My Top Five Picks: Mixers and Icebreakers

If you have been to a workshop or seminar I’ve conducted in the last three or so years, it is likely that you have experienced one or more of these games.  They are my favorites and so easy to draw lessons out of. One of the wonderful things about icebreakers and mixers is that you can learn so much about your audience by listening in on the conversations that are taking place around you.

Listen for the lessons the audience receives, even if they aren't what you originally planned.

The most important key about any object lesson though is to be prepared to learn as much from your audience as they do from you. Go in with a clear picture of the lesson you want them to walk away from the exercise with, but also be open to hearing something different.  Often, we will get so wrapped up in the message we think we are there to deliver that we resist when the Holy Spirit leads us down a different path.  This is even more true with games and exercises.  Be willing to explore what is going on with your audience at the expense of your own agenda.  The most powerful of lessons are those that are personal and real for someone at that moment. Trust that God placed you in the role of facilitator for a reason and release the control of the message to Him.

Ok…on to the fun stuff!

Fun and Laughter pave the way for open conversations.

I’ve already given you my very favorite icebreaker: Me, Too

Me, Too

But Mixers two, three and four come from the world of improvisational comedy or improv (think “Whose Line is it Anyway?”).  I believe that fun and laughter are the easiest paths to begin to let down our masks and allow others to see us as we truly are.  It’s easier to be uncomfortable together. These games push us to be silly together.

Circle Warm Up

Circle Warm Up-- Warning: Uncontrollable laughter is possible!

Supplies needed: None

Circle Warm-Up is Comedy Improv game used to loosen a group of people up and get loads of laughs.  The group stands in a circle facing in.  First person steps forward and makes a gesture or sound and everyone in the group repeats it.  Play continues around the circle until everyone has gone.  GO FAST! Do whatever you think of first.  If someone gets stuck, and starts to fidget, that becomes their motion and the group repeats it.

One-Word Story

One Word Story- Learning to accept and build

Supplies needed: None

One-Word Story is an Improv game used as a warm up in Comedy Improv groups.  Divide your group into groups of 8-10.  Once you are in your groups, ask for a suggestion of a fairy tale story to tell as a group.  Then instruct the groups that they will have 2 minutes to begin to tell the story one. Word. At. A. time. The key is to go fast and to add onto the word the person in front of you said.

Tip: Inevitably, you will end up with a yellow submarine in Cinderella or ruby slippers in Snow White.  This game gets hilarious. Stop the game after two minutes and ask, “Do you guys actually remember the story?”  Ask for some of the really ridiculous suggestions.

This game highlights the point that even though we may have a really clear direction and idea of where things should be headed, we only have control of ourselves and our contribution to the team.  The idea is to learn to take what your teammate gives you, view it as a gift no matter how much it diverges from your plan, and build on it.

Hitchhiker

Hithiker: Attitude is contagious

Supplies needed: 4 chairs

This game is best done in a smallish group (10-15) as it takes a while.  The story is there are three people in a car and one hitchhiker. They pull over to pick up the hitchhiker and she gets into the back seat behind the driver. But the hitchhiker has a strange tick. As the driver is driving, the rest of the car slowly picks up the tick (preferably without the front seat watching the back seat) until the driver has the tick and finds an excuse to pull over and get out.  The players then rotate one seat and play begins again with a new hitchhiker and a new tick. The players keep the last tick, until it is replaced by a new one.

This particular game flows beautifully from One Word Story which teaches us that in this life we can’t choose what we are handed.  We can’t change other people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.  The one and only thing that we have any control over is ourselves. We can control our thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how we perceive a situation and what we choose to do with the information that we are presented.  We can choose to reflect a positive, Godly attitude, or we can choose to become a bitter root that can infect an entire group, or ministry, or even church.  In Hebrews 12: 15 says: “ See to it that no one misses the grace of God an that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

On the other hand, Hitchhiker teaches us how easy bad (and good) attitudes can spread among a group.

Pass the Beans

Sharing our hidden talents...

Supplies: 15 dried beans for each participant

Everyone has a special talent  and unique experiences, but sometimes they are hidden, so no one else knows about them. The goal of this game is to reveal those gifts to the rest of the group.

Ask women to form groups of five, and then have each group sit in a circle. Give each person 15 persons. Explain that the girls are to try and collect beans by describing their unique experiences or abilities. For example, a woman might tell about running in a marathon, being able to recite all the books of the Bible, or her passion for painting with watercolors. Whatever activity they describe must be absolutely true.

After someone shares an activity, each lady who has never done that must give the person who shared one bean.  Have participants take turns listing their unique experiences and abilities until each person has shared 10 activities.

