Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Start a Creative / Puppet Ministry Team

I’ve often gotten the question: “just how do you start a creative/puppet ministry team?” There’s no single way really. I will try to share though what I have learned from many seasoned directors and my 10 years of ministry team experience.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but simply points to consider. I hope you find this helpful!

1. Purpose (Habakuk 2:2)
Before you do anything, determine why you are doing it. God has a plan and purpose for you and he has plan and a purpose for your team. Pray about it. Determine why you are going to do this and make sure those you work with know it too. Here is an example of CMT’s purpose:

“CMT Ministries stands for Create, Minister and Teach. We are a ministry dedicated to communicating God’s love through Jesus Christ through the creative arts and personal testimony. Our programs combine puppetry, music, drama, blacklight, sign language, illusions and special surprises that appeal to all ages.”

In sum, our team’s purpose is to create programs that will minister the love of God to our audiences and we teach others how to do this. Still, do not get caught up on just this.

The team’s purpose is ministry to others. The director’s purpose is ministry to the team.

Remember, you will be a positive influence and role model for those you work with. You are training people to use their gifts for God. Your team should always be your priority, not the presentation.

2. Leaders (Proverbs 11:14)
Behind every team, there should be a fearless leader. Better yet, there should be fearless leaders. The best creative works were not created by a single person, rather by a team. Think about it.

Disney had the “nine old men.” Pixar has their “brain trust.” While one person may have the spark, it is refined and strengthened when others build on it. Do this for your team.

Plus, there are too many things to get done. Don’t be the lone ranger. Woe to him that is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. (Ecc. 4:10) Don’t burn yourself out (been there, done that)!

Your leadership could include parents, responsible team members or members from your church. Meet regularly to pray for the team, plan for the month and evaluate program material and key issues.

There are many opportunities to involve other members and ministries in your church, outside of rehearsals and presentations! Some ideas are: prop-making, costuming and scenery, devotionals, scriptwriting, drivers, technicians and fundraising.

Do this and you will see that the more people you partner in ministry with, the more rewarding and beautiful your ministry will become.

3. A Team (1 Peter 4:10)
Go back to your team’s purpose and think about the audiences you want to reach. Is it children? Is it teens? Is it families? This impacts the age of people you will want to work with. Also, consider the age group that is available for rehearsals and presentations.

The size of your team should be determined based on your ability to effectively: (1) use them all and (2) handle them all.

If you are not keeping everyone busy, there is a greater likelihood of them getting either bored, frustrated or into mischief. Plus, can you handle 15 teens alone? Maybe… but not sanely (been there, done that too)!

Lastly, consider the kind of people you want to work with. You want people who are dependable, enthusiastic, willing to learn, ready to work hard and ministry-minded.

The last two are key. People think its super fun… but then realize it’s a lot of work too. More importantly, make sure they are joining because they want to minister.

4. Resources (Deuteronomy 30:9-10)
Depending on the art forms you wish to use, you need puppets, props, blacklights, costumes, music, a stage and the list goes on. Creative ministries, especially puppet ministry, can get expensive.

Try to start with versatile materials that you can use time and time again. White gloves can be used for signing and hand mime. People puppets can be costumed creatively for different programs. I mean, how often do you really think you will use that cute monster puppet?

You will also want to consider how your ministry will be funded. Talk to your church board and see if you can make a budgetary request. Or start your own budget by fundraising. Love offerings or honorariums for programs are an excellent source of funds too.

If you back the ministry with your own credit card, be clear with which resources belong to whom. Are you donating these to the ministry, or are you loaning them for ministry’s use?

All in all, be sure you have enough to meet the present and future needs of the ministry. And when I mean the needs of the ministry, I am not limiting it to the materials themselves. Don’t forget the human capital.

Have funds that can help with festival scholarships, transportation expenses, marketing, team outings and so on. Don’t be selfish. Invest in your team.

5. Commitment to Excellence (Colossians 3:23-24)
For me, this is most important and what I stress the most with my team. The secular world works very hard for the world to enjoy their creations. Should we not work just as hard, if not harder, when we are offering our works to God?

How do you commit to excellence? Educate yourself. Train yourself. Share.

Educate yourself in the art forms you wish to pursue. You can’t expect to teach something you know nothing about. The internet literally has billions of ideas and resources at your fingertips.

Better yet, go to a conference such as those held by Creative Ministry Solutions, the Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers or Puppeteers of America. I guarantee you will always learn MANY new things.

Next, commit yourself and your team to pursuing excellence in rehearsal. Don’t let your team demonstrate poor technique. Realize that it’s a distraction and takes away from the power of the program. Create a rehearsal space where the focus is to hone oneself for true ministry.

This does not solely mean mastery of craft, but a commitment to pursuing Christ. Do not forget to include time for spirituality. If you plan on calling yourself a ministry, that is.

Lastly, the oft neglected point: share. You will learn so much from God, yourself, your team and your experiences.

Don’t be selfish. Share it.

Connect with other directors. Compete in festivals. Contribute to forums. Post pictures on Facebook. Upload videos on YouTube. Inspire us!

In short, remember: “We are God’s masterpiece, created through Jesus Christ, to in turn create masterpieces for Him”. — Michael Card

Recommended Resources:
Puppet Director’s Notebook
Puppet Ministry: Basics and Beyond DVD
I-Fest Workshop CDs and DVDs
The Human Video Handbook

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Illustrating the love of God at Oak Park Christian Center's KidZone

We had an amazing time on Friday visiting and sharing with our new friends at Oak Park Christian Center for their summer KidZone event! Pr. Gail Boatright, the children's ministry workers and the Hispanic Women's ministry of Oak Park worked diligently to make this event a true community outreach.

What a blast it was for everyone involved! The attractions offered included a giant slide, an obstacle course, human bumper cars, jousting and laser tag. Add to that great food, upbeat music, incredibly fun and kind volunteers and it's a family-friendly paradise.

CMT Ministries was invited to be the guests for the half-time segment of the event and we've never felt so blessed. We presented our current program You Are Special, featuring storytelling, puppetry, blacklight, sign language, painting and illusions. The families were a wonderful audience, laughing at our jokes, gasping at the surprises and, most importantly, listening quietly when we spoke of Jesus in a sincere and heart-felt moment.

We are deeply grateful to our wonderfully warm host, Pr. Gail, for the invitation, hospitality, and the opportunity to partner in ministry. We look forward to returning on Sunday, July 15 for a follow-up program during the 10:45a service (previously scheduled for Sunday, July 8)!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reading: Scrap the Fluff

I read a great article by Amanda Cowles from Skadoodles! about scriptwriting that's worth sharing. You can find the original article here: Scripts: Scrap the Fluff.

This article reminded me a lot of what I learned in my college english course with, hands-down, the best English professor ever. Here was one memorable tip for becoming a better writer: "kill it."

Many of us have the tendency to write too much. This isn't just with script-writing, but any sort of communication (I know I do). Get to the point. If it's not necessary, then kill it. (I am in no way promoting violence, just concise writing).

A great tool for knowing when or when not to "kill it" are Amanda's "five necessaries": plot, character, audience, subtlety and resolution. I can't think of a better way to sum up it up than that.

These necessaries keep you grounded on "the point" and guide you to writing stronger material. Plus, if you are into improv, these a great tips to follow for establishing a platform and building off of that.

So sure, some fluff can be fun here and there but make sure the meat of the message is in your sandwich before you add the lettuce, mayo and Kettle Chips.