We should mix it up
When I'm in a public place with my wife, she loves it when I take the time to introduce her to people we meet that I know. Assuming I can remember the name of the person I’ve met, the conversation goes something like this:
"Hi David… great to see you again… have you met my wife, Mandy? Mandy, this is David. He is the minister at St Simon's. He brings his church down to our Shoalhaven Centres for their weekendaway each June."
Really, it's just common courtesy.
However, it is just as important to introduce people to each other when spending time with a large group of people who don't know each other.
I have found, especially through my youth ministry experience, that it is well worth the investment in time to help a group get to know each other at the start of a session or event. Whether it's a youth group evening, or a leader's training event, it's worth making the time to have a 'mixer’.
Here are three mixers I've done to death, but still work just fine.
1. Find your twin
I stole this from Ken and Julie Moser, youth ministry gurus. You ask everyone to stand up, and tell them to find someone who has the same physical characteristics as them. Then you tell them to introduce themselves to that person, and then share the answers to a nominated question, and finally ask some of them to share their answers with the wider group. It might go like this:
"OK everyone. When I tell you… not yet… I want you to stand up and find someone the same height as you. When you find them, tell them your name and your church, and swap answers to the question 'If there was a fire in your house, and you could only rescue one item, what would it be?. OK, go!"
This is basically a version of speed dating… without the dating. Set up two concentric circles of chairs, with the inside circle of chairs pointing out, and the outside circle of chairs pointing in. Chairs should be set up so that each outer chair is directly facing an inner chair. Ask people to sit on the chairs, and then tell them to introduce themselves to the person sitting opposite, and share answers to a set question. Then, get the people in either the outer or the inner circle to stand up and move a few chairs to the left or the right. For example:
"OK, share with the person sitting opposite you your name and school, and swap answers to the question 'What are you most looking forward to about this weekend's camp?' Then after they've had a chance to share, get them to mix. 'OK, outside circle stand up and move five seats to your left'. Now, do the same thing as before. Share your name and church, and tell your new partner what you're most looking forward to about this camp.”
3. People Bingo
This last one is a fun one to really get people to break the ice. Distribute to each member of the group a piece of paper with eight boxes printed in a large grid. Each box describes a particular aspect of a person in the room. I'm using this one this weekend at the TWIST Away music ministry training conference, so the squares will say "Someone who's played a bagpipe" and "Someone who wrote a song you sing in church". People race around the room trying to find a person who meets the description, and then gets them to sign their name. Like normal 'bingo', the winner is the first person to get eight different signatures on their game card.
It might seem like a waste of time to run this kind of mixer at the start of a session, but trust me, it really helps the group to relax and to participate well. And what's more, it's just common courtesy.