An icebreaker is a learning activity that takes place at the very beginning of a group’s Bible study session. It is designed to get people talking, and to steer them toward the study’s central truth or big idea. Think of an icebreaker in terms of introductions – it has the distinction of being the thing that introduces your group members to the biblical text and the main point you’re going to try and drive home. Here is what Sam O’ Neal has to say about icebreakers in his book Field Guide for Small Groups:
I want to zero in on icebreakers for a moment because I place a high value on their use within small groups. In fact, I incorporate an icebreaker into the beginning of every small group meeting I lead (and have done so for years). Beyond appealing to multiple learning styles and allowing for fun, icebreakers offer three unique benefits to small group leaders.
- Icebreakers provide a transition from the outside world.
- They become a trigger for engagement in the group meeting.
- They encourage people to arrive on time.
Icebreakers also serve other purposes as well. I use an icebreaker each week with my Bible study group. Here are a few things I’ve observed about the use of icebreakers:
- Icebreakers make sure everyone is successful. There are no right or wrong answers to an icebreaker question. Icebreaker activities should be achievable by every person in the group. In other words, everyone can win.
- Icebreakers help people feel comfortable. If you have a guest in your group, the last thing you want to do is have an opening activity that is hard to accomplish, or a question that is too difficult to answer. Icebreakers need to help people relax and start to enjoy the time they are investing in your group’s study.
- Icebreakers cut through “cognitive noise.” People who attend your group’s Bible study come into the room with a lot on their minds – jobs, kids, grocery shopping, to-do lists, etc. An icebreaker question or activity helps to cut through the noise they feel in their minds, and it refocuses their attention on the Bible study and its main point or points. You just cannot and should not assume that people come into your group ready to learn. They don’t. Icebreakers help drown out the cognitive noise group members hear so that the group leader’s voice comes through loud and clear.