1. Uptempo start: ‘Countdowns!’

A heightened way of creating expectation is an onscreen clock ticking down to zero from, say, two minutes, with accompanying music that reaches a climax at zero. Generally, most will join in the countdown to zero. (Make sure something exciting happens at zero, eg, straight into a favourite praise song or an icebreaker game.)

Alternatively, there is the countdown at the beginning of Thunderbirds. Sounds really dated but teenagers love it – actually so do many grown-ups! Search for the Thunderbirds countdown on YouTube.

For a contrasting reflective countdown to the gathering, have a look at I AM God from Worship House Media. This 2 minute 16 second video begins with darkness and with many sounds of our busy lives fading away to a powerful silence. The contrast between the noise of life and the peace of silence is very powerful when the room is dark and the corporate worship begins immediately at the end.

Or if you don’t like that, try one of the many 5 Minute Countdown movies from Worship House Media.

2. Reflective start

You will need: the Easter candle and holder/stand, tray filled with sand that will enable four candles to remain upright and safe, matches.

It is a misnomer that teenagers always want hyperactivity, so this one concentrates a little more on the mystery that is light found in candles. This particular activity can be used throughout Eastertide (from Easter to Ascension), but the words can be altered to suit any time or season. It also works well if the meeting space is dark and atmospheric.

Invite someone light the Easter candle, or a tall central candle, and announce: ‘Alleluia. Christ is risen.’ The response by all is: ‘He is risen indeed, Alleluia.’ In turn, each reader lights a candle from the Easter (or tall) candle, faces the front, speaks and then puts their candle in the sand tray.

Reader 1: I light this candle to remind us that Jesus is present and with each of us always. The Lord be with you.

Reader 2: I light this candle to remind us that the risen Lord offers us his peace. The peace of the Lord is always with you.

Reader 3: I light this candle to remind us that in the darkest of days the risen Lord is there as our light and salvation. The Lord be with you.

Reader 4: I light this candle for the promise of the Spirit to lighten our days and inspire us. The Lord be with you.

David Adam, Searchlights – The all-age resource for Common Worship Year C, Kevin Mayhew, 2006, p. 112.

3. Another reflective start with candles

You will need: large central candle, enough tealight candles for each person in the group, tray filled with sand or a ceramic tile to stop heat damage on a table, matches.

The mystery and power of lighting a candle is as old as the age. As the group gathers at the start of the meeting, the leader/greeter (which could be a different person each week) welcomes the whole group together as part of God’s family. Each person is then welcomed individually by the leader/greeter who lights a small tealight candle from a main candle in a tray of sand or on a ceramic tile, greeting each person by name. The tealight is then placed close to the central candle in the tray of sand/ceramic tile. Obviously the larger the group, the longer this will take, but for the God who knows even the number of hairs on our heads, the personal welcome and sense of belonging this type of welcome engenders is inclusive and meaningful.

Take it further

If you want a more formal greeting:

Leader/Greeter:The Lord is here.
All:His Spirit is with us.
Leader/Greeter: And (insert the person’s name), you are welcome in this place.