He Breathed on Them

When God Came Down Like Fire

Pentecost Sunday, Year A

Pentecost calls for celebration, for signs and symbols of a God who pushes through, who rushes in when it seems all is lost.

Note to the Teacher

Today we try to get inside the Pentecost moment and connect it to students’ lives. Pentecost has so many facets, but today we will explore the way the disciples (and your students) are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The icebreaker invites them to think and talk about things that they are passionate (“fired up”) about. The scripture reading invites students to use their imaginations; the discussion digs into the story itself, landing on the theme for today. Finally, the activity helps students put into concrete terms how God might empower them to do something more than they can do on their own.

1. Icebreaker: Fired Up (10 minutes)

There are some things we are passionate about. Today, we will start with a discussion about that passion. And we’ll do it by lighting a candle. As students enter, give them each a tea candle or other candle that can stand on its own. Explain that they are going to talk about something that “fires them up” (something that they get passionate about). Tell them that before they share, they can light their candle and leave it lit for the rest of the session. Give them these questions as prompts (they can answer one of them):

  • What injustice in the world gets you fired up?
  • What piece of art, music, or movie, gets you fired up?
  • What person in your world gets you fired up?

Pass a lighter to whoever is ready to speak first.

For a no-flame option, consider battery-powered candles or tealights. Participants would turn on their lights when they are ready to share.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

This scripture passage is full of description. Invite the students to close their eyes and imagine the story as it is being read.

Read Acts 2:1-21.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • When you were imagining the story, where were the disciples? The passage said that they were “gathered together in one place…” Where was that place?
  • Have you ever experienced a moment where you were surrounded by people of many different cultures? What was that like?
  • Typically, there would just have been people who lived close by who were present for this; but on this day, there were people from all over. How would the symbolism be different if it was a typical day as opposed to this day with all the different cultures present? What do you think this symbolism is trying to communicate?
  • After the Holy Spirit comes, it empowers Peter to stand up and give a short sermon. Why do you think he ends up quoting Joel?
  • Share the story of a moment where you felt that God helped you do or endure something that you could not have done or endured by yourself.
  • This story is important, in part, because it shows us that we don’t have to make it through life on our own. How do you think God helps inspire us today?

4. Activity and Discussion: Balloons on Fire (20 minutes)

Hand a red balloon or two out to students, but tell them not to inflate them yet. Ask them to think about the things that they said got them “fired up” in the icebreaker. Tell them that you are going to give them some time to think about some things they’d like to do about those issues. Invite them to create a list in their heads or on their phones. After a couple of minutes, tell them that you want them to choose one of the things from their list that they think they might not be able to do on their own. Then, ask them to write that item on the deflated balloon with a permanent marker or another writing device that won’t pop the balloon. After everyone has finished writing, have someone read the scripture passage again. Once the reading is finished, invite the students to blow up their balloons. Talk about the symbolism of the Holy Spirit filling up and energizing their minds, hearts, and voices so that their plans and passions might become more obvious to others. Go around the room and have students share what is on their balloon and why they chose that thing to write.

Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Bonus: As time allows, invite your students to think and pray about the issues and plans brought up in this exercise. Next week, ask the students if any of those topics or plans are worth organizing energy from your group to turn into a reality!

Total time: 50 minutes


  • Red balloons (one per student)
  • Permanent markers
  • Tea light candles
  • Matches or lighter

In This Series...

Pentecost Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Trinity Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes