Some people don’t take games seriously enough. Games are not designed simply to be time fillers or merely obligatory activities because we work with young people. Games and ice breakers are much more important than that. In fact, I believe, without them an otherwise inspiring, faith-growing youth group session may fall flat on its face. It is time we were more serious about the fun we have in our youth groups.
Last night in our youth group we had a games night. It was designed simply for the young people to have fun together at the end of a busy half term. We had great fun trying to move ping pong balls with straws, empty tissue boxes faster than anyone else and walking blindly over obstacles. But something more important was taking place. People who didn’t know each other that well were working together, were laughing together and I could tell through all the fun and laughter, people were connecting.Now, of course, we can’t just play games every week but I think that we do need to make the most of ice breakers in our youth group meetings.Here are 5 reasons why:
Playing games or an ice breaker which means people come into contact with each other means that they are more likely to chat throughout the rest of the evening. I often work with young people who don’t know each other. It is amazing how quiet they are together until we have played some kind of ice breaker that requires them bumping into each other or holding hands. It’s as if actual touch makes us more aware that others are around us and that we are, deep down, the same.
The best ice breakers make us work in teams rather than focusing on an individual. This means we have to look out for each other, cheer one another on and celebrate or commiserate together. This all helps us to better understand those around us and helps young people realise the importance of those around them.
Ice breakers build that sense of ‘in it together’ in the group. Following an ice breaker people are much more likely to actively participate in listening, learning and discussing because that team spirit flows into the rest of the session and there is a mutual understanding that we are all here for the same reason.
Laughing and having fun builds deeper connection between people. Perhaps it is because the game is so ridiculous, or embarrassing or no one has a chance of doing very well. When we laugh we are enjoying the moment and the people we are with. At those moments we feel connected with those also laughing along with us. This creates links between us for later when we need to have more honest or open discussions, we are then more likely to be real with each other and to share more deeply than if we hadn’t previously connected that session.
Do you remember when we played that game which went horribly wrong? That’s what I often hear! This is great because it takes the pressure of us as leaders from having to be excellent at leading games all the time! Even when they go wrong they can be useful. People remember having fun together. The inner feeling of enjoyment and happiness is connected with those occasions. Ask people what their favourite game has been at youth group and they will smile and tell you a game where they just had lots of fun and laughter. These memories bond the group together, developing more of a sense of community and a shared history.
Sometimes icebreakers can be connected with the theme of the evening. This can be even better but sometimes it is not possible to do this. In which case just look for games that will be fun and help people to connect better with each other. It’s really worth spending time looking for great games and keeping a folder full of them. One last thing, don’t overplay the same game as it can demolish the memories made and what was a great fun game can suddenly become the only thing we ever play!
If you need ideas for new games and icebreakers, head over the to the Games page on our website.