Back in my single days I taught a single adult Bible study class made up of men and women of all ages that enjoyed digging into and discussing Scripture with me every week. I learned a lot about leading a small group Bible study and shared some of what I learned via a blog I created dedicated to the subject. This post is a refresh of a post that appeared on that blog.

As a small group Bible study teacher, I tried to structure my lessons around interaction among the  group members.  My goals every week were to have group members verbally respond to questions, to share how Scripture affected them, and to respond to others’ comments.

But it wasn’t always easy to get them talking.

Sometimes trying to get someone, anyone, to say anything leaves the teacher begging.  “What do you think?  Anyone?  Lucy, were you going to say something?  No?  How about you, Albert?  Not you, either?  Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?”

This lack of participation does a couple of things.

  • The group feels dead and boring.  Visitors will likely never come back.
  • Group members leave feeling like they did not have a meaningful experience and may not see the value in returning.

How do you get them talking?

Morris, the single adult pastor that I “reported” to, taught me that the key to group participation was to get the group members talking at the beginning of our time together.  Get them to say just a couple of words and they’ll feel like they were a part of things and maybe even relax enough to participate during the lesson.

The way we did this was with an icebreaker question.  We asked the icebreaker question at the beginning of our time together, after announcements and before the lesson began. We would then go around the room to give everyone a chance to answer.  The question was different every week and required only a short answer so that we wouldn’t spend too much time on it.

What are some good questions?

You can ask a random icebreaker question:

  • What’s your favorite junk food?
  • What’s your favorite color and why?
  • What’s your favorite Christmas / Easter / birthday / (special event) memory?
  • Who is your hero?  (besides Jesus)
  • If you could have dinner with two people from history, who would they be?
  • Chocolate or vanilla?

Or you could ask a question related to the lesson topic. For example:

  • If teaching about the names of God, you can ask, “If you were to give God a special name, what would it be?”
  • If teaching about the Lord’s prayer, you can ask, “Do you have memories of saying this prayer as a child?”

Whether the question is random or related to the topic, the goal is to get each person to say something and maybe even share a little bit about themselves.

Make it light-hearted.

This works best when the person asking the question, or someone else in the class, responds to the answers in a sincere and light-hearted way. For example:

  • “M&M’s are my favorite junk food, too! But they have to be peanut M&M’s.”
  • “I never would have guessed that about you. It’s like I don’t even know you!”
  • “I’m glad you made it this week. We missed you last week!”

How long does this take?

This depends on the size of your class and the amount of time you have together.  Since the primary purpose of being in a small group Bible study is to share God’s Word, I’d say that you should allow ten minutes (at the most) for this activity if you only have an hour together.  Anything more than that is just socializing and should be reserved for lunch after church…but that’s another post!

Do you have any ideas for good icebreaker questions?  If so, leave them in a comment below!

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