How will you help everyone on your team relax and begin to feel comfortable working together? Are you looking for a fun activity to use at that all-important first meeting of the year? Lead participants in the game “Pass the Clay.” Then debrief it. The game will take about 30 minutes, the debriefing, about 20 minutes, so plan your time accordingly. Check out all the value-priced products CTA has for helping you encourage your volunteers throughout the year, too!
1. Break the group up into teams of from two to six members each. Ask that the members of each team sit in a circle or at a table, fairly close together.
2. Give each team a large lump of clay, and begin with one team member holding it.
3. Explain that you will shout out an object, a scene, or something else that can be made out of clay. (See the list below.) When you blow the whistle, the person holding the clay will build that object/scene as quickly as possible.
4. When you blow the whistle again, the first sculptor must pass the clay to the next person, who picks up where the first person left off.
5. Continue in this way, blowing the whistle at irregular intervals.
6. When you shout, “STOP,” each person holding clay must set it down. At that point, each team shows their creation to the other teams. They may describe or explain it as that seems helpful.
7. Play several rounds, having a different person begin sculpting each time. Vary the rules for each round:
• Round 1—follow the directions above.
• Round 2—sculpt silently; no team members may coach the sculptor, nor may the sculptor explain what he or she is forming.
• Round 3—divide the clay into as many pieces as you have players; have each team decide which person makes which part of the sculpture; each time the whistle blows, pass to the right the piece you’ve been shaping.
• Round 4—let each team nominate one person as the main sculptor; that person may ask other members of the team to help or not, as he or she sees fit.
Things to sculpt
• The cluster of grapes the spies brought back to Moses from the Promised Land (Numbers 13:23)
• The Temple that King Herod the Great built in Jerusalem
• Your church’s place of worship
• Moses, God’s servant
Questions for debriefing
As the game ends, use these questions to process it together.
1. Would the sculpting task have been easier or harder if you were working by yourself?
2. What were the advantages of being part of a “Pass the Clay” team? Were there any disadvantages?
3. In real life, when is it best to use a team? When is it best to act on your own? Explain.
4. How did it feel when you had to pass your creation on to someone else? when you received a creation from someone else? What does this have to do with working on projects as a team?
5. This activity demonstrated a number of things related to communication, especially communication on teams. What did you observe? How might we shape our communication so that it serves our mission effectively?
6. What things get in the way of helpful communication in real life? What unspoken “rules” do we sometimes follow, discovering only later that they don’t work well?
7. What else did you learn from this exercise? How might it help shape the way each of us works as we serve God’s people together?
Discussion notes for the leader
In general, teams work best for tasks that are complex, require creativity, call for a variety of skills that no one person is likely to possess, benefit from buy-in on the part of those who will implement the plans, and in situations when trust has not yet developed or in which trust has been damaged in some way.
Tasks are best handled by individuals when a project is time sensitive, when it requires specific expertise, when participants already have a high level of commitment or when buy-in isn’t necessary, and when trust is not an issue.
It’s often hard to pass on to others the ideas, approaches, and programs we have created. The new “owners” will likely do things differently than we might have. We may not approve of the changes they make to our plans. This truth cuts in two directions. Some participants in attendance will be receiving a baton passed on to them by someone else, someone who no doubt has an emotional stake in the outcome. Other participants will be creating new ideas, approaches, and programs that they will pass on at some point in the future. Talk together about what each situation calls for in regard to diplomacy, faith in the Holy Spirit’s work, and your mutual commitment to the good of those you serve.
Sooner or later, communication becomes an issue in every organization. John Kotter, an expert in this field, estimates that leaders under-communicate by a factor of ten; that’s exponential under-communication! Talk about this together and strategize about ways to approach and defeat the barriers to communication that arise in all groups (for example, assuming others know what we know, leaving some constituents out of the loop, failing to repeat information as often as needed—which is more often than we’d like to think!)
Let participants share other insights the activity opened up for them. What else did you learn from this exercise? How might it help shape the way each of us works as we serve God’s people together?
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