Opening Up Beach

Opening Up Beach

When an individual can share about areas of their life with an amount of disclosure that feels right to them and is accepted by group members, an exciting step in group growth has taken place. If one person perceives that another is genuinely interested in their story and what makes them unique, the conditions for trust are being tended. We call this place on the map Opening Up Beach.

An initial stage of community building is to engage in low risk experiments with vulnerability. The individual is discerning what parts of themself are welcome and will thrive in this community, what needs the community might meet and what their boundaries need to be. This is the time for not just celebrating what we have in common, but discovering and relishing in our differences. Think of the group as beachcombers at this stage, offering up the little treasures inside themselves and seeking them out in each other.

When a group is playing with the concept of opening up to each other, this is a great time to introduce touch groups/care groups/touch base groups/gaggle groups or small group ministry by any other name.

Discovering diversity and welcoming it in is the goal at the Opening Up Beach. Opening up activities accomplish their goal best when there is facilitation that can hold the parameters of the discussion, activity or practice and explicit group guidelines so that participants can feel free to experiment within the agreed upon boundaries without fear of mistakenly doing or saying something that may get them “cast out.” The right to pass or pass for now is an important part of creating a community vibe that uplifts autonomy and agency in the individual’s participation.

Many games involve sharing in creative ways, with noise and music instead of words. These can be just as powerful for a group at this stage. Choose which activities you think will help participants gain some enthusiasm about the thicker connections they are developing in the group.

The Animal Game

Parameters: If there are more than 10 in your group, form small groups of 4 to 8 people. works well in person or online.

Materials: in person - scratch paper and writing utensils.

Each person writes on a piece of scratch paper or in a private message to the facilitator what animal they would choose to be and in what setting. You can prompt people to think about who they could have been in a past life, who they want to get reincarnated as or just how they're feeling today.

Example: “A dragonfly skimming the surface of a creek in the sunshine.”

The facilitator will then read one of the animals at a time and the group will guess who chose that animal. Once the person is identified, they can share what connection they feel with that animal, or pass.

This game requires some bravery for both the sharer and the guessers as it offers the opportunity for participants to witness how others in the group perceive them.

Variation: After the animals are collected, one group member at a time selects one to read aloud and take their best guess at who wrote it.

The Name Game

Parameters: If there are more than 10 in your group, form small groups of 2 to 8 people. Can be done virtually or in person.

Materials: none unless doing the art variation in which case you'll need paper, writing and coloring utensils, magazines/collage material, glue and scissors.

Invite group members to tell a story about a part of their name. It might be the story of how they got a nickname, why they were given or chose their first name, where their middle name comes from, a story about the lineage of their last name or anything else they feel ready to share. Note: some people have a complicated relationship with part or all of their name so this activity has variable risk for different participants. Remind the group they can always pass or pass for now and to share only what they are ready to share in this brave space.

Variation: pair up and tell the story to one other person.

Variation: Have people write part of their name in block or bubble letters and fill in the letters with collage, color or doodles. While people are working give prompts like "What does your name mean to you? Where does it come from? What do you like/dislike about it?" People can share as they work and/or share in a round of show and tell after they're finished.

The Pie of Life

Parameters: If there are more than 10 in your group, form small groups of 4 to 8 people. Can be done virtually, in person or asynchronously with a show and tell.

Materials: paper or paper plate, writing/coloring utensils.

Ask the group to each draw a large circle on a piece of paper or give them a paper plate. Tell the group that the circle they just drew represents a day in their life. Ask the group to brainstorm in their minds or on a scratch piece of paper the amount of time they spend doing different things. Example: the amount of time you sleep on a typical day, at school, at various activities, daydreaming, doing church things, with friends, alone. Then transfer their brainstorm to their circle, represented by slices that are labeled. After the group has finished slicing their life pies, have them share what they're read to with the group.

Connection Cards

Parameters: 5 or more people, in person.

Materials: index cards you've written quotes, prayers or questions on. Consider using WorshipWeb. Aim for words from a diversity of speakers. Alternatively, use something like the We Engage! product.

Lay the cards words side up and invite participants to choose a card based on a given prompt like "pick a card that speaks to what kind of week you had" or "...that reminds you of something from your childhood" or "...that speaks to the future you want." After everyone has chosen, go around the circle and invite people to share as they're ready.

Variation: Give each person a card and invite them to mingle around the room, exchanging cards with people until they get a card that resonates with them about a prompt you've given.

Variation: invite participants to collage, color or draw on the backs of the cards. Their additions can compliment the quote or be totally incongruent. As the group is working, invite them to share thoughts on whatever card they're holding.

One And Only

Parameters: If there are more than 10 in your group, form small groups of 5 to 10 people. Can be done in person or virtually.

Materials: Scratch paper and writing utensils

Distribute paper and writing utensils (if in person). Ask each member of the group to write a fact about their life that others in the group may not know. Advise the group not to reveal anything too personal. Make sure no one signs their names. Collect the statements and shuffle them. Read aloud the information of one person at a time. After each reading, let the group try to guess whom the card describes.

Variation: after shuffling, distribute the information to participants and have each person read aloud the information they are holding.

Mx. Whosit

Parameters: If there are more than 10 in your group, form small groups of 5-10 people, in person or virtually.

After explaining the following directions, ask who consents to be potentially Mx. Whosit. One person, secretly chooses another person in the group to be Mx. Whosit. Go around the circle and give each person in the group a turn to try to find out who the lead is thinking of. They ask questions like, “If Mx. Whosit were a color...” or any other category they can think up, and the lead responds. Often, the most creative categories can be the most telling (and remember, the lead shouldn’t respond with the color Mx. Whosit is wearing, but the color Mx. Whosit is). When the entire group has had their chance to pose a category, go around the circle once more and let each person guess who they think is Mx. Whosit. Then let the lead reveal the true identity of Mx. Whosit, and have everyone talk about why they guessed who they did, and what answers surprised them. Let Mx. Whosit share what was accurate and what wasn't.

Two Truths and A Lie

Parameters: If there are more than 10 in your group, form small groups of 4 to 8 people.

Have each person in the group come up with two facts and one falsehood about themselves. Go around the circle and have each person present the three statements as if they are all true. Then have each member of the group guess which of the three statements is false.

Variation: Two Lies and a Truth.

Hand or Sound Jive

Parameters: More than two people, in person.

Have the group pair up and take turns attempting to describe a predetermined part of their lives—their room, name, family, without words. Depending on the abilities of everyone in the group, tell them they can only use their hands to convey their message, or that they can only use the sound of their voice (no words). Then have each person share what they thought the other in their pair was telling them. Have them share with each other, and with the group. Remind them the point is not to be perfect and understanding/being understood but to be silly and to play with the limits of communication.

Small Group Ministry Session Outline

Parameters: Best for groups of 5-8 people who come together more than once (ex: 2x during an overnighter, weekly on Sundays, etc.)

This goes by many names in Unitarian Universalist communities: chalice circles, touch groups, gaggle groups, touch base groups, and care groups are but a few.

  1. Welcome and Chalice lighting: visit WorshipWeb
  2. Check in: visit YUUPs top Check in Questions or search for a "random check in generator."
  3. Grounding activity (stretching, mindful breaths, a minute of silence, turning off phones, etc)
  4. One or two activities from the Bonding Harbor or Opening Up Beach.
  5. Exploratory prompts: search "community building questions," "deep conversation starters" or "get to know you questions."
  6. Closing and chalice extinguishing: gratitude tag (each person shares something they're grateful for) or words from WorshipWeb.