If you don’t know the wonders of using icebreakers in Edge and Life Nights, then let me be the first to tell you! Icebreakers are games intended to relieve mutual shyness or ease tension or formality. In youth ministry, icebreakers are typically used to break open a night’s activities. Icebreakers can be very simple, such as riddle games, requiring no extra materials. They can also be complex, requiring instruction and materials in order to complete the given task.
Here are a few practical guidelines on how to choose and implement icebreakers for your youth group:
- Never use hazardous supplies. It probably isn’t a good idea to give a can of spray paint to middle school youth for a game. Sharp objects should also be avoided during icebreakers! Aside from the obvious, make sure that the room for property damage and injury is minimal during this time. For instance, make sure there are clear paths during relay races. Also, make sure there is enough room around and above the youth for throwing/tossing games.
- Always have a pre/post plan! Have the game set up and ready to go before the start of the night. Purchase materials ahead of time so they can be prepared for use before the night. Think about the mess each icebreaker could potentially create, and plan for quick clean-up afterward. Have mops ready for use, or lay tarps down in the playing area so any mess created can simply be folded up and cleaned up after. Just don’t forget to clean it up before you leave the facility for the night!
- Make it relational. Don’t start every night with an icebreaker just for the sake of having a game. Come up with ideas that truly “break the ice” and correlate to the night’s topic. For example, if the night is on teamwork/community/Body of Christ, have some type of relay race. This connects the topic with a concrete, physical idea the teens can reference.
- Be clear in your instructions. Make sure to give basic rules and boundaries for everyone. Be clear on the objective of the game, so everyone knows how to complete the task. Make sure guidelines on where to play are given, so that you don’t have middle school youth running wild across the campus! Doing so not only helps you keep order, but it also puts everyone on a level playing field.
- Remember who the grown ups are! Involve the Core Members in icebreakers, but make sure they are not overshadowing the youth’s participation. If you play a game where one person from each group is asked to be a focal point (i.e. being dressed up, answering trivia, etc.), make sure it is a youth and not a Core Member. If you’re doing relay races, make sure the youth are performing most of the tasks and not relying on the Core Members to do all the work.
- Be aware of the “competition” factor. Every game is going to have some type of competition, but the key is to not make it completely about who wins and loses. Emphasize teamwork in the games they play. Completing tasks and not quitting is an important value as well. Congratulate the team/group that finishes a game first, but don’t overdo the celebration.