3 Sure-Fire Ways to Break the Ice

ice blockThis is the first of several posts written by some of my top Small Group Communication students at Azusa Pacific University.  They’ve been learning all about what makes groups and teams great, and I’ve selected just a few excellent posts that will benefit my readers.  Enjoy!

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Break the Ice

By: Emily Wood, Senior Communication Studies Major at Azusa Pacific University

Have you ever participated in a purposeless icebreaker at the beginning of a small group Bible study?  You know the kind—the question games that merely focus on finding out each others’ favorite ice-cream flavor or best Halloween costumes.  How are these helpful in developing a quality Bible study experience?

Usually, they’re NOT! 

Fortunately for you, though, here are 3 sure-fire ways to break the ice purposefully.

First, YOU MUST understand that groups do not come together because of trust and relationships; they come together because of tasks and goals.

Every small group Bible study has both a task dimension and a social dimension.  These two dimensions are interconnected.  Productivity, the output from the task dimension, results when a group can work efficiently and effectively to accomplish a task.  For a Bible study, the task is to engage with scripture and discuss the implications and applications of God’s Word.

Cohesiveness, the output from the social dimension, results when members of a group feel comfortable, included, and committed to each other**.  It is important in a Bible study to create a communication climate where members can be open and vulnerable and trust the other members.

A purposeful ice-breaker must appeal to both of these needs.

Second, YOU MUST choose the right activity.

Now that you know the importance of fitting both the task and social dimensions seen in a small group Bible study, you can more effectively choose a purposeful ice-breaker.  These activities will not simply focus on socializing, but rather give the members of the group the opportunity to work together to accomplish a task.  While working together to accomplish this task, leaders will arise, the group will begin to learn how they can manage tensions, and relationships will build.

When choosing the activity, consider what you have (such as time, number of people, space) and what you want (such as problem-solving, knowing names, trust, laughter).  Some great team building activities that can serve as purposeful ice-breakers are Highs and Lows and the Human Knot (google these to find details).

Third, YOU MUST facilitate discussion afterwards: “So what happened?”

Discussions in a Bible study group always go deeper and are more rewarding when everyone participates.  After the ice-breaker activity, it is vital to get people talking.  Explore members’ feeling about the activity.  Ask about how successful they were.  Ask about leaders or roles that appeared.  Ask about improvements that could be made for next time.  Explore what was learned that could help the group be most successful in the joint pursuit of spiritual growth.  The more comfortable members can become talking about trivial matters, the more willing they will be to share when personal topics arise.

Here, remember: do NOT ask “yes” or “no” questions and always encourage people to fully explain their answers.

Now that you know 3 sure-fire ways to produce the most purposeful ice-breaker, go out into your Bible study groups, channel your inner chisel, and BREAK THAT ICE!

**For more information on small group development and leading purposefully, check out the book In Mixed Company by J. Dan Rothwell.


P.S. My new ebook BURST is now available on Amazon Kindle.  Of course, it’s also available for free when you sign up for email updates. But, if you don’t want to give that to me, you can buy it now and read it on your Kindle (or Kindle app on other devices).

P.S. If you’ve read BURST but not yet let me know what you thought of it, would you mind doing so?  Simply leave a comment here.   Also, I want to get the message to as many people as possible, would you mind sharing the link with others, via TwitterFacebook, or by forwarding this email?

photo by: Dunleavy Family


  1. Joan Bicker November 28, 2012 at 11:33 am - Reply

    It’s apparent your students are learning some valuable means of leadership to facilitate “connecting” as members of a small group…that for the most part, come to it, from
    diverse life situations, with varying personalities, and gifts,..or the lack thereof! This is a valuable tool for all leaders, within the church, or as Christians, seeking to reach out to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord.

    • Ryan Hartwig November 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment. Our students are pretty fantastic and I’m excited to see what God does with them throughout their lives.

      – Ryan

  2. […] isn’t broken?” They may not be broken, but you might not be using them correctly. To create an effective icebreaker scenario, you must choose the right game and then follow it up by facilitating effective […]

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