The End of Winter Icebreakers

Although it may be difficult to believe (especially in some parts of the country today), the last “official” day of winter is this week!

As we bid farewell to a rather cold season, here are a few icebreaker questions you can use in your small group to get the conversation going”

1. What are you going to miss most about winter?

2. When it’s warm enough, what are you looking forward to doing outdoors? Who first did this with you and why do you think this thing is so fun for you?

3. Which of the following did your family do to pass time during the winter months? Who normally initiated it?

______ Play board games

______ Watch movies

______ Wrestle

______ Sing

______ Play cards

______ Other: _______________

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

Icebreakers and Object Lessons

Do you remember object lessons? That’s when a teacher or facilitator uses a physical object to help make a point or clarify a potentially complicated idea. For example, when I teach about our need to cut sinful behaviors out of our lives, I’ll often hold up a pair of scissors to illustrate the point. Usually, I’ll even ask group members to pass the scissors around during the discussion, simply as a way of enhancing their experience.

Recently, I’ve noticed that many small group leaders choose to turn their noses up at the idea of using object lessons in their groups. They feel like such tactics would be childish—probably because object lessons are in fact a great way to teach small children, which is why our teachers often used them back in school.

What’s interesting is that many creative and engaging pastors have warmed to the idea of using object lessons in their sermons within the past decade. One of my favorite examples involves Francis Chan demonstrating how to eat a Snickers® bar “for the glory of God.”

So what about small groups? I firmly believe that object lessons are a great tool for small group discussions. This is especially true when you have group members who lean toward a more hands-on learning style, which includes a large number of men.

With that in mind, here are a couple helpful examples of how to use object lessons in your group.

Blueprint for Success
Make an impression in your group by getting your hands on an official set of blueprints. You may be able to borrow a set from someone who works in the construction or engineering industries or from any entity that’s paid for a construction project—perhaps even your church. If you can’t find an official set of blueprints, there are plenty of templates available online. (Start here, for example.)

Once you have some blueprints, you can use them to supplement the group experience for a number of themes, including the following:

  • Jesus as the Cornerstone or Capstone of the church.
  • Building your life on the Rock, as opposed to the sand.
  • The importance of making plans in life—or in aligning your life with God’s plans.
  • The importance of counting the cost when it comes to following Christ.
  • And so on.

With any of these themes, simply pass the blueprints around as a way to visually emphasize the importance of planning, building on proper foundations, counting the cost, and more.

Connecting Your Group
Here’s another idea that can serve as an interesting way to remind group members about the connection they share. Start by bringing a long extension cord (at least 25 feet, if possible) to the group meeting. Remind everyone that prayer allows us to “plug in” and gain access to God and His power. Then, direct participants to pass the extension cord around the group so that everyone can take hold of it at the same time.

When participants are linked together by the extension cord, lead the group in an extended time of prayer. Be sure to include both praise and thanksgiving to God, as well as a time of intercession where group members share needs and pray for one another.

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders.

Winter Icebreakers

I’m sure many of you are about ready to bid farewell to winter, with the unusually cold season that we’ve experienced! Here are some questions you can use in your small group to get the conversation going.

1) We’re in the middle of winter. If you could go anywhere to get away from the cold, where would you go and what would you want to do most when you arrived there?

2) Which of the following would you like to do most to get away from the cold? Why does that location resonate with you?

_____ Go on a Caribbean cruise.

_____ Go camping in Florida.

_____ Sit in front of a five foot tall fireplace at a Colorado ski resort.

_____ Read a book or watch a movie at my own house under a pile of very warm blankets.

_____ Other: ______________________________________________________________________________

3) Winter ends in a few weeks. What is your fondest memory from this winter?

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

Feeling “Happy” Icebreakers

Are you feeling happy? Yes, I know it’s February, and many people around the country are still locked in the cold grip of winter—not to mention that encountering sunshine is a rare treat if you go to work early or come home late.

But don’t lose heart. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Spring is around the corner! New things are coming soon, if we can just hold on a little longer.

With that in mind, here are a couple icebreaker activities designed to give your group members a reason to smile.

Joyful Moments
Help members connect with the concepts of joy and happiness by playing a video clip of someone experiencing a moment of extreme joy. Such a clip doesn’t need to be overly complicated—just an example of someone experiencing a moment of more-than-usual happiness.

For example, you could play the clip of Rocky Balboa running through the streets of Philadelphia and triumphantly finishing his workout by sprinting up the steps of the Museum of Art.

After you’ve played the video clip (or a few clips, if you’ve got the time), use the following questions to unpack the experience:

  • When was the last time you felt that happy?
  • What kinds of experiences generally help you feel joyful?
  • How would you describe the proper role of happiness in the Christian life?

Joyful Noise
Consider using the technique known as “concert prayer” as a way of adding some diversity to your group’s prayer life. This method involves the entire group praying out loud and at the same time, which produces a collective “joyful noise” directed to God, rather than individual expressions of supplication and praise.

Begin by explaining to the group that you’d like to try a different form of prayer. If this is your group’s first time with something like concert prayer, it’s best to give participants a specific theme for the prayer. For example: “Let’s spend a few moments praising God for the different blessings we’ve experienced this week.” Or, “Let’s take some time to pray specifically for our friends and family members who are in need of salvation.”

After you’ve explained the prayer theme, tell the group that you’d like everyone to pray out loud—and that you’d like everyone to pray at the same time. Give them the goal of creating a unified expression of prayer from the entire group, rather than having each person express themselves one at a time. Also, be sure to explain that you will conclude the prayer at the proper time.

All that’s left is for you to say, “Go.” Group members may be hesitant at first, but give them time. As more and more people pray together, everyone will gain confidence. Once the prayer begins to fade out, you can close by thanking God on behalf of the group.

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders.

President’s Day Icebreakers

Here are some quick icebreakers you can use with your small group this week in honor of President’s Day!

1. Today is President’s Day (or “Monday was President’s Day,” depending on when your group meets). If you were president, which of the following issues would you be most passionate about? Why do you think this issue resonates with you more than the others?

______ World Hunger
______ Homelessness
______ Human Trafficking
______ Child Prostitution

2. Which of the following person was the President of the United States when you were in high school? What was something you did during that president’s term of service that would have embarrassed him had you been his son or daughter?

Herbert Hoover: 1929-1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt: 1933-1945
Harry S Truman: 1945-1953
Dwight D. Eisenhower: 1953-1961
John F. Kennedy: 1961-1963
Lyndon B. Johnson: 1961-1963
Richard Nixon: 1963-1969
Gerald Ford: 1969-1977
Jimmy Carter: 1977-1981
Ronald Reagan: 1981-1989
George Bush: 1989-1993
Bill Clinton: 1993-2001
George W. Bush: 2001-2009
Barack Obama: 2009-present

3. If you were the President of the United States and you had someone to cater to your every whim, which of the following would you like the most? Why did you choose that one?

_____ A personal chef.
_____ A house cleaner.
_____ To play golf with Tiger Woods.
_____ A driver to drive me places.
_____ Other:

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

Sports Icebreakers

The NFL playoffs are forging ahead, with the Super Bowl just a few weeks away. And while I’m a big fan of football, I often feel kind of low this time of year. That’s because I know the football season is coming to an end—and it won’t be back again for six long months.

Fortunately, this year I won’t have to stay in the sporting mix by watching baseball (ugh) or even hockey (gasp!). That’s because the Sochi Olympics will kick off in February. I get to cheer for America!

In honor of the world’s two biggest sporting events happening in the same month, here are two “sporty” icebreaker activities to use with your small group.

You Be the Judge

Use a laptop or tablet to play video clips from past Olympic events in which participants are graded by judges—gymnastics, high dive, figure skating, and so on. Here’s the fun part: stop the clip after each athlete performs and encourage your group members to grade the performance before the official score is revealed.

If time allows, use the following questions to unpack this experience with your group:

  • How does it make you feel to be graded or evaluated? Why?
  • In what areas of your life would you earn the highest scores?

Toss the Pigskin

In recognition of the Super Bowl, bring a football to your next group meeting—either a soft Nerf ball or a regular leather football. Explain to your group members that the person who is holding the football is the only person allowed to talk during the discussion. Once a person has shared, he or she can toss the football to the next person who wants to talk, and so on.

