trust those already attending and vice versa.
- HELPING PEOPLE FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE. In general, icebreakers help most people laugh, share, and feel at home with the group. When they feel more comfortable, they are more likely to ask questions and share concerns. They are more likely to learn and to change as a result of the experience.
- ENCOURAGING COOPERATION. Icebreakers are intended to be sharing experiences between individuals and the group or pairs, triads, or small groups. Some icebreakers lead participants to work together, to listen to one another, and/or report about the other(s) in the experience. This interaction, again, leads to greater relationships and trust.
- ENCOURAGING LISTENING TO OTHERS. Whether sharing something funny or personal, icebreakers pique interest and listening. Listening is a skill that can be learned and pays dividends in small groups and ensuing relationships.
- ENCOURAGING WORKING TOGETHER. Icebreakers require working together whether simply in listening, or listening to report about what the partner said, or working together to accomplish some simple task. This reinforces the cooperation, trust, and interaction.
- ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO BREAK OUT OF THEIR CLIQUES. Cliques form quickly. Icebreakers can help people to get to know new or other people in new ways. It can help people to branch out beyond those they know best. It can open up relationships in class and beyond.
- BUILDING RAPPORT WITH LEADERS. It is important that leaders participate in ic ebreakers as well. The group needs to trust the leader in order to follow the leader. In addition, the example of the leader in sharing and being transparent goes miles toward helping the group to be willing to do the same.
- CREATING A GOOD ATMOSPHERE FOR LEARNING AND PARTICIPATION. One of the great benefits of icebreakers is that everyone participates and shares. When everyone talks early in the group time, they are more likely to freely share later in the session, even on deeper subjects.
The blog entry by Knox offers some suggestions for icebreakers which could work with adult groups as well. He has written a second edition entitled Breaking More Ice — 10 More Icebreakers for Small Groups. Consider using them during Bible study sessions as well as during fellowship times. Don Bromley has listed thirty icebreakers in a helpful resource simply entitled Getting to Know You. Check it out. Consider how you can use icebreakers in your group. Be revolutionary!