25 Church Small Group Icebreakers and Activities
Want to go a little deeper with your small group icebreakers? What sets these ideas apart is they work to create community in your group. Whether it’s by helping your members know each other better by learning names, sharing information or discovering new passages in the Bible, these ice breakers will help you go to that next level with your group.
For Team Building
- Bible Squeeze Relay. Have participants get into two teams, form a line and hold hands. Starting with the first person, the team must pass a hand squeeze down the line. When the last person in line gets the squeeze, that person runs to the front of the line and looks up a pre-determined verse and reads it out loud to their group. When that person finishes, they start the squeeze and the relay continues.
- Photo Scavenger Hunt. Divide into groups with at least three people who have phones. The leader will call out picture categories, and the first team to locate a photo that matches on their phone must show the judge at the front of the room. Categories can include: pictures of feet, someone in a cap and gown, a person on a bike, the family dog or cat, a picture at the beach, picture of food, crazy Christmas clothes, etc.
- Team Balloon Race. Good for a slightly larger group — with teams of 10 or more. Have participants stand in a line and place an inflated balloon between them and the next person (stomach/chest level is best) so that the entire team is lined up with the balloons wedged between them. Make a finish line some distance down the room. The group has to move in unison toward the finish line without dropping any balloons or they have to start over. The first team to reach the finish line and burst all the balloons together wins.
- Bible Brains. Beforehand, compile a list made of 10 Bible characters or 10 well-known Bible stories. Divide into two groups and give each a die, paper and pencil and some Play-Doh. Set the timer for five minutes. One person from each team comes to the leader for the first word, returns to the team and rolls the die: one or two means they have to sculpt the word or story, three or four means they have to act out the word or story and five or six means they have to draw the word or story. (Have this written on a poster board as a guide). It continues until time runs out. The team who successfully guesses the most words or Bible stories wins.
- Twizzler Tie Up. Form groups of two and hand participants 10 Twizzlers (make sure they are fresh). The goal for each team is to tie the Twizzler into a knot. The catch is that although they work together as a team, each participant can only use one hand. The first team to tie up all 10 is the Twizzler-tying champ!
- Virtual Time Capsule. Divide people into teams of five and give them a large piece of paper and some markers. Have them draw or write words of 20 things they would want in a time capsule that would show people in the future what was important to them. Have them share this with the group.
- Life Verse. Students often choose a verse from the Bible that represents their goals or purpose and call it their "life verse." What if that verse was randomly chosen for participants — for fun, of course! Have group members pair up, with one person holding a Bible while their partner, without looking, opens it and points to a random place on the page. Read aloud to see if they got a funny or thoughtful one as this random "life verse" is shared.
- Find One in Five. Give your group five seconds to find one person who has something in common with them, but make it something unusual like a place they have traveled. Once they find someone, they yell, “FOUND ONE!” Then do it again, but they must find two people, and so on. Other questions: Find someone who has as many siblings as you, someone whose middle name starts with the same letter, someone whose mom's name is the same as your mom's name.
- Team Shape Shifting. Divide into two groups facing each other. Give a set amount of time for Team A to observe Team B. Have Team B leave the room and change noticeable things (they can't put something in a back pocket, for example). Team B returns and Team A has 30 seconds to find the 10 changes. A couple of silly props like a rubber fish sticking out of someone's pocket or a fake spider in someone's hair are fun additions to this icebreaker.
- Matchy, Matchy — Bible Version. Write out Bible references (like John 3:16) on one sticky note and the verse written out on the other and post them around the room all mixed up. Have participants work in teams to match the Bible verse with its reference.
Schedule weekly snack sign ups with a sign up! SAMPLE
For Learning Names
- Bible Name Blitz. Give participants one minute to write down Biblical characters whose names start with the same letter as their own. The person with the most (correct) wins.
- Fact or Fiction? The Story Behind My Name. Parents often share with their children the "story" behind their names. Give members the chance — either with the large group or divided into smaller groups — to tell the story behind their name or they can make one up. Groups can vote if the story sounds like fact or fiction. This can also be done with middle names.
