1. Item From Wallet or Purse Ask group members to select one item from their wallet or purse that they can use to introduce themselves or disclose personal information: a photo, a receipt, a business card, etc. Give everyone a couple minutes to display and explain the item. Encourage others to react by asking probing questions that elicit even more information.
2. –Ing Words Ask everyone to think of three words ending in –Ing that disclose personal information. (A chef might think of “cooking.” An insurance agent might opt for “selling.” A new member of Weight Watchers might choose “dieting.”)
Have every member of your small group share these words with the others. If you teach a large Sunday-school class, turn it into a mixer. Tell everyone to meet three folks they don’t know well, then use the –Ing words as a means of introduction.
3. Interviews Each week your group meets, reserve five minutes for an interview with one of the participants. If your group size is typical, you should cover everyone in two or three months.
The questions you ask should vary somewhat from person to person, but here are a few to spur your thinking: Where did you live between the ages of 5-10? Tell us about your all-time favorite vacation. What do you enjoy doing on your days off? If you had an email waiting on you when you return home, what would you want it to say? What person was most responsible for your coming to Christ? How can we pray for you right now? (Caution: if you’re unsure about a group member’s salvation, avoid questions about spiritual experience.)
4. Name Acrostic Distribute nametags or note cards. Tell everyone to write his first name vertically on the tag or card. Instruct each person to use each letter of his name as the first letter of a single word that tells something about his personality, hobbies, past experiences—you name it!
“P” could stand for recent “promotion,” “E” could start the word “exercise” and refer to a gym membership, and so on. Then everyone can explain his acrostic to the group.
5. Designer Name Tags Distribute blank nametags. Instruct participants to write or print their name in the shape of something that describes them: a symbol that captures a trait, hobby, or current circumstance. Provide examples as a catalyst to their thinking.
A basketball fan could put his name in the form of a circle. Someone facing an important decision or uncertainty about the future could arrange the letters in the form of a question mark. Then let everyone display and explain his or her creation. Others can ask about the experience or sphere of interest captured in the design.
6. Pleasant Experience Give each participant a 3-by-5 card. Have each person describe on the card a pleasant experience from recent months—something the other group members aren’t likely to know. Collect the cards, scramble them, and have every participant pick a card. When everyone has received a card other than his own, instruct people to find the person whose experience is recorded on the card. Then everyone can share with the whole group the pleasant experience.
7. Nonverbal Introductions Divide the group into pairs. Give each person two minutes to introduce himself to his or her partner—without using words. The partner may speak, guessing what the communicator is trying to say nonverbally. After two minutes, switch and give the other person a chance to introduce himself the same way. Next, instruct each pair to join another twosome. Then give everyone two minutes to introduce his partner to the new pair—nonverbally, of course. Before you reconvene, tell each foursome to exchange names and talk over their nonverbal experience.
Use the nonverbal introductions as a springboard for a discussion of communication patterns in small groups. Ask: What did you learn about interpersonal communication from this activity? What nonverbal messages do members of groups often send? What examples of negative nonverbal cues can you cite? What positive nonverbal cues enhance the relational climate of a group? How can awareness of each other’s nonverbal messages improve our ministry to one another?
What is the best mixer or team-building idea that you’ve employed in a group?