Puppets—Before the Show

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A puppet ministry is a great way to teach children basic
Christian values. Children often listen and respond better to
puppets than they do to teachers. But as you might guess, there’s
more to a puppet ministry than puppets and a stage.

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To revive or begin a puppet ministry, you’ll need to put
together a plan, a team, puppets, a stage, and the drive to
accomplish your ambition.

Make a Plan
Decide what you hope to get out of your puppet ministry. Do you
want a small show once a month in a Sunday school classroom? Or do
you want a show that proclaims God’s Word to children on television
(think public access)? Either is honorable; the plan will help you
and your team agree on what you’re aiming for. Does your church
have a bus ministry? You might present shows at bus stops to
promote the ministry.

Choose Your Puppet Team
Your church’s youth group or older elementary-age kids may play a
part in this step. Recruit four or five teenagers. Surprisingly,
shy kids make excellent puppeteers. They often have hidden
creativity, and puppetry can even help them learn to socialize.

Set up a regular practice schedule for your puppet team.
Practice at least an hour a week until your team can perform the
show smoothly. To rehearse how to handle unexpected situations,
throw in some wrinkles such as what to do if a puppet’s hair falls
off during a show.

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Make practices fun and interesting. Keep kids eagerly coming to
practices by providing pizza one night and banana splits another.
Videotape practice sessions so team members can see how they’re
doing.

Give team members at least 10 compliments for every criticism
you make.

Select Your Puppets
Now that you’ve made your plans and picked your team, decide what
kind of puppets you’ll use. There are two popular types of
puppets.

Many churches use hand-and-rod puppets, which are similar to
Muppets. They’re excellent for creating fantasy settings for
younger children. However, they’re not as great for reality-based
messages aimed at older kids.

Marionettes are great for church settings, especially in more
serious settings where the comical appearance of a hand-and-rod
puppet might be less tasteful, such as a Christmas or Easter story.
Unlike hand-and-rod puppets, marionettes aren’t bound to the
ground, so an angel can actually fly. Two drawbacks of marionettes
are that they’re harder to make and more expensive to buy.

• Buying Puppets-Puppets of either main type can be very
expensive, with prices ranging from $15 for a small puppet to
several hundred for an animated body suit. See the “Puppet Resource
Showcase” on pages 115-116 for puppet supplier information.
• Making Puppets-To save money, consider making your puppets. One
Way Street (www.onewaystreet.com; 800-569-4537) carries
reasonably inexpensive puppet patterns with easy-to-follow
directions that can help you create a quality puppet. As you become
more experienced in puppet-making, you can save additional money by
altering the same patterns slightly and varying the materials for
new puppets. For example, use fake fur instead of cloth, and change
human ears to dog ears. You’ll have a unique puppet that no one
else has.

Setting the Stage
Stages don’t necessarily need to be elaborate. A puppet stage can
be anything from a curtain hung across a doorway to an expensive,
purchased stage. You can create an excellent stage from a
refrigerator box by cutting a square hole at the top for the stage
and at the bottom of the back for puppeteers to enter.

Raise the Curtain
Now that you’re ready to go, remember two things: If your plan
isn’t working, change it. And God is the most valuable member of
your team.
Get busy, you’ve got a lot of work-and a lot of reward-ahead of
you! cm

Steven Leggett is a children’s pastor in Bloomington,
California.

PUPPET RESOURCES
Check out these resources for more helpful information about
starting a puppet ministry in your church.
The Complete Book of Puppetry by George Latshaw
includes everything from strengthening your puppet arm with
exercises to making puppets. Dover Publications, $10.95; (516)
294-7000;
www.doverpublications.com
• Marionettes: How to Make and Work Them by Helen Fling
is the best book available for creating and using marionettes.
Dover Publications, $8.95; (516) 294-7000; www.doverpublications.com
The Most Excellent Book of How to Be a Puppeteer by
Roger Lade is written for children from ages 9 to 12. A great
resource to get kids in on the act too. Copper Beech Books,
$6.95;
www.amazon.com
• Puppets: Ministry Magic by Dale and Liz VonSeggen is a
primer for everyone who works with puppets. Plus, there are nine
ready-to-use scripts. Group Publishing, $15.95; 800-635-0404; www.grouppublishing.com

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