Creative Characters

Monday, June 24, 2024

The KidzMatter Blog/Creative Characters

A silent ninja, a science professor, and a talk show host all walk into a kid’s church room. You might be wondering what kind of weird joke this is. This random assortment is all fun characters that we have brought into our Sunday morning kid’s program to bring a fun twist to the lesson series we have taught! Creative characters can add a spark of fun, excitement, and unforgettable moments that will help God’s truth stick with kids in your ministry.

Creating characters can bring exciting energy to your lessons and give children a chance to see the gospel from an “outsider’s” perspective. By letting a character tell a story, the day’s theme, or giving points from the lesson, you can capture children’s attention and help them process new ideas. But how do we go about creating these fun characters?

When looking at a new lesson series or theme, begin creatively thinking: What type of character could convey these ideas? Does your lesson have a series of object lessons with a constant theme such as science or art? Begin to visualize who you could see that would present the idea in an interesting way. For example, in our church, we were doing a series on wisdom in the book of Proverbs. We decided that a ninja would be a perfect example of someone to convey wisdom and strength! Our ninja was deemed the SBD Ninja: silent but deadly ninja. Each Sunday, he would silently come out to the song Everybody Was Kung-fu Fighting and stand with the teacher. The ninja would then lean over to the teacher and quietly whisper the day’s theme verse, word, or big idea, and then the teacher would convey that to the kids! So simple, but the kids absolutely loved it when the ninja would appear as they would try to get him to crack a smile or interact! Memorable moments! Do not be afraid to think outside of the box when creating characters!

Consider the dynamic of your group and determine what type of energy they respond well to. Do you have a younger group that enjoys a story-telling style of learning? Try reading the bible lesson to them dressed as the bible character! Do they respond well to a hype man who pumps them up to learn and interact in class? Grab a goofy costume and become a talk show host or DJ who has a fun catchphrase to pump up the crowd! Understanding the children in your ministry can help you figure out what best meets their needs. We want to engage them, not turn them off! When they are engaging with your character, connections are made and they have bought into the ideas you are presenting!

After you have found the perfect character to go along with your lesson, here are some tips to remember as you or your acting volunteer are playing the part. Commit to the part! Just like the amazing kid’s pastor you are and the commitment you show to your given flock, commit to the part you are playing! Kids will sense if you or the actor are not committed to the role they are presenting. This can be a quick way for them to get distracted and become uninterested in what’s being presented. Give the role your full energy and devotion. If you are self-conscious about your acting abilities, practice ahead of time and do not be afraid to let go! Embrace the role you are in and know that that silly character just may make a big difference to one child. Who knew kingdom work could involve acting as a silent ninja? If you struggle to find your inner actress, reach out to your volunteer team or outside in your church family. Find someone who is willing to step into the role you need. You may just find that perfect person who enjoys playing a character!

Once the character actor has been found, remind them to stay in character while in front of the group. Going in and out of character can be confusing to the children, and it loses the illusion of this new fun person who is in church with them! When they enter or appear before the group, have them be ready and on in the role they were given. If they are able to leave out of sight to remove a costume or prop piece, that is ideal! When presenting a character, whether it be in a fun or serious moment, don’t lose the impact of the moment by breaking character or the scene.

Now I understand that, at times, you are the one-man show. You will be the teacher, character, and back to teacher! It is still possible! Keep it simple by simply turning around to remove a costume piece such as a robe or jacket, or step off stage to place props off the table and then transition back into the teacher role when you step back on stage. Showing kids that the special character has “left the building” and you are now the teacher can take some quick thinking, but you can do it! If your children question you or begin to ask for the presenter back, remind them, “Hey, that was fun, wasn’t it? Now I am here and can’t wait to talk about what they told us!” Helping them see the difference between the two is possible for the little ones who want more time. You can help them transition to the next portion of your service by stepping back into your role as teacher. I would take hearing them ask for more as encouragement that you have a winning idea! Good job!

My husband and I have been in ministry for 20 years together. We have each had different times of playing a part for lessons and programs. Sometimes there has been a script and other times, we have pre–planned what point we were going to make sure of and stress but have been spontaneous in our interactions. In saying this, not all characters must have a written script! Having a good ebb and flow with another person can be a fun way to present the information you are wanting to give. For example, I have played the part of a science professor numerous times. My husband knows the scientific point and bible illustration I am presenting, but he never knows what I will say or how I will do it! This keeps his reactions real and genuine as he is seeing and hearing things for the first time just like the crowd! If you have a volunteer (or patient spouse!) with whom you can develop a good back-and-forth in dialogue and reaction times, this can be an interesting way to tell stories, give examples, and impart biblical themes. A good partner can also ease nerves of being the main focus in a one-man show!

I want to make mention of the one kid. We all have one. It is the one kid who may turn his nose up at your character or storyline or try to derail your lovely volunteer who is acting their heart out and having a blast while doing it. If you get a heckler at your character debut, do not get frustrated! Stay the course and finish your part. This type of interaction may not be for every kid, and that’s okay! If you feel the need, talk with the child afterward and let them know it’s okay if they didn’t care for the character, but we should try and maintain positive attitudes for all those who did enjoy it! Kids can be a tough audience. But take each situation and learn from it by knowing what they like and respond well to. Just as it is a learning experience for them, it can be the same for us!

Is becoming a full-on character something that intimidates you? Start small with props or costume pieces that you feel comfortable working with that you can tie into a lesson theme. Something that I always keep an eye out for while thrifting is bright or colorfully patterned suit jackets. I feel a good staple piece is a white lab coat for science themes, doctors, or an inventor of some sort. Begin to think about what pieces you could see yourself using and working with! You never know where an interesting piece will pop up!

Using fun, dynamic characters in kid’s ministry can create impactful moments with your children. When you start new series, themes, or programs, I encourage you to think about how you can share the lessons in new ways that they may not expect! While the gospel never changes, adding a new character can make kids think and interact in your classroom in new ways! I pray that God blesses you with big ideas, a fresh perspective, and all that you need as you teach and lead children to know Jesus.

Carrie Poole is a children’s pastor from Bedford, Indiana. Along with her husband, Aaron, they have served in ministry for 20 years and have 4 children who enjoy serving with them. Carrie enjoys writing original VBS curricula, traveling and speaking at summer camps, and spending time with her family and dogs.

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Membership with KidzMatter PRO strengthens your skills and links you with a thriving community committed to empowering kidmin leaders like you.