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Learning activities by topic

Real learning begins with doing or seeing. Learn how creating a timeline, having an impossible scavenger hunt, or playing a card game can lead to greater intimacy with God, understanding Biblical truth, developing healthier relationships and teams, and more!
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Intimacy with God


Letter to God

Have participants write a letter to God, expressing thoughts and feelings and including both joys and struggles. Then have them sit quietly, listening for what God would say in response. Invite them to write down what they hear.


Silent retreat

Engage in an extended time of personal silence, followed by a time of sharing.


Centering prayer

Have participants focus on a verse and silently repeat it. Then have them begin to shorten the verse, becoming “centered” and focused on one key word. For example, with the verse “Be still and know that I am God,” participants might follow this progression:
    • Be still and know that I am God.
    • Be still and know that I am.
    • Be still and know.
    • Be still.
    • Be.
Give the participants time to listen to what God is saying in this word or phrase. Open up time to share about what happened if time allows.


Biblical truth

Bible story summary

In small groups, have people try to craft a summary of a Bible story in under three minutes. Then have each group present its summary to the larger group. Follow this with a time of group discussion, asking questions such as:
    • What is the overall point of the story?
    • What are the key concepts that this story brings out about God, people, purpose, etc?                   Compare this story to other stories that may shape us (e.g., the American Dream).

Entering the story

Pick a Bible story and invite participants to close their eyes and listen as you read the story interpretively. Read the story from the perspective of one of the characters, adding in details that help the story come alive. Invite the students to use their imaginations to enter the story as you retell it, and to listen to what Jesus is speaking to them.

Discovering the story

“Discovery Bible Study” is a popular way to study short passages of the Word in community. It is best done in groups that meet on a consistent basis but can also be used as a way to help people interact with a key passage of the training experience. It is excellent for helping people to live out the passage in concrete steps. You can find a plethora of resources on different ways of using Discovery Bible Study by doing a simple internet search.

Knowing yourself

Timeline

Have participants create a timeline of their lives by drawing a line through the middle of a piece of paper. The high points of their lives go above the line and the low points below the line in chronological order. The higher an event is above the line, the better it was. Likewise, the lower an event is below the line, the harder it was. Then ask participants to pray through their lives. How did each event affect them? What lies or wounds have they been carrying? Where does forgiveness need to be given or received?

You are special

Read aloud the book You are Special by Max Lucado. Give each participant a gold star and a gray dot. Have them reflect on what things people have spoken over them that were encouraging and life giving and write those on the star. Things spoken over them that have been wounding and deflating are written on the dot. Spend time discussing these statements in small groups or pairs, replacing the lies on the gray dot with God’s truth about who they are.

Impossible scavenger hunt

Tell participants that an object like the one you are holding up is hidden somewhere in the building. Explain that their job is to find it. If they want help, they can come to you and ask; you will help them. Then go sit in a place out of the general flow of traffic, but in a place where participants can find you. 

Participants generally scatter and begin looking. The fact is there isn’t another object like the one they are shown. (Be sure there is NOT another object in the building like the one you are holding.) When someone asks for help, tell them quietly that the only object is the one you have and they have found it. Wait until everyone has asked for help. Note: You can do this activity in a single room if everyone is blindfolded.

Debrief after everyone has asked for help. Help participants connect the activity with the fact that in the journey of discipleship, we must be willing to ask for help, both from God and each other. Our fierce, independent spirits (that we often pride ourselves on in the West) are detrimental to the purposes of God in the kingdom.

Writing a letter to improve relationships

Think of a person with whom you have had problems (could be family member or friend, something current or in the past). Write that person a letter (it can be long or short), getting your feelings out on paper. Be sure to end positively and in a manner that may help improve the relationship. When you are finished, you can give it to the person or keep it for yourself.

Coloring our emotions

Sometimes we are not able to describe our feelings within the context of vocabulary and language. It is often helpful to employ techniques that allow us to express ourselves without the need for speech. Color can help. Participants start by closing their eyes and thinking about the things that are stressing them, the things that have uplifted them -- all the dimensions of their day-to-day lives. Then they choose a color that corresponds with those factors; their creativity should tell their stories. The result can be a drawing or just a scribbling, but it is a release of feelings. In the group, it may be helpful to go around and discuss why participants chose the colors they did and what the images or colors depict.

Disciple-making

Learning to listen better

Building authentic relationships with others requires a real desire to hear another person’s story. Sharing the gospel and discipling another is really about connecting his or her life story with God’s great story. Have participants take turns telling part of their life stories to each other. The listener will use reflective listening and resist jumping in to take over the conversation.

Sharing your story

Participants come prepared to share their faith stories in three minutes. People share their stories in pairs. Participants then switch partners and try to share their stories in two minutes. Finally, each person gets a chance to share his or her story with the whole group in less than a minute. Being able to give short testimonies of the work of Jesus in our lives is a powerful tool for sharing His love.

Prophetic practice

At random times, invite people to get into pairs. Everyone takes a few minutes to ask God what He wants to say to the other person in the pair. Then participants share the words of “comfort, encouragement, and strengthening” that the Lord put in their hearts with their partners.

Healthy relationships and team

Tallest tower

Each small group is given a pack of index cards, and told to build the tallest tower possible. Groups are given five minutes to discuss and plan and then five minutes to build. The tallest tower wins. To debrief, have groups discuss and affirm the strengths of each person in the group. It’s important in the body of Christ to take time to honor and encourage everyone in their unique gifts and roles.

Church as sender

Get a bunch of gold stars and hand each person a sheet of paper. Ask them to think about the people who are supporting them either in prayer, finances, or encouragement. Put one star for each person on the paper. Remind participants that they don’t simply go – they are SENT! The body is interconnected, and as people support us, so we have a responsibility to serve them in return, through our gratitude, staying connected, and encouraging the other ministries of the church as possible.

Showers of blessing

Put a sticky note on the back of each person, and have participants go around and write affirmations of the gifts and strengths of each person on the sticky notes of the wearers.

Spiritual streams

Have a short discussion on different spiritual streams (contemplative, social justice, evangelical, charismatic – find a list with descriptions in A Garden in Spring at emm.org/about-us ) and then ask participants in groups to plan a worship service that all streams would find meaningful. During debrief, discuss ways that we can work together in the midst of differing opinions. What does it mean to honor one another above ourself while still sharing our opinion? This activity can work with a variety of conflict- causing issues.

Unique and shared

Divide into groups. Instruct a note taker for each group to create a list of the traits or qualities that members of the group have in common. Avoid writing the obvious (e.g., we all have hair). The goal is for everyone to look deeper than the superficial level. After five minutes have the groups share as a whole class. Then instruct the group to find at least two unique qualities and strengths for each person (again, go beyond the superficial). After five minutes, share with the larger group. The objective of this activity is to promote unity through giving the team the opportunity to understand both commonalities and differences/strengths.

Group logo

The purpose of this activity is to create cohesiveness, cooperation, and a feeling of group identity. Each group receives one pencil, one eraser, one pack of crayons/markers, and one sheet of paper. Each member, one at a time, makes a shape on the paper. The shape needs to be large and closed; when drawing the shape, the pencil should not be lifted up. After each person draws their shape, the group should step back from the paper and view it together. As a group, they need to decide what familiar thing (animal, face, etc.) the overlapping shapes look like. When the familiar thing is decided on, outline it with the crayons and color the picture (erasing the pencil marks and adding details as needed). Then the group chooses a name for their logo and shares it with class.

Culture and language learning

Barnga

This is a simple card game in which each group playing the game is given slightly different directions on how to play the game. Once the game starts, there is no talking. After each round, winners move to new tables to play. There they encounter the rules that others are playing by but can’t discuss the rules. During debrief, ask participants to reflect on how they respond to different “rules”? What are healthy ways to interact with people who do things slightly different than you?

Cultural role play

Using Lanier’s Foreign to Familiar, have people act out in pairs the different cultural values that Lanier highlights. Each pair is given one of the chapters to look at and told to think about a situation that represents the cultural value of the chapter they were given. One person should represent a hot culture response and one represent a cold culture response. The participants then each get a turn to give their view of the situation in accordance with their cultural view. Have the larger group guess which view is hot and which is cold. Then discuss the different views, asking participants to identify which side they tend toward and to propose ways they will adjust.

Mysterious debate

This activity is traditionally used as an icebreaker but can also be used to demonstrate hot versus cold climate cultures. Prepare sticky notes with unique, command phrases such as “ignore me” or “compliment me.” Apply one sticky note on the forehead of each person in the group. Give the group a debate topic that they will discuss with one another. Have the group members mingle with each other. Treat each member as the sticky note indicates. Try to figure out what your sticky note says. After 10 minutes, discuss the following questions: How did it feel to be treated this way? How did it feel to treat others a certain way? What does this tell me about my own cultural perspective on how to interact with others?

Luna game

Participants split into four groups; each group is given a description of a different culture to guide them. (Send an email to info@emm.org to request the instruction sheets.) Half of each group will be “goers” and half of each group will be “stayers.” The “goers” travel around and interact with the “stayers” from the different groups. Afterwards, the participants discuss how the experience was for them, and how they responded to the different cultures.
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