After everyone has shared at least 10 activities, ask women to report how many beans they’ve collected. Then ask for volunteers to share interesting activities they heard about and encourage those that have done that activity to share more.

I hope that these are helpful to you! Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions about these or any other suggestions you see here!

The Key Ingredients for Incredible Women’s Events

As a speaker, I am often called on for advice in planning women’s events. I hear over and over again how different and fun Strings Attached events are, but what makes them so different?  I think that there are a several key ingredients to an incredible women’s event.  Keep these in mind while you are planning and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Always create moments to connect with each other and engage everyone's learning method.

An incredible women’s event is centered on building relationships (with God and with others).  I know, I know, relationships are kind of a big deal here at Strings Attached, but this because all women are relational.  They want to interact with each other.  Many women’s conferences try to shove so many special features into the day that they don’t leave time for forging connections.  As a team-building coach, this is my forte – bringing games and exercises that invite connection and sharing of story.  Plan times for connection, for mingling, for fun. Laughter is a great unifier.

Even the most engaging speaker will lose your audience after 45 min.

People should never be talked AT for more than 45 minutes.  This is a difficult one, especially if you are using an inexperienced speaker or a DVD program.  I always think back to my school days.  When sitting in a class, no matter how interesting I found the subject material, my ability to concentrate and assimilate would wane at about the 40 minute mark.  This is true for the women who are attending your event as well.  Incorporate experiential games and mixers to help the message stick, object lessons to bring real world metaphors to life, and time to reflect and absorb the information. Get the women up and moving, get them talking, help them form bonds and connections.

Every lesson should be applicable and give "real world" ways for incorporating it into life.

Remember, that the speaker’s story or curriculum needs to be applicable.  This gets left out most often when using lay speakers or women who haven’t yet learned to craft their talks.  (Sheila Wray Gregoire provides some great instruction on honing your message on her website Becoming a Christian Women’s Speaker.) Every presentation should have a way to apply it to everyday life.  There needs to always be a “Why” and  a “How”. Choose a retreat and speaker that challenges women to grow personally and wear the message home.

All women do not learn the same way.  Incorporate activities that provide a variety of learning methods.  In Strings Attached Retreats, you always find auditory (music/speaking), visual (object lessons and games), and kinesthetic (games that require movement and touch).  It’s not difficult to build these into your event, but it does take some thought and practice to get the timing right.  Many games and exercises cover all of the learning modalities.  We will be posting more about how to build this into your event in the coming weeks.

Leave time for reflection at the end of the day.

Reflection, reflection, reflection. In our harried world, in our frantic lives, we very rarely give ourselves time for reflection.  These women who have chosen to share their most valued resource—their time—with you, need time to reflect and connect with God. I attended Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating retreat in Colorado last year (if you haven’t been or haven’t read the book by the same title- you should!). Many things touched me—the speaker, the worship time, the food :), but the most profound moments came during what they called “Covenants of Silence.” It was during these times of reflection that the message of the weekend, the message God had brought me there to hear really soaked in. So many times during a women’s conference, we get so excited that we cram full our day or our event with programming. Leave some time and space for quiet reflection.

So there you go, Cari’s Special Recipe for a fantastic women’s event.  I am booking dates for the spring and fall of 2011 now if you would like Strings Attached Ministries to come to your group. We have packages available for any budget. We’d love to be a part of making your event spectacular. You can contact us here.

However, if you are a do-it-yourself-er, I will posting more tips on how to create this on your own. Until then, if you have questions  feel free to put them in the comments or send us an email at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

What do you think are the most important parts of a women’s event?

Photo credit: Laura Keck. All photos were taken at Hayward Wesleyan Church during 
"Vital Pieces: You are Signifcant to God's Plan." If you would like to order a copy 
of this presentation on CD, click here.

My Favorite Ice Breaker for Women’s Groups

This is really hard.  I feel like I am giving you the Secret Sauce guys, for free.  Without even asking for you to enter your email address (you could be the way…go to the ‘Contact Us’ tab and fill out the form.) All of my internet marketing/social media guru friends are rolling over in their pajamas and squirming in their affiliate webinars right now.  Please forgive me, my ‘gurus’. I am apparently a terrible student. 😉

Back in November, I promised a new direction. I promised to provide the “resources” I say that I offer.  You’ll notice the Resources tab has become more robust- with suggestions of books that have made a difference in my ministry as  well as the opportunity to order Living Life with Strings Attached.  You’ll also notice that I have changed my speaker’s fees.  Please think of me for your next women’s event or conference.  I would love to share this message God has laid on my heart with your group.  But more than that I have been watching. Watching what search words bring you to this site.  Watching where you link from.  Trying to discern what value I can provide to you now.

