Tag Archives: Children’s Ministry

10 Tips on How to Use a Puppet

Puppets can be so much fun. Kids just love them. But puppeteering can be a bit more challenging than you might think. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you prepare your puppet drama.

1. Know Your Character

One reason puppets are so appealing, is that they have character. They can be silly, crazy, even ridiculous and it is all allowed because they are puppets. It makes the puppet so entertaining. Spend some time thinking about the character of your puppet – the clearer your idea is about your character, the easier it is to portray him with character and the more interesting he will be to your audience.

2. Add Drama

As you practice with your puppet, experiment with the amount of drama your puppet uses. He can simply say things, or he can exaggerate. ‘Hi’ can be said in many different ways. What does your puppet feel like? Is he upset? Then let him be VERY upset. Is he happy? Then exaggerate that happiness in how he communicates. Silliness is appreciated in puppets – up to a point, of course.

3. Give Your Puppet a Voice

Experiment with the type of voice you want to use for your puppet. Often people like to use a high pitched voice to add drama, but be careful – make sure you choose a voice you can easily use for the entire duration of your puppet skit. Your voice must be easily understood by the listeners, and if it is too high pitched it might become too difficult to actually understand. Consider using a crazy accent rather than a difficult pitch. If you’re not sure if your voice works, make a quick audio recording on your phone or other device so you can hear what it sounds like. If you have a conversation with your puppet, make sure you can switch well from your own, normal voice, to the puppet’s voice.

4. Let Your Audience Hear You

Using a puppet stage can be useful, and can be easily set up with some tables and fabric. However, if you do not have a sound system, don’t use a puppet stage, because the audience will not be able to hear you. Just hold your puppet and talk to it. Don’t worry about them being able to see your mouth move. If you practice how to move your puppet, the kids will focus on the puppet while it speaks, and will focus on you while you speak. It can work beautifully.

 

5. Move the Puppet’s Mouth 

Moving the mouth of the puppet properly is important. You’ve probably watched a puppet skit where the puppet stops moving its mouth as the puppeteer is busy reading his script and forgets to move the puppet’s mouth – it quickly turns the puppet skit into a lame presentation. It’s confusing too; who is talking? Practice moving the mouth in front of a mirror. Open the mouth wide when he says something loudly. If your puppet does not have a mouth that opens, then move the face as he talks.

6. How to Hold the Puppet

After speaking, make sure you hold the puppet in a way so that people can see the face. People often hold the puppet up too high so that the audience sees the neck and mouth, but not the eyes and face.

7. When to Move the Puppet

A lot of the puppetskit will likely involve conversation. Whenever there is a conversation going on, only move the puppet when he is talking. The only exception is that you move him to show that he changes what he is looking at, so he may look at the kids, and then look at you. Movement distracts the audience, so whenever the puppet moves while someone else is talking, he becomes a distraction.

8. Make Eye Contact

Let your puppet look at the audience, and make eye contact with your puppet as you talk to him yourself. Have an actual conversation with your puppet. Eye contact will make your conversation seem more real to your kids.

9. Show Don’t Tell

You may have heard this rule before. It applies to storytelling and drama and writing. And yes, also to puppeteering. Always try to think of ways in which you can communicate without using words. Doing things, acting things out, showing what you mean by using body language and facial expressions will make the kids watch you a little closer. It helps our visual learners, but it also forces the children to keep their eyes on you. It adds interest. It encourages engagement. And that’s what you want.

10. Let the Puppet Introduce Your Topic

Puppets are very useful when it comes to introducing the main topic of your lesson. Let the puppet have a problem that is similar to a situation your children may face, but then slightly more dramatic or silly. During your lesson the children will see how they can handle such a situation in their own lives. At the end of the lesson, you can use the puppet again, and have puppet ask the children how he can deal with his problem. It will give the children an opportunity to figure out how they help someone apply what they learned. It puts the children in a role of teaching the puppet, and that is a great way for them to learn.

What if you have no puppets? Make them yourself? Here’s how!

Coming soon: How to Write a Puppet Skit

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Soft Drinks, Raisins and the Holy Spirit

What do soft drinks, raisins and the Holy Spirit have to do with each other?

Good question!

The answer lies in a science experiment found in lesson 1 of our Acts curriculum. It is used in the introduction and the connection part of the lesson. It goes like this:

I have some raisins here who think they can swim up and down if I drop them in a glass of water. Do you think they can do it? No! Let’s try it and see what happens. (Drop the raisins (or lentils) in a glass of water – they sink and nothing happens.) You were right, they cannot swim.

Now we are going to check again if the raisins can swim.

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The jar is the same.

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But this time I’m using carbonated water. Water with bubbles.

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The raisins are the same. Let’s drop them in and see what happens.