- Polite Pass. Try this when you first meet. Use a large ball and circle up. Have participants throw the ball to each other but the catch — pun intended — is to have the person who catches the ball say, "thank you, ___ (thrower's name) and the person who threw the ball replies with, "You're welcome, ___ (catcher's name). Go slowly at first to learn names and then pick up the pace in a speed round.
- What-On-Earth Name Tags. Each group member gets a piece of construction paper, a marker and a piece of tape. Give people a chance to tear their paper into the shape of something that is interesting about them (the state where they were born, their favorite animal, a country they want to travel, etc.). Have them write their name in the center and then present their nametag to the group. "No, this isn't a banana, it's supposed to be Florida, where I was born!" Wear the nametag all night.
- Shark Attack. This one is great for a youth group. Have participants start quietly "swimming" around. At the leader's signal, students get into a "school" of three. If there are any lone fish, the shark swims up, has the fish introduce themselves and then the fish fake a horrible death. Fish in groups of three have one minute to introduce themselves to each other. Start again, but change the number of fish required to form a group. Keep going until only one survivor remains.
- My Better Half. Write out well-known pairs on tape or name tags and as people arrive put one half of the pair on each person and give them the task of finding the other half of their pair (mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, etc.). Have them introduce themselves and find out something interesting about each other. Have pairs get in groups of six and introduce their "better half."
- Matchy Matchy — Name Version. Have participants take two sticky notes and write their name on one, with three little-known facts about themselves on the other. Stick these around the rooms, names separated from the facts. When you say go, people try to match up (other peoples!) names to facts and see how many they can get right.
- Name Times Five. Group four to six group members by giving them a lettered three-by-five inch card — mixed up so the groups are random — when they come in the door. Have them get in their letter group and interview the person next to them and write down the information on the card. They have 30 seconds to introduce their partner and have to use their name five times during the introduction (But they can't say, “Jane, Jane, Jane, she is so nice.”)
Plan a small group potluck with a sign up! SAMPLE
For Sharing Information
- Speed Chat. You’ll need a timer, a buzzer and a list of questions. Make two circles, one inside the other. The inner circle will move, and the outer circle will stay stationary. Participants have a designated amount of time to chat about the Biblical topic called out by the leader. When the buzzer sounds, the inner circle moves one person to the right. For large groups, you may need to split the group up so the circles aren't too big.
- What App Is That? Divide the group into teams. Call out some unique smartphone apps and see who has them. Create categories, such as most photo-sharing accounts, productivity apps or games or weirdest app. Create a rule where you have to stand or do something silly (i.e. place thumb to chin or stick out tongue) when you have a certain app.
- Conversation Stack. Line up members from shortest to tallest and then pair them with a neighbor and have a stack of three to five questions that they need answered, going from general to more specific. Have pairs trade stacks with other pairs to keep the conversation flowing. Genius tip: Try these 100 getting-to-know you questions.
- Paper Caper. Have the group sit in a circle. Pass around a roll of toilet paper and have each person take some. When everyone has taken their share of the roll, advise them that for every square of paper, they have to tell the group something about themselves. For a larger group, split up into smaller groups of four and have them share among their group.
- No, No! "Yes" or "No." Call up a group member and ask a series of questions and tell them their answer CANNOT be "yes" or "no" or they are out. Compile a pre-made list of questions, such as, "Were you born in _____ (state name)?" They must answer without using yes or no. For example, "I was born in ____." The fun comes in layering the questions and asking them quickly in order to get a yes or no. Do this with several people.
- Ball of Questions. Take a large bouncy ball and in permanent marker write get-to-know-you questions all over it. Toss the ball around and have group members answer the question on the ball closest to their thumb. Ideas for what to write on your ball could include things like, "Tell about a time you got lost" or "Tell about your favorite vacation."
- Hot Seat. Pick one person from the crowd to come up to the front of the room and be in the "hot seat." Hand out a few questions on scraps of paper for students to ask the person. You can do this one every week as a group gets to know each other.
As you lead your group members in these activities, remember that making an icebreaker "great" is one part preparation, two parts enthusiasm! Have fun, and in no time your group will be learning and growing closer without even trying very hard.
Julie David is a writer, youth volunteer and mom who thanks Seth and Nikki (the best youth leaders around) for sharing some of these great icebreaker ideas.
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