7 Quick and Easy Icebreakers for your Back Pocket

We’ve all been there.  You look around the youth room and realize not everybody knows everybody, or you’re trying to start a discussion and the awkwardness is in the air.  Here are 7 quick and easy icebreakers to get your crowd at ease.  You might just want to print these out and put them in your back pocket, just in case.


Body Parts – Every student gets a partner.  One of the pair goes to the middle to form an inner circle, the other of the pair makes a larger circle around the inner circle.  Outer circle begins to walk clockwise, inner circle walks counter-clockwise.  Then the leader calls out two body parts like nose to elbow.  The inner circle partner finds the outer circle partner & they have to match up the body parts.  Last duo to match up their parts is eliminated.  Circle back up and keep going.


I Never – everyone sits in a circle of chairs except one person in the middle.  Person in the middle states their name and something they have never done.  Anyone who has done whatever was said, gets up in switches chairs.  Example “I’m Erin and I’ve never been to a Disney theme park.”  Everyone who has been to a Disney park gets up and switches spots, person in the middle tries to get a seat.  Last person in the middle is “it” for the next round.


Name Backwards IntroductionDo a simple introduction and then ask the youth to say their name backwards, which always makes for a good nickname through a retreat.  Funny part is that there is usually someone who’s name is the same backwards. ie. Anna


Three Questions – Each person in the group answers three questions.  The questions are 1. What is your name? 2. What grade are you in & where do you go to school? And question #3 is wide open for creativity – if you could be any zoo animal (or car or color or food, etc.), what would you be and why? 


Two Truths and a Lie – each participant writes down three statements in any order about themselves on a card, two are true and one is a lie.  The trick is to make the lie believable.  Gather all the cards, someone shuffles them.   Read the cards aloud one at a time – group tries to guess who wrote the card & then which statement was false.  Optional: you can keep score on who has the most correct guesses.


What if….? – Everyone gets two pieces of paper.  On the first piece everyone writes a random question starting wi th “What if…”  For example: “What if dogs could talk?” or “What if you could turn anything into chocolate?”  On the second piece of paper, st udents write an answer to the questions, such as “We would have to hear about squirrels a lot more.” Or “Brussel sprouts would taste better than ever.”  After ever yone is done writing, put questions in one pile and answers in another.  Shuffle th e papers and then randomly pick one question and one answer.  Read aloud and laugh. 


Would You Rather – Gather your group together and the leader calls out a “Would your rather…” statement.  Participants can answer by moving from one side of the room or the other, sitting or standing,  writing their answers, sharing their answers – whatever works best for your group.  Examples of “Would your rather questions” are:  Would your rather…go to the beach or the mountains?  Be able to stop time or to fly?  Be the most popular person or the smartest person?  Go without your phone for a month or not see your best friend for a month?


Erin Jackson is a veteran & certified youthworker as well as part of the Youthworker Movement team. If you are in youth ministry, you should really learn more about the Youthworker Movement at http://www.ywmovement.org.  Erin lives in Arlington, Texas, with her husband Dennis and three kids. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/ 

(Special thanks to youthworkers Sue Douglas Daniels, Erin Sloan Jackson, Kyle Hunter Madison, Gavin Richardson and Daniel J. Segale for their contributions to this article on www.facebook.com/youthworkermovement…if you have other icebreaker gems to share, please let us know.)


7 Choices You Can Make To Keep From Losing Yourself in Youth Ministry

I had a reality check six months ago while sitting in a volunteer training seminar.  Our instructor suggested that youth ministry volunteers focus on their hobbies and figure out creative ways to get the youth to participate too (a youth flyfishing expedition? Why not?)  He had us start with a list of our hobbies… and I realized that I didn’t have any hobbies outside of my job in youth ministry.  This cannot be healthy. 

In a profession like youth ministry, it’s easy to get caught up in the role of youth pastor/youth director and lose touch with who you are as a person.  Youth workers almost by definition are givers, people who sacrifice their goals to help others. It is almost universal that youth workers will ignore their own needs every chance they get. But you have to spend some time taking care of yourself or you will find yourself where you have nothing left to give, and probably at the worst possible time.  Here are 7 choices you can make to keep from losing your sense of self in your job:

The first 4 choices are internal things you can control – basically ways to take care of yourself.  The last three involve external factors that you can work on but you might have limited control.


Four Internal Choices to Make to Keep from Losing Yourself in Youth Ministry

  1. Choose to care for your own soul.  You pour your heart into helping others.  But who is your pastor?  Consider finding a pastor who is not your boss.  Who holds you accountable for your own spiritual growth?  The best way you can minister to other people is to make sure you are spiritually fed yourself.  Choose to make time for personal Bible study, retreat, worship – whatever you need for your own spiritual growth – and make sure to do these things before you get caught up in work.  Do not get in the habit of putting youth ministry before your own relationship with God.
  2.  Choose to care for your mind.  What do you think about? The questions you ask will become habitual.  What kind of thoughts are you letting into your head?  Are you reading positive things and surrounding yourself with a positive helpful message?  Just the simple act of reading positive material can keep your mind from spiraling down into negative thoughts.  (check out some inspirational books, read Scripture)  You need to keep yourself in a positive and healthy frame of mind.
  3. Choose to care for your body.  We all know youth work can mean lock-ins and a seemingly limitless number of occasions to eat pizza.  That might have seemed like the ideal job in college, but we’re not getting any younger.  Be honest, are you eating well?  Getting enough rest?  Exercising?  You know what you need to do – do it!  We all need to take care of ourselves physically – get adequate rest, exercise regularly, wear sunscreen.  If you are taking care of your body, you will find that you have more energy and you will last longer. One of the healthiest things you can do is to say “no” when people are asking you to add another commitment to your schedule.  Consider this: When asked the secret to making amazing products, Steve Jobs said “It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much”. Your ministry works the same way, do too much “not amazing stuff” and you can’t focus on the truly important stuff.
  4.  Choose to develop yourself outside of your profession.  Get a hobby.  Learn new things.  Keep your mind sharp.  [Have a bucket list? No? Make one. Have one, cross one off this month. Who do you have fun with? In the military they say at social events, “never open the hangar doors”, which means when you are at a social event with people in your unit, focus on the fun, and don’t talk about work. Having trouble turning off the worker mode and relaxing? Maybe you need friends that are not involved in youth ministry in any way shape or form.


Three External Choices to Make to Keep from Losing Yourself in Youth Ministry – these are about your relationships

  1. Choose to make your home relationships a priority.   It’s too easy to take your family for granted.  If you are married, you need to make sure your marriage is a priority over youth ministry.  This might mean turning the text messages off when you get home, scheduling date nights and not letting youth events conflict with them, eat regular meals together.  If you have children, you need to be demonstrating the priority your own kids have over the youth events.  Bonus: when you choose to make it clear that family is your priority, you are being a great role model for youth.  Set boundaries.
  2. Choose to build positive work relationships.  Church politics is [not any different than office politics, when people who have different opinions and values work together, sometimes their personalities don’t fit. It’s] unavoidable.  But you can be part of the solution instead of feeding the problem. Make sure you are keeping things positive with your coworkers.  Try to understand the pressures the senior pastor might be under.  Take the janitor out to lunch.  Lift people up.  Work relationships are one of those things that make the job joyful when they’re great, miserable when they’re bad. 
    Work relationships also include your relationships with volunteers – be positive, affirming.  And if there is a problem with fit or calling be loving but direct, not everyone is going to be a successful long term volunteer.
    Along those same lines, choose to have healthy youth relationships –  set your boundaries and make sure your relationships are appropriate. If you are not doing safe sanctuary where you are consider adopting it as a standard, it helps keep everyone safe, and it doesn’t leave room for any inappropriate rumors to take root. Remember that your role is not to be the “cool buddy” of teenagers, you are an adult. Being a youth worker is not the same thing as being a youth.  You can coach your students, you can listen, you can cheer them on, but you are not there to live life for them or through them.   Choose not to be alone with youth or to be in situations that can be misunderstood.
  3. Choose your job wisely.  Churches and youth ministries have different personalities; just like youth workers have different personalities. If you are working in a church that has unrealistic expectations for you or just isn’t a fit for your personality and gifts, you might be miserable and on the way to losing yourself before you even begin.
    Choosing the job that is right for you starts with an honest self-assessment.. What are your strengths? Gifts? Passions?  Are you an extrovert that gets your energy from having a large number of people around? Then don’t go to work for a small church with a high average age and few youth. If you are passionate about student leadership, will you be content working for a church that expects you to produce programs?  If you are passionate about discipleship, will you be content working for a church that expects big outreach events and large crowds?  How much time does your job really require?  Will this work with your other priorities for spiritual growth and healthy relationships?
     If you find yourself in a church that doesn’t fit your personality and gifts, it may be time to make the difficult choice to make a switch.  The more you can align who you are as a person and how you are comfortable in ministry, the healthier you’ll be.



Erin Jackson is a veteran & certified youthworker as well as part of the Youthworker Movement team. If you are in youth ministry, you should learn more about Youthworker Movement at http://www.ywmovement.org.  She lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband Dennis and three kids. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/ If you like this post, please let me know.