Note: This is a very helpful activity for new groups because it helps group members get used to the rhythm of talking and listening during a discussion. It’s also a great way to include hands-on (kinesthetic) learners, who will appreciate tossing and catching the ball.

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders.

More New Year Icebreakers

A new year sometimes means a new small group for some churches! Here are some questions you can use to get the dialogue going:

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This is the season of new beginnings. What one thing do you want to accomplish this year more than any other? Why is that accomplishment so important to you?

If you could wave a magic wand and get a redo on one thing you did last year, what would that be?

What time did you go to bed New Year’s Eve? What did you do that caused you to end up going to bed at that time?

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

New Year Icebreakers

Recently we posted a couple icebreaker activities that are handcrafted for the Christmas season. There’s still time to use them if your group hasn’t taken a break for the holidays.

If you’re off until the New Year, however, we don’t want to leave you hanging. Therefore, here are two more icebreaker activities that are specially designed to enhance your first small-group gatherings of 2014.

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One-of-a-Kind Goals

Print out descriptions of rare or one-of-a-kind items from Sotheby’s or another auction house. Choose five or so that you find interesting. Display these items around the room before group members arrive. (If you’re meeting in a location where this wouldn’t be possible, hand out the images and descriptions at the beginning of the activity and instruct group members to pass them around.)

Once everyone has had a good look at each item, use the following questions to unpack the experience:

  • Which of these items best represents your goals for 2014? Why?
  • How confident do you feel about achieving your goals this year?

Pencil It In

Before the group meeting, purchase or collect a wall calendar for each of your group members. Distribute the calendars at the beginning of your group meeting. Explain that people usually prioritize what they value—and that you’d like for everyone involved in your group to value that experience.

In order to confirm the group as a priority, spend 10-15 minutes brainstorming different options for group meetings, service projects, social gatherings, and other group functions. Help your group get excited about their potential experiences together in the coming months.

To conclude the activity, ask participants to fill out their calendars with whichever events have been planned.

Note: It’s probably not reasonable for your group to plan a year’s worth of activities in just 10-15 minutes. But see if you can get through the next quarter, at least, as a way of building momentum for your community.

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders.

Christmas Icebreakers

With Christmas just a few weeks away, here are some more fun icebreakers you can use with your small group! Merry Christmas!

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  • Christmas is almost here. What one responsibility do you dread having to take care of the most?  Why?
  • Which of the following TV shows best describes how you feel about the holiday season? Explain.

_____ Hostages. If I could escape, I would.

_____ The Amazing Race. This is exhausting.

_____ Seinfeld. It’s all about nothing.

_____ The Waltons. It’s all about family

_____ Other: _______________________________________________

  • Which of the following Christmas specials best describes how you felt about Christmas when you were a kid? Why?

____ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I needed a hero.

____ The Little Drummer Boy. I just wanted to worship Jesus.

____ A Christmas Carol. I was kinda scroogy.

____ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Don’t let anything happen to my presents!

____ Other: _____________________________________

Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual and A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.

The Meaning of Christmas & Santa the Influencer

It’s December, which means your small group meetings will probably have a holiday feel for the next few weeks. Here are two Christmas-themed icebreaker activities designed to help you take advantage of the season.

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The Meaning of Christmas?

Supplies needed: Recent magazines and newspapers.

Bring several new magazines and newspaper pages to the group meeting, then distribute them to your group members to begin the discussion. Encourage everyone to look through their periodical and identify the different messages our culture attaches to the Christmas season.

When everyone has looked for 3-5 minutes, encourage people to share what they find interesting or informative about our culture’s view of Christmas.

Note: Do your best to bring magazines and newspaper material that don’t contain offensive or inappropriate content.

Santa the Influencer

Supplies needed: A whiteboard or large sheet of paper to record a list.

Begin the group discussion by asking participants to work together and make a list of fictional characters who have had the biggest influence on American culture. Provide an example by placing Santa Claus at the top of the list.

Once the group has a list of 10-15 characters, use the following questions to unpack the activity:

  • Who would you label as the most influential fictional character on this list? Why?
  • What are some common characteristics about these characters?
  • What do these characters teach us about our culture?

Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at LifeWay. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church—especially in the context of small group communities. Sam is also the author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders.