Bonding Harbor

Bonding Harbor

When individuals first come together our bodies want to know “is it safe to let down my guard a little?” As facilitators, we want to create spaces where there’s room for people to get a sense of the energies others are bringing and, if they so choose, let go a little. We call this place on the map “Bonding Harbor.”

The first step in building community is to identify some cohesiveness and a very low stakes sense of contributing to the collective. This is the time to break down reliance on separateness and establish a sense of trustworthiness amongst group members. This is the time for generating collective energy, but not really for building intimacy.

When groups are bonding, it’s the ideal time to teach, learn and play new games. In fact, bonding almost requires games, or at least some kind of structured social activity that can hold and maybe diffuse some of the anxiousness or fear that can accompany meeting new people. A problem-solving task or other activity that requires group members to work side by side can create communal bonds. Cooperation is the goal. This is the time to learn everyone’s name and some of their identifying characteristics of everyone in the group, but not to delve much deeper. First, the group needs the experience of playing together. Group art projects are also well-suited to this stage, but remember, the process is often more important than the result. Working together, to cook a meal or collect cans for a food drive can also strengthen group bonds.

Bonding games accomplish their goal best when each person’s input is accepted and welcomed by others. Thus, they begin to identify themselves as part of the team. So that everyone can participate/contribute, it’s important to know what needs and accommodations your members have so you can pick which activities and variations will work best for your group. We’ve tagged the activities in the Bonding Harbor as Mingling, Creative, and Embodied so you can pick what’s best for your group.


The Mighty Wind Blows

Also known as "The Big Wind Blows" "Spill the Basket," "All My Friends and Neighbors," "I like People Who..."

Parameters: More than 5 people, can be done in person or on video call.

Materials: chairs or other "spot markers" is doing the variation.

The person who is "It" introduces themselves, is greeted by the group, then picks something about themselves they might have in common with other members of the group.

"Hi I'm Alex"
"Hi Alex!"
The mighty wind blows for people who...have ever dyed their hair a color of the rainbow.”

Everyone to whom this applies makes an agreed upon gesture noticeable to "It" (a vocal hoot, a waving hand, standing up, stepping towards the center of the circle, etc.) "It" then chooses someone to go next, who can accept or pass. The game ends when everyone who wants to has a chance to be "It."

Variations: For in person groups where everyone wants a higher energy activity that includes running. Sit in chairs or stand in a circle. If standing it's helpful if everyone takes off their shoes and places them in front of them as their spot. "It" stands in the middle of the circle and people for whom the mighty wind blows jump out of their chairs and find another chair (not either of the chairs next to them), a la musical chairs. The person remaining after all the chairs are taken makes the next statement.


Parameters: more than 2 people, can be done in person, or on video call

Materials: none

The person who is "It" leaves the room. The remaining group chooses a verb. When the person returns to the room, the group must replace that verb with “teapot” when they speak. "It" tries to discover the meaning of “teapot” by asking members of the group questions like, “Do you teapot a lot?” or, “What does it feel like to teapot?” Members of the group cannot use any variation of the verb in their answer.

Variations: The challenge of this game can be modified based on how complex the verb is. It may be as broad as "sleeping" or as specific as "doing the dishes while balancing on a unicycle."

Don't Think

Parameters: more than 2 people, can be done in person, or on video call
Materials: Index cards or scratch paper if doing this in person. For video call, search for something like "simple custom deck of cards to shuffle and draw from" like VirtuDeck.
The facilitator writes a bunch of prompts with blanks on cards (Ex: My favorite food right now is ____, a movie that I could watch over and over again is ____, my favorite place at church is ____, etc). The facilitator identifies someone to answer, then draws one card and reads it out loud. The person answers with the first thing that pops into their head, or passes. Play continues around the circle until everyone has gone.
Variation: Participants pick, without looking, then read their own cards before answering.
Variation: Play is timed and the object of the game is to finish around as fast as the group can.

Bite Sized Answers

Parameters: more than 2 people, in person. Can be done on video call if participants are provided with the materials in advance.
Materials: M&Ms, fruit loops or other multicolored food based on the groups dietary restrictions. Otherwise, a number of differently colored beads or other such tokens can be used.
Make up questions to go with the different colors, (red=what’s your favorite movie for example). Then give everyone a handful. Go around the circle and answer questions one piece at a time (so there will be multiple rounds. Participants can pass or pass for now.
Variation: The tokens in a person's hand allows them to ask another person in the circle the question associated with that color.

Tower of Questions

Parameters: more than two people, in person

Materials: Jenga game

Write get to know you questions (do you play a sport? what's your favorite band/musician right now? for example) on many or all of the blocks. As people remove a block, they answer the question before placing it back on top.

Variation: The person who removed the block gets to ask the question of another person in the circle. That person gets to go next.


Mural or Collage

Parameters: Perfect for a group from two to infinity! Can be done in person, on video call or asynchronously. If done asynchronously, giving a prompt and doing a show and tell will be key to bringing out the unifying nature of getting crafty together.

Materials: substrata options: wall of your congregation, glass jar candle, mat board. Paint, markers, magazines, thrift store photo books, scissors, glue, any kind of art supply you can rustle up.

Here is a great way to contribute to the ambiance of your gathering space while bonding. Put the craft things on the table and consider putting on some quiet music. Giving people something to do with their hands and focus can take the edge off of socializing. Skimming through magazines together may provide some impromptu conversation starters.

Variations: candles can be used for worship. Provide a prompt like "breaking down walls" or "feeling at home."

Pillowcase Skits

Parameters: This game is for a larger, in person group.

Materials: Pillowcases, interesting clothing items, props, pillowcases, and children’s books, etc.

Put 3-5 unique and random items in each pillowcase (ex: scarf, can opener, banana, guitar pick). Break the group into teams of two to five people and distribute the pillowcases among them. Give teams instructions to create a skit using all of the items. Establish guidelines for the group process — ex. everyone can have a role that they're comfortable with even if they don't want a speaking part, skits can be funny but can't poke fun —but don’t give them too much time to prepare. Bring everyone back together to preform their skits.

Variation: Include a children’s book or the title of a well-known fairy tale to act out in each bag.

Variation: Have each member of each team find and bring back one unusual item (toothbrush, can opener, banana, guitar pick) to put it in the bag. Redistribute the bags among the teams.



Parameters: More than 5 people, in person. Ask if everyone is comfortable touching hands. This game is not suitable if there are group members who don’t want to deal with touch at that moment.

Materials: none

Also known as “Pass the Squeeze.”

Everyone sits or stands in a circle, holding hands. One person squeezes the hand of the person to their right, who squeezes the hand of the person to their right, and the squeeze is “passed” around the circle until it returns to its starting place. Try this game with your eyes closed, or with multiple squeezes in different directions.


Parameters: The larger the group the louder the rainstorm. If group members are sensitive to loud noise, consider stopping at #3 or #4.

Explain to the group they are going to create the sound of a rainstorm with their bodies. Instruct them to follow your lead and change their motion when you change yours.

The order of the motions is:

  1. rubbing hands together
  2. rubbing hands on thighs
  3. tapping hands on thighs
  4. snapping fingers
  5. clapping hands
  6. stomping feet and clapping hands

Once you reach #6, repeat the motions in descending order. The last motion to be followed is stillness and silence.

Variation: Darken the room if participants consent.

Variation: Have the group sit in a circle. Explain that you are going to start a repetitive motion and that it will travel around the circle to the right until it comes back to you, at which point you will start another motion. Tell the members not to change what they are doing until the person on their left has changed.

Blobs and Lines

Parameters: more than 10 people in person.
Materials: none
Facilitator prompts participants to either line up in some particular order (by birthday, for example) or gather in "blobs" based on something they have in common (number of siblings, for example). Provide a number of prompts so participants get a sense of their many commonalities with others.
Variation: participants must play in silence.