Highs and lows..Roses and thorns...Brownies and frownies...Happies and crappies.
However you might word it, “best/worst” icebreakers have become a traditional opening schtick in many smaller-deeper-discipling-Campaigner groups.
They’re easy. They’re foolproof. They’re prep-free. They don’t require deep reflection. They focus on “me and what happened to me” – always a popular topic.
Breaking ice is a noble and necessary endeavor, especially in a group of adolescents who are often still learning the fine art of thoughtful conversation. But if the goal of our smaller-deeper-discipling contexts is spiritual growth and formation, it might be time to move the needle on our ice-breaker strategies. Perhaps now and then, we could be a little less predictable, a little more reflective, and a lot more focused on how “me” relates to God and others.
What if we started with something like this:
“What’s one way you brought help or hope to someone this week?”
This question (riffed from Lindsey Osborne, Midwest Divisional Training Coordinator) invites people not to reminisce about their perceived experiences of personal life (i.e. talk about me for my own sake), but rather to reflect on their actual engagement with Christ-centered faith (i.e. talk about how God and my understanding of him is affecting the way I think and act).
That’s a significant shift in both perspective and processing.
Many students haven’t yet made the connection between following Jesus and daily life. This type of question helps connect those faith-and-life dots in significant ways, first internally as they reflect and sort their thoughts, and then verbally as they articulate their experiential reality and spiritual awareness.
Research shows that articulated faith shores up foundational faith. In other words, “saying becomes believing.”
When we provide opportunities for our friends to speak honestly about how their faith impacts their attitudes and actions, we effectively cultivate formational space. In truth, many of our adolescent friends have no idea yet that their faith actually is impacting their attitudes and action ... that is, until they discover it through a well-timed and intentional question.
Open-ended statements can work just as well. How about starting with something like this:
“This week I struggled to obey (hear/believe/etc.) God when...”
Completing that kind of statement requires self-awareness, honesty, and humility, all of which are vital to a growing and lasting life of faith.
Starting with a thoughtful and reflective opener isn’t a buzz-kill. It’s energizing and empowering. It’s meaningful. It’s life-giving. Whatever their age, people appreciate being challenged and given the chance to talk about real things, deep things, things that are bigger and beyond themselves.
Take time to brainstorm a collection of opening questions that offer a range of depth and reflection. That way, you’ll have plenty of options to keep you from getting stuck in the “high/low – happies/crappies” loop.
What were you afraid of this week, and what did you do about it?
How did God bring joy to your life this week?
What’s one doubt or question you had about following Jesus this week?
How/when did you help someone this week?
What’s one thing God taught you about himself this week?
This week, God....
This week I prayed about ..... because .....
This week, I thought of God when ....
The week, God helped me ....
-Written by Crystal Kirgiss, Vice President of Discipleship (firstname.lastname@example.org)