You may think that ice-breakers are just something they always make you do at meetings where you don’t know anyone, but they are also a great method to get people comfortably started with your retreat. Even if everyone in your group already knows each other, they may not be used to constantly interacting. This is especially true for church groups, where members may only see each other at services and events. If you are participating in an overnight stay (especially multiple nights), you have to make sure your members are comfortable and ready to start engaging in retreat activities.
The benefits of ice breakers are not limited to people learning each other’s names. Many help people actually get to know each other and can spark conversations from similar interests. Some require a bit of thinking, which can help the brain get pumping so participants are ready to engage in a lesson or meeting. They can also be used to introduce the topic or as a bit of fun before starting a serious session.
Make time for an ice breaker at the beginning of your event. Depending on the activity, planners may need to make arrangements in advance to set it up. Executing a good ice breaker can really set the tone for a retreat. Members may be a little uneasy about being out of their normal routine, so support from the rest of the group can make the retreat a much easier transition.
Some things to keep in mind when planning an ice breaker activity are:
• Choose one that requires participation from all members. (No one sits out)
• Keep the rules simple. It can be hard to get everyone in a large group to pay attention when listing to the rules takes longer than the actual activity.
• Know your space. If it requires a lot of room or movement, host it outside.
• Bring equipment needed. This includes balls, paper, pencils, blindfolds, etc. If chairs or tables are necessary, work with your onsite planner to have them set some up.
• Know your number. How many people are participating? Do you need even teams? Knowing beforehand how many people are needed for an activity ensures that it runs smoothly and that everyone gets the chance to participate.
• Fit your group. Some activities may be more suitable for different age groups. For example, having a sit still trivia game may not be the best idea for a group of young energetic kids. Similarly, don’t go overboard with movement for those who are less actively inclined.
Here are a couple of meaningful ice breaker activities to help get you started. Even though this list is designed for youth, it can easily be adjusted to fit any age.