The overwhelming winner of the top search that brings people here to this site is ” Icebreaker for women’s ministry.” I have tons.  Crazy amounts of them, but I have never shared them with the public as a whole outside of my speaking events.  There is a part of me that is reluctant to share these little nuggets of value, but I have come to realize they were a gift given for me to give away, they are not mine to keep.  So here goes.  Please feel free to use these, to ask questions, to provide comments and otherwise interact with me.  I sometimes wonder if I am alone out here!

Because it is late and I am tired, I am only going to share one Ice Breaker tonight, but know there are more to follow.  This particular exercise is the signature ice breaker at Strings Attached events.  It’s called “Me, too!”

“Me, Too!”

Supplies needed:  Spool of twine or string at least 100ft long for each group of 8-10 ladies

Notes: If your group is larger than 10, you’ll want to break up into smaller groups of 8-10 people.

“Me, Too!”  is the signature Strings Attached activity.  I use this activity to start just about every retreat or workshop I do.  It is the perfect way to get a group to open up and start talking about themselves while learning how much they have in common with each other.  Remember, the focus is to share little tidbits of information about yourself.

Give each group a spool of string. Choose someone to start by telling their group something about themselves such as:

  • My favorite color is green.
  • I like to sing in the shower.
  • I have two children.
  • I dip my pizza in ranch dressing.

Once the person with the string says something that applies to another person in the group, that person calls out, “Me, too!” The first person holds on to the end of the string and passes the spool to the other person.  If more than one person has a “me, too” then the string passes to all those people, and ends at the last person to say “me,too.” The person with the ball of spool then says something else about themselves.  In the end, a group will end up with a web of connections.  Have each lady count the number of “me,toos” she had and point out how much the groups have in common with each other.

So what do you think? What’s your favorite icebreaker?

Comment by Midnight, January 20, 2011, and one lucky commenter will win a copy of Group’s Icebreaker’s Galore: The Ultimate Game Guide for Girlfriends.

An Apology and a New Strategy

As I sit here at Einstein Bros, creating my strategic plan for Strings Attached Ministries for 2011, I am thinking about the reason I started this site and about what it has become.

Interesting, the journeys we take through this world and how, so often, the picture that we create so clearly in our minds is very rarely the final destination.  Perhaps it is a stop on the journey, or perhaps you find yourself going in an entirely different direction altogether.  I feel like this website has been a reflective extension of the journey that I and Strings Attached Ministries have been on.

Started in July 2009, Strings Attached Ministries is a retreat and speaking ministry. It is a relationship building ministry, but it has also in the course of that time, become a healing and restoration ministry.  And that part is completely unexpected.

My original intent for this website was for it to be two-fold in its purpose:

1)      A landing page and online home for people to learn more about this ministry

And

2)      a resource for women’s ministry leaders to help with planning and executing retreats and women’s events.

As I review the strategic plan for last year I feel that this site has very much fulfilled the first part of its purpose, but is severely lacking in the second. There are many reasons that it gravitated from that second purpose, but I think the one that stands out for me is rather difficult to admit.

I didn’t want to give you resources because what I really wanted you to do is hire me to come and be your facilitator. I wanted to be your resource.

All that fills so icky to say out loud, but it is simply, transparently, the truth. I am sorry and as I move into this new year, I am committing to doing things differently.

You see, I have a message to share with you and I have been gifted by God to be able to share that message effectively with others.  I have developed exercises and activities to help drive home that message and enable people from all walks of life to wear it home but,  I have selfishly held onto these and, in doing so, failed to provide many of you with what you are looking for.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and sharing of our gifts with others, I am committing to fulfill the second purpose of this site in 2011.  There will be more free resources- icebreakers, exercises, and anecdotes- shared. I will also be working on developing a “Retreat in a Box” format, look for that to come out Summer of 2011.  More video clips will be posted, as well as DVDs and CDs of presentations given.  Check out the Resources section for a link to some of my favorite retreat planning resources. Please, always know I am available to you as a resource and sounding board.  Feel free to email me your questions, and your ideas or to comment here. Strings Attached word for 2011 is “Value.”  That is what I want to provide to you.  To do that, I need your help…

what is it that you most need?

So look for the first post next week on my favorite ice breakers.  If you have some you would like to share, email me or include them in the comments.  As an incentive, one lucky commenter will receive an autographed copy of my book, Living Life with Strings Attached.