If you want your preschool son to someday play major league baseball, you don’t simply send him to Florida for a spring training tryout. You start with Little League. And you ease him into Little League by starting with coach-pitch baseball. And you ease into coach-pitch baseball by playing T-ball. And you ease into that with a giant red bat in the backyard.
That’s also a wise approach to take with Bible study—ease into it.
Review your study from the perspective of a guest, someone new to the group, or someone new to the Christian life. When we jump right into Bible study with a theological discussion, group members can feel lost. And certain questions early on can only intimidate them or leave them sitting quietly in the corner.
- How have you experienced the blessings that come from following God’s instruction?
- What is the difference between living by the law and living by faith?
- How do we navigate the tension between needing to keep God’s standards and knowing we can’t?
We want discussion in our group, but the right question at the right time can make all the difference! The questions above are legitimate questions—they are a part of a Bible study my team is currently developing—but they come later in the study, after the passage has been studied and the interaction among the group members is comfortable.
So how do we get group members comfortable? How do we ease them into digging into the study?
Use icebreaker questions. An icebreaker question is one that doesn’t require a lot of thinking. It’s a question for which a person can readily think of a response; he or she may even want to tell a story. Here are some icebreakers I’ve used with my own group in recent weeks:
- When have you really enjoyed making a mess?
- When have you accomplished something you didn’t think you could do?
- If you could have a lifetime supply of any product, what would you choose?
- What’s your favorite comfort food?
- Who is a neighbor you’re glad you’ve gotten the chance to know?
These may look like random questions, but they have a specific purpose:
- The question about making a mess is used to segue into the messes we make that aren’t fun. It launches a study of how Jesus fixes our “messes.”
- The question about comfort food segues into how some things can only offer temporary comfort. It launches a study of how we can be Christ to others and offer them real comfort.
- The question about having a lifetime supply leads into a discussion of the grace of God, which is ours in unlimited supply.
A good icebreaker can be identified as one that is:
- Easy to answer. Everyone has an opinion or story of how they’d answer.
- Non-threatening. No one is pressured to reveal too much about themselves or give an answer of which they’re not certain.
- Fun to answer. It’s not necessarily “spiritual,” because it’s merely a lead-in to the topic of the Bible study.
- Gets people talking. This is the key strength of an icebreaker. How do you get a room full of people who don’t really know one another, or may only be casually acquainted, to talk? Through an easy question that makes people want to answer. And once they’re talking to each other, they’re far more ready and eager to engage in conversation as you dig into God’s Word.
The icebreaker question has…um, broken the ice!
Lynn Pryor is a team leader for adult resources at Lifeway. He and his wife, Mary, lead a Bible study group for young adults and have survived raising two sons to adulthood. A graduate of Southwestern Seminary, Lynn has previously pastored and served churches in Texas. Follow him on his blog at lynnhpryor.com.