This past weekend was the annual Women of Hope retreat. 140 women gathered on the beautiful North Shore at Camp Mokule’ia. I was invited to be on the ministry team for the event, and it was my pleasure to help out.
One of my roles was to come up with and lead some icebreaker activities. A lot of the women were new to retreat and new to the community. Hope Chapel has multiple services and campuses, so even women who’ve been attending for years may not have had the pleasure to cross paths.
The theme of the ice breakers was to connect the women. Our goal was to foster friendships, highlight commonalities, encourage teamwork. Basically, it was all about bonding and creating a stronger sisterhood.
Annmarie, my dear Irish pal, was my co-leader and we had a blast all weekend! We’re both pretty funny (if I do say so myself) and we were able to inject a lot of banter and jokes into our on-the-mic time.
So, since I helped create all of these games, with lots of borrowed common ideas and a little bit of my own creativity – I’ll be the first to encourage any readers to go ahead and re-use them. Borrow these ice breakers for your next retreat, workshop, classroom, whatever. And if you do, let me know how it goes!
Stand Up / Sit Down
I’ve played variations of this game tons of time, in all kinds of group settings. Since the idea was to connect women, we came up with this idea in a planning meeting for the event. We drafted a list of categories to call out, some serious and some fun.
How to Play the game: Basically, Annmarie and I read a list. We told the gals, if what we read applies to you – stand up. While standing, look around and see who else is standing with you.
For the first night it was a good way for the women to get a feel for who they’ll have things in common with – who’s going to be up nice and early, who will stay up late. For the newest members, finding out commonalities is a great way to start a conversation. It’s also a gentle way to start things out, no one had to do anything crazy or super outgoing.
The list had administrative items like “first time at a retreat,” “if you’ve been to five or more retreats,” we listed out all the church services HCKB offers, we asked about what campus they attend, if they’re visting from another church. Morning people and then night owls were asked to stand – this was all so people could find a familiar face, so newbies wouldn’t feel alone.
We had a lot of silly items, “love sushi,” if you “like rock’n’roll” please stand up! Dog lovers, cat lovers, parents, married, single, and so on. Oh, and we called out for “motorcycle owners” knowing durn well it would apply to a specific person, and it was so funny!
Pros: it was easy, fun, our jokes made it funny, and people seemed to have fun when something they liked or included them was called.
Cons: it was simple, possibly kinda boring, and it doesn’t really work if it goes on and on forever.
I didn’t hear any negative feedback on it, in fact people said it was fun. I know it sounds like it would be really boring, but when you actually do it – people get pumped.
Things in common game!
I’ll preface this game by saying that when everyone checked in to camp, they were given a yarn tied around their wrists. Groups who came in together were told to get different colors. We had pre-cut a pile of them, seven different colors. Then, during the event when we needed to break up into groups – using yarn color was the easiest way to go. By breaking up people who traveled together, ladies were forced to make new friends and get out of their social comfort zones.
How to play the game: Teams were given five minutes (or was it ten?) to brainstorm a list of things they had in common, every single one of them! Team with the most commonalities, wins. A prize will be given (we used a paper bag full of candy and treats). The catch is that if other teams also listed the same thing, they’d cancel each other out.
After time was called, we went one team at a time and they read their lists, if others heard something called out that they had written down, they’d cross it off.
It went really well. They ladies had to get creative, clever and learn about each other very quickly. The ONLY way to succeed was to find things out about each other. The pressure of the timer helps everyone to bond by coming together.
I created this game based off some similar ones I’d seen online. I really loved it. The winning team had 37 items! Examples ranged from “we all love chocolate,” to listing anatomical consistencies, “we all have boobs,” “we all have hair” being some (it’s easier for a same-gendered team to play if you go that route!). Some answers were really sweet.
Pros: Players get to know each other, it was fun, the sillier the answers – the more everyone laughed. It got the teams working together, competing. It was everything an ice breaker should be.
Cons: I think it could get a bit boring during the reading. Since there’s only one list, a lot of people just had to listen and hang out during the reading phase. It could be hard to figure out things you have in common, especially if they were more meaningful things/less superficial.
Mad Libs-styled Skits
We ran this game in three parts – so it helped to fill a lot of time, and the opportunity for teamwork was immense.
How the game is played:
Part One: Every team takes out a sheet of paper. Annmarie and I give them six categories, they must come up with something for each one.
Our’s were: a location (anywhere – real or fictional), a date (day, month, year – past, present or future), a food, a celebrity, a Bible verse, and an Olympic sport.
The teams filled in the lists and then we collected them. And of course, we redistributed them so each team had a list they didn’t create. The instructions were that each team must create a performance using ALL six elements on their list, each one must be incorporated somehow. We told them they could write a song, put on a skit, anything really!
Part Two: We just gave them all 20 minutes to practice. Practice during free time was encouraged, but just to make sure everyone did a great job, we opted for practice time instead of doing a different ice breaker.
Part Three: Performance time!
This was so fun. Our lead pastor, Tami, was in tears watching the show. She was so impressed at the great job every team did.
Groups were judged on creativity, humour, thoughtfulness, fact accuracy, props, energy and using everything on their lists. Prizes were given to first place and two runner ups! Picking the winners was about impossible, each team did an amazing job!
Pros: LOTS of bonding time. We saw so much teamwork and creativity. Groups spent a lot of time together. Women who usually stay behind-the-scenes totally got up on stage and gave it their all. New friends were made, people had fun, it was fun for the audience to watch. Since our retreat was faith-based, having a Bible verse in there was a good way for them to incorporate the Word into the project.
I just heard rave reviews about the skits, everyone seemed to have enjoyed it very much. By creating the mad libs style lists, the skits were wacky and funny! Since they had no idea they’d be doing skits ahead of time, they didn’t really have props, so it was fun to see everyone come up with stuff on the fly. We had a lot of musicians at camp, with instruments, so the music abounded!
Cons: I used Curling as an example of an Olympic sport, and I’m pretty sure five out of seven teams used it, so that was kind of a bummer. I’d caution anyone using this activity to limit the number of examples you give. It was a time-consuming activity, a lot of the groups needed much more than the 20 minute allotment to put it all together.
The idea for this game just came to me Friday night during the teaching. I quickly scribbled the rough idea down, then Annmarie and I hashed out the details. I’m really quite sure the inspiration was Devine – it just popped into my head out of no where. So praise God for the spurt of creativity!
So, if you were at retreat – what did you think about the ice breakers? Annmarie and I really tried to give everyone activities that would encourage friendship, sisterhood, and bonding. Mostly, we wanted everyone to just have fun.
If you’re going to use any of our game, please let me know how it goes and what modifications you make to suit the needs of your groups!
as always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr