The challenge of making teens comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings during youth group meetings has been a thorn in the side of youth pastors for decades now. But with our current social distancing restrictions in place and many youth groups meeting virtually, this challenge has been taken to a whole new level: How do you break the ice on a Zoom call? Enter virtual icebreakers.
Any youth pastor worth his or her salt knows that a well-timed and thoughtful icebreaker can represent a fast-track to getting teens to open up a little. Which is why we’ve put together seven virtual icebreakers to help your teens feel more comfortable in virtual meetings—even the introverts.
8 Virtual Icebreakers for Youth Group Meetings
1. Agree or Disagree
This game is perfect for getting your teens to start thinking about the topic of discussion for the meeting. You may have used this icebreaker or participated in it before in a physical setting. Participants are presented with a statement and asked whether they agree or disagree with it. Those who agree are asked to move to one side of the room and those who disagree move to the opposite. Participants can also add nuance to their responses by moving somewhere in between the two sides.
For a Zoom call or virtual meeting, participants can express their level of approval or disapproval with their fingers. One finger up means strongly disagreeing while five fingers up means strongly agreeing. Have each of your teens hold their response (hand) up to the camera after you read the statement.
The statement is where you can work your lesson or the theme of the meeting into the game. Perhaps you’re discussing ways prayer can help combat anxiety during that meeting. A statement such as “I’ve never had a bad prayer time” might be a good place to kick the evening off. After students show their responses, go down the list of participants, noting (verbally) each of their responses. Ask each one if they’d like to comment on why they responded the way they did. If a student doesn’t want to share, no worries! Simply move on to the next one.
2. Two Truths and a Lie
You may be familiar with this game as well, which can be used in a physical gathering. For this game, each participant tells the group three things about him or herself: two of those things are true and one is a lie. After the participant has said his or her three things, have the group vote (using their fingers) on which statement they think is the lie. As the leader, figure out the consensus of the group and announce it. “Ok, I guess most of us think statement two is the lie. Were we right?” Then the participant explains which statement was the lie. This can get interesting if the participant has a really amazing true statement or two thrown in there and leaves the whole group stumped. It’s a good idea to have your statements ready beforehand so you can go first to demonstrate how the game works.
3. Sketch your neighbor
(This idea taken from Beth Kanter’s blog)
This is a great game to get teens to laugh. Have each student grab a piece of paper and writing utensil. If you’re using Zoom, there is a grid function that allows you to see each of the meeting’s participants in a grid. Using this function, assign each person another person to sketch. For instance, you might look at the grid and have each person sketch the person on their right. Then message each participant individually (don’t send to the whole group) and tell them who they should sketch. Give the students two minutes to sketch their person. When time’s up, call out participants one by one to hold up his or her sketch. The rest of the group has the task of guessing who the object of the sketch is. This will likely get a good laugh unless, of course, the participant is a talented artist. Make sure to communicate to your students that this is all in fun and that no one is expected to be perfect.
4. Introduce your pet
This may seem a little juvenile to have students show the group their family pet, but honestly, who doesn’t like to see a dog or cat video? Most teens are keen to show off their pets, too, just as many adults are. If a student doesn’t have a pet, have him or her show a picture of a pet they once had and tell the group something about the animal. If they’ve never had a pet, have them describe the kind of pet they would like to get one day.