How You Should Be Starting Your Large Group Program

How You Should Be Starting Your Large Group Program

How do you start your large group program?

I asked a youth pastor that question and his reply shocked me.

He said, “I walk around to the kids and let them know that the program is going to start in about 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, I get up front, and round them up.”


Maybe you do the same thing.

Please listen…

There’s a better way to do it!

Sure, there are high-energy countdown videos, but if you don’t have a great band and a high-energy song to pick up when the countdown clock hits zero, it feels a bit anti-climactic.

It’s like, “4, 3, 2, 1, it starts now.” And then you’re just standing up there staring at the group.

Here’s a secret that I’ve found that works like magic:

Find a high-energy, fun video on YouTube that doesn’t have a countdown clock on it.

Guys like Dude Perfect and DevinSupertramp make great ones that you can use.

A few minutes before you’re ready to start your program, dim the lights and play the video. It will serve as a cue to your students that you’re about to start.

They’ll shuffle over to the seats, and then when the video ends, it’s not a big thud like you get with those countdown clocks.

I mean seriously, if you’re going to use a countdown clock, you’d better be bringing something good after it. The only times we use countdown clocks in our culture are basically for New Year’s Eve and space shuttle launches!

That’s why this solution works so well. It’s high-energy without the over-promise and under-deliver feeling of the countdown clock!


Move into hosting. Hosting is simple banter at the start of your program. It’s like what Jimmy Fallon does at the start of his show every night.

Just comment about what’s going on in the news, around the church, on the calendar. Anything works. Try to keep it light and find the humor in things.

Game Time…

Move into your game at that point. The best games include a lot of people, so try to include as many students and volunteers as you can.

If you can, start with everyone and then widdle it down to just a few on stage. That works really well!

Don’t leave without downloading my FREE guide to help you create, find, and lead better games!

Mix it up…

After the game, put a mixer question on the screen that keeps the energy in the room and allows students to share something with a few others.

Plus, they won’t even notice that the band is coming up until the worship leader says, “Alright you guys, who’s ready to worship tonight?”

That’s how you create engagement in your program.

Unfortunately, a lot of youth pastors spend so much time on their sermons that they don’t have any creativity or energy left for everything that sets the stage for their message. I think that’s a mistake.

Your message matters, but your students won’t hear it if you haven’t engaged them before you deliver it. That’s why it’s called the “Art of the Start.”

Give it a try this week. Your students will thank you!

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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