Countdowns are great tools to have in any ministry. They offer a definitive transition for students, and it lets our entire ministry know that SERVICE IS STARTING SOON! We’ve done all sorts of countdowns; we’ve done your standard clock on a motion back countdown, we’ve done the fun-fact countdowns, and we’ve done montage countdowns with youtube footage of people either doing something awesome or failing miserably.
We’ve done it all. Countdowns get the job done, but sometimes they can lose their life, and what started out as a transition tool, is now creating “dead-time” in your ministry.
Dead-time is any time there’s nothing guiding the atmosphere of your ministry, and in return your students (and even leaders) become unfocused on what’s going on. This can be that transition during worship where the band ends a song and then an awkward silence happens as they get ready to start the next song. It happens when the person doing announcements finishes, doesn’t know the next order of service, and then announces, “What do we do now?” It happens when we have “technical-difficulties”, and it can even happen when you’ve played the same countdown you’ve been playing ever since you started in youth. Dead time kills atmospheres. Dead time kills focus.
We were experiencing this over and over in our ministry, so how did we combat it? We stopped making countdowns our centerpiece on stage, and instead made it an accent by putting a person on stage. When our countdown is playing away, we have someone MC for the students coming in.
Having someone on stage during a countdown takes an impersonal clock, and creates a personal atmosphere that captures focus and makes students feel at ease. Whoever is on stage can be welcoming students as they come in, they can direct people where to sit, invite those stragglers in the back to join in, and they can even ask break out questions that engage your audience. I like to tell everyone to stand up after 30 secs of the countdown, invite them to tell their neighbors their answers, and then I start firing off the questions. If a kid thinks he has a great/hilarious answer I’ll come out to the crowd with the mic and let them share it.
The questions can get really weird:
If you had to eat a rat, how would you cook it? I personally would wrap it in bacon and go with the shish kabob method.
What animal would you ride into battle on? I would ride a Great-White shark with robot legs.
Ninjas or Pirates? Both
The questions can relate to the topic later on, to get your students thinking. Lets say we’re talking about wisdom:
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen?(Please don’t say me)
Would you rather resolve your biggest regret? or Fulfill your biggest wish?
When students are engaged, your ministry wins. That means every resource we have needs to add to our atmosphere and not steal from it. Don’t just put anyone on stage. Find some who is ENGAGING and FUN. It could be a volunteer or a student. It doesn’t have to be questions. Go buy the Party Llama Countdown, show it to your team, and invite them to dress like they’re straight out of the 80’s, while doing the Party Llama dance. Countdowns are just accents, people should be your focus.
What do you guys do to make your countdowns rock? What would you do if resources weren’t an issue? What kind of countdowns should DYM make? Leave a comment, and let’s build something great!
Sam Pettersen is a creative youth worker who also has some great resources on Download Youth Minstry. Next month, members get one of his brand new videos for free with their membership!