January 12, 2012

Light as a feather or stiff as a board? Vestry ice breakers

By the dim light of the hall bathroom, the girls could see each other. No giggles, we imposed. Then each of us placed a finger under the pre-teen girl and began intoning, “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

Each time, we were amazed when our collective fingers could lift the girl off the ground. It didn’t cross our minds that this feat might be easily explained by physics – and a pre-teen body weight of 80 pounds. It was teamwork, and we felt bonded.

As vestries begin their work for the new year, I suggest you take some cues from slumber parties and youth group meetings. Use some ice breakers to lower tension and build trust. (Caution: Light as a feather, stiff as a board should not be tried at home.)

One of my new favorites is compliments of the Rev. Scott Gunn, the executive director of Forward Movement Publications. At a recent board meeting, he gathered staff and board members into a circle. Then he asked us to imagine what object we would be from the nave and/or sanctuary. A candle? The altar? A pew or thurifer? We could name anything, as long as we didn’t repeat what already had been said. And we needed to offer a brief explanation of why we chose the particular object.

I’ve played this ice breaker a few times since – and each time, it has given me new insight into the groups and individuals. One person chose the pew cushion because he likes to offer comfort. Another would be a church spider so she could engage both a view from the balustrades as well as close-ups by climbing down a web thread.  One person would be the smoke from the incense, reminding us of the eternal mystery, and another was the candle, to bring light to every corner.

I’m sure there are other great ice breakers around that don’t require the finger-lifting of vestry members. What are your suggestions? How can we get to know each other better so that we might be more useful vessels for carrying out God’s work in our communities?