• Starting A Puppet Ministry

Posted by: kidhelper on Monday, September 19th, 2011

How to Start a Puppet-Team Ministry

So you want to begin a puppet ministry, and you have no real training or experience. So here are my suggestions on how to get started.

1. A team leader’s training and experience. The adage that “you can only lead as far as you have gone” does apply to puppetry. Either you make the effort to get some training yourself or you take someelse who is interested and invest training in them. One Way Street has an excellent Puppet Director Handbook that is well worth the price just for the forms and help.

2. A Vision for puppetry as your ministry method. Having a clear vision of what you really want to accomplish with your puppet team really dictates what will want to happen with this ministry. If you are just looking for a way for your older teens or 5th and 6th graders to minister to the younger kids that is one thing. However, if you want to form a traveling team for outreach with puppets, this is another vision. Will they only work with one group, like Children’s Church or the Preschool Department? So defining what you want to accomplish with a puppet team is central to the way you train, rehearse and ultimately the kind of puppetry you will perform. You can spend a lot of money, unnecessarily, if you have not defined this vision. You can get some outside help here, before you do anything costly.

For more suggestion continue…

3. Looking for a message or an audience? With puppetry you can teach memory work, give announcement or teach Bible stories or just perform music or a host of other things. You just have to start small and grow the team’s ability. Most of the time just having a couple of puppets will limit just what you can do, but adding to your equipment and resources will enhance just what are able to communicate with puppets. Starting with a younger age audience with less resource works best. The older the audience the more sophisticated your performance needs to be. I do not normally recommend doing outreach until your team is prepared for excellence, as a poor performance will not impress anyone. If you want to enter competition with your team, this represents the ultimate puppet training experience.

4. What do you look for in selecting a team? Having thought through the former items, might dictate what you need here. But some qualities are important. One is desire to learn, you are looking for teachable persons. I prefer someone with no experience, then I can teach them everything, and I do not have to un-teach them. Larger puppets need longer arms, and size of stage might prohibit too small and too tall of members. It is easiest to have a team that is not too diverse in sizes and age. However, there are some exceptions to this, but the ability to add levels to the stage for the tall ones and risers for the small ones. I have seen some excellent Jr Teams and Jr. High Teams and High School Teams. If they stay with you for many years, then you have to adjust as your team changes height and experience.

5. Outfitting the team for ministry.

I usually recommend a starting budget of $1,000, which will buy you a good portable, but moveable, stage for 6 puppeteers, a set of four puppets with rods (family) and an animal of some kind. Further, you will need the above Handbook, some music CD’s, training CD’s and some outside training to start. Maybe a Puppetry Workshop, like the One Way Street provides. I do not recommend buying a sound system, speakers, lights, black lights, props, and an expanded repertoire of puppets. Then on going budget and storage is a need. Eventually you could have more than one stage, a larger team and lots of props and equipment. Caution: if the church buys the puppet program, they own it, not the leaders, if they move. So if someone is buying the puppets, etc. they are the owner. Establish clearly who owns what and document it. I have seen too many problems over this lack of foresight.

6. Grooming the team, refining the ministry. Setting productive rehearsals that allow time to teaching, practicing and acquiring new skills is important. However, casting a vision for ministry more than entertainment is absolutely required. Bringing in someone spot check your team’s skills is a great way to improve. Another way is to video a rehearsal and play it back. Listening to you critique their performance is not always well received, but when the group critiques their work it is much different. An individual can be more severe when they see it, that when you make comment. Teaching how to help each other and what to do when something goes wrong is really part of the grooming process—impromptu stuff.  Try not perform until the team is really ready. Start slowly, do the repertoire that you have prepared.

7. Performing the show: “When you are up, you are on!” When is live and you are performing, the show must go on, almost, no matter what faults happen. Knowing the show, knowing the live lines, knowing what happens next is critical to improvisation to manage the show in motion. Puppets stopping in mid sentence and disappearing for no apparent reason (to the audience) is really tacky. Of course, things to happen and you have to teach what is important and what can done when unexpected things happen. One good rule of thumb is “when you are up, you are on.” This just simply means that puppet is still active and animating even though something just happened to disrupt the planned show.

8. Feedback and evaluation: key to improvement! Usually when you are beginning, people want to encourage you, even when you are not really all that good yet. Sometimes they might not know enough about puppetry to tell you what you are doing wrong, but if they did, they might just not tell you.

Getting someone more experienced to visit your team performance can help you. Also, as mentioned before, video taping is a great way to bring the team into line, since you can show them what they are doing and they see it and they get it. Do not expect perfection at first, rather, just expect improvement on effort.

Try to master a few skills, then add to that skill set, when they are ready, as opposed to mastery of too many things at once. Master Lip Sync first, then entering and exiting, then performing at belly button high, then three quarter turns when talking to another puppet and the audience. Then master focusing on the front row when performing so the puppet eyes are seen. See the Tell-Tale Signs of an Amateur Puppeteer for more items to master.

Entering a puppet competition might just inspire your team to better rehearsals. Also it could challenge the team to a higher standard, to raise the bar for a higher level of performing.


Another Kid-Helper Resource from…Creative Children’s Ministries

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