Want to go a little deeper with your small group icebreakers? What sets these ideas apart is they work to create community, joy and fellowship 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. 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.
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. First team to get everyone through wins!
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!
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
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.”)
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.
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. This is a great game to play at the beginning of a gathering and you can add difficulty by having to know other things about the people like occupations, favorite colors, favorite bible verse, etc... You can also add more balls.
More Team Building
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.
MORE CHRISTMAS GAMES
Found On Phone: Christmas Edition - Print out a list and have students work in teams and use one or two team members’ phones to check off items from the list (one point per item) such as photos of snow, gift ideas, Christmas trees, Christmas lights; contacts with the name Mary, Joseph, Jesus; previous text with some type of Christmas emoji or gift idea; a Christmas playlist; and an organizing or list-making app. They have to already exist somewhere on the phone — no web searching allowed.
Christmas One Word Guessing Game - Teams of four are needed for this game so depending on your group size, print enough clue cards for each team. Print one Christmas-related word on a card (songs, holiday-related treats, decor), have three on the team each say one word that describes the word on the card, the “guesser” only has one guess of the Christmas word their team is describing.
Worst Family Christmas Card Photo Competition - Have volunteer leaders and kids bring goofy props and clothing (be sure to return at the end of the night), then divide them up into teams and have them go into separate rooms. They have 10 minutes to take 10 pictures on someone’s phone to be voted on for “Worst Family Christmas Card.” You can also award prizes for most unique use of a prop, worst dressed and most unique facial expressions. Show some examples from the web before you start to inspire your students!
Gratitude Game - This game is best for smaller groups — everyone partners up, sits in a circle, and one partner is given a gift bag. On “go,” gift bag partner runs out of room to find a “gift” around the church (square of toilet paper, pen or you can supply a “gift box” with dirty socks and other unique gifts). They must return and go around the circle, giving their gift to their partner. The partner thanks them and adds a sentence of what they like about the gift, how they will use it or enjoy it: “Thank you so much for this square of toilet paper. Though I will only use it once, I will think of you and be thankful for it.” Partners take turns giving gifts for several rounds. Give prizes for most creative thank you, most sincere thank you, etc.
Mitten Mayhem - You need two pairs of fluffy mittens (or kitchen potholder gloves) per team and a die. You will need to also wrap one gift per team in several layers of wrapping paper and lots of tape. Teams line up down a line. When the game starts, the first two people in line put on mittens. The first team member tries to roll a five while the second person (also in mittens) tries to take off the wrapping paper. When a five is rolled, then mittens go off and they are passed onto the next two players until a team gets their gift unwrapped.
Yoked for Christmas - This game asks partners to get inside the same XXL sweatshirt shoulder-to-shoulder with one arm of each person through each sleeve. They must complete a set of tasks: wrapping a present, decorating a mini-tree, decorating a cookie, and choreographing eight steps that are then repeated and performed with Christmas music. Leaders or onlookers can make a call on who wins individual challenges or best overall. Remember you can only use the hands attached to the arms in the sweatshirt!
Speed Tree Decorating - Get a non-decorated Christmas tree and set it up in the middle of the room. Divide your group into two teams and put a throwing line with tape in a circle, 8-10 feet around the tree. Provide each team with a bucket of non-breakable ornaments of a specific color. The challenge is to throw ornaments into the tree and have them stay put. For fun, you could also add silly items like small stuffed animals, an elf or a rubber chicken! The team with the most in the tree wins.
Candy Cane Hang - This can be done as an individual or team game. Use a full-sized candy cane and have participants put the candy cane in their mouth, the hooked part facing out. The object is to hook the candy cane over your own nose with no hands. For teams, just have each person down the row attempt the task and the fastest team to hook all their noses wins!
Blindfolded Gift Wrapping - Provide the kids with a box, tape and wrapping paper. Blindfold them and have them try to wrap the box and put a bow on top. You could also do this with two blindfolded people working together, or for an added challenge, they have to put one hand behind their back to complete the task.
Blindfolded Paper Tree Building - Give contestants green construction paper and tape and have them tear a four-tiered (going from large to small triangles) Christmas tree and tape it together — but ask them to do all of it blindfolded! For added fun, give them colored dots to put on as Christmas lights as well. The one that looks most like an actual tree is the winner!
Cotton Ball Santa - For this fun relay game, divide into three or four teams depending on group size. Students get Vaseline smeared on the bottom of their face, run across the room and stick their face into a plate of cotton balls trying to stick as many as possible, then run to the other end and peel them off into a bowl before tagging the next person to start the process. First team to get a set number of cotton balls (have leaders keep count) wins! Take some pictures of the kids to remember the holiday fun!
Ornament Knockout - Tie an ornament to the end of a string and tie that string to a belt. Place cans or bottles on a table and have students wear the belt with the ornament to the back like a tail and try to knock over the objects on the table by swinging their hips and turning the ornament into a wrecking ball.
Gift Wrap a Leader with a Twist - You have seen the game of wrapping a leader with paper (faces showing) and bows and a star on top. For this game, stop after the leader is wrapped and challenge the leaders to complete several tasks using only their face, like carrying a spoon in their mouth across the room with an ornament in it, picking up a holiday stuffed animal in their mouth off a table and tossing it as far as they can, and finally kicking a large plastic ornament back across the room to the finish line. If the paper is still intact at the end, that team is declared the winner.
Christmas Reverse Charades - Fold index cards with Christmas movies, songs and typical Christmas activities printed on them and put them in a large bowl. In reverse charades, one person on the team guesses while the other members, as a group, silently give clues. You can have multiple bowls going at a time and divide your youth group into teams of four or five and play tournament style so that the final two teams with the most correct guesses go head-to-head in a final reverse charade battle.
Santa’s Helper Relay - Divide into two teams and have half of each team go to the other end of the room. Wrap empty boxes in festive paper (use some tall oatmeal containers and put a bow on one of them to make stacking extra tricky), stack them three (or more) high and have teams lift the boxes and carry them down to the other side without dropping any. They have to set them on the floor and then a second member of the team carries them back. The first team with all members to complete the relay wins. Add to the fun by creating an obstacle course of cones or chairs to climb over, having them carry gifts with one hand behind their back, or have leaders randomly throw dodgeballs while they try to get down the course.