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Something is different this time. They are swimming up and down! Is it something the raisins did themselves that made it possible for them to swim? (No.) No, the raisins did not do it themselves. The raisins did not change, but the water has. It’s not normal water, it’s Sprite®. The water has bubbles in it, a special type of gas. Those bubbles attach themselves to the raisins and they are strong enough to lift the raisins up. When they get to the top, the bubbles burst and the raisins sinks down again.

This is such a cool picture of what happened to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples! These bubbles give the raisins the ability to do something they cannot do in their own strength. In the same way the Holy Spirit gives us power. God gives us the Holy Spirit. We cannot give the Holy Spirit to ourselves, but God gives His Spirit to all believers. He lives inside all people who believe. So if you believe, the Holy Spirit lives inside you! And because of the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, we can do the things God calls us to do to build His Kingdom and tell the world about Him. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible, but with the Holy Spirit we can reach out to the world!

 

Did you enjoy this article about using science in your lesson? Check out this article and video about using language in creatively to teach your children in a way that will capture their attention and will help them engage with the stories from the Bible!

Download a copy of our module From Barriers to Values for more practical ideas to teach your children about Jesus. 

All our lessons use creative ways to teach children! Check out our lessons books in our Resource Shop.

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Reviews

“It’s packed with full of resources and fun ideas. As a Sunday School teacher, I enjoyed preparing the lessons for the kids using these books. We will be able to use it for all kids with any background. Personally, it amazes me to see auther’s natural way of approaching kids with the strong truths from the Bible and encouraging them to memorizing scriptures by heart. Great job, Jacoba! Wish you will continue to explore treasures for kids.”

Ruth Arokia – Ethiopia

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Acts Curriculum – Available now!

In our shop now:

acts cover

Downloadable Children’s Ministry Curriculum.

So after Jesus went to heaven, what happened? Here’s a resource to help you teach your kids in creative, fun, engaging ways!

There are so many powerful, beautiful and encouraging stories in the book of Acts. They show us so many things, like how God wants to use us and encourage us, how we can tell others about Jesus, how we need to serve Jesus with a pure heart, how we can be guided by the Holy Spirit, and how we can praise Jesus no matter what our circumstances are. And so much more!

Download a free lesson sample here:  Acts Sample Lesson

Download a brief overview of the lessons here:  Acts Summary

Purchase the full curriculum or go to the Resource Shop

 

Find out what others are saying about Reach Out Kids Children’s Ministry Curriculum.

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Devotion: God’s Word Power

From He Loves Me – Family Devotions:

God’s Word Power

Read: Genesis 1:1-19

Have you ever made something? Maybe you have drawn a picture or built a toy.  How did you feel about making it? Did you enjoy making it?   God made everything in the first six days of creation. Today we read about how He made light, the sky, water, land, plants, the sun, the moon, stars, day and night.

Whenever we make something, we need to use things. For example, if we want to draw a picture, we use our hands to hold a pencil and create something on a paper. But when God makes something, He does not use things that are lying around. Instead He uses His Words. He speaks, and it happens. It always does. God is so powerful, that His Words make something out of nothing. He does not make just simple little things like the pictures we draw, but instead He makes big things like the sun and the sky. When you draw, you may have to erase some things and try drawing it a few times before you get it right. But God never makes a mistake. We just read that each time God made something, He took a look and saw that it was good. God makes good things!

God’s Words are powerful.  When you read God’s Word, the Bible, you can be sure that the Words in the Bible are true. You can trust what it says. His Words are so powerful, that they created the world and the heavens! He gave His Word, the Bible, to us so that we can know Him. Even though He is so incredibly powerful, His desire is that you know Him!

  • Take a look around and name the things you see that God has created. What are some of the most amazing things God has created?

Give thanks to God for all the things He has made! Thank Him for His power and that His Words are powerful.

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Acts Curriculum

Coming soon!

acts cover
A Children’s Ministry Curriculum based on the book of Acts. Includes 14 Large Group – Small Group lessons.

The stories in Acts are filled with important, powerful, transforming lessons! Kids  will discover that God calls them to live their lives fully devoted to Him, and how they can reach out to the world around them. Twelve lessons are based on the book of Acts, one lesson focusses on how God uses kids all over the world today, and the series concludes with a lesson about Heaven.

Different creative teaching methods are used in each lesson. Highly practical. Uses only easy-to-find-materials. Reproducibles included.

Price: $24.99

Contact us if you want to be notified at the time of the release of this series!

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Barrier #6: I’m SO Smart!

This is the last barrier in the series From Barriers to Values, and it is one that I didn’t discover until after I had started been giving this training module at our church for some time. As I began to recognize the existence of this well-disguised barrier, I started to see that this is a barrier we cannot afford to ignore.

As we get to know the children in our classes, we can easily divide them into a few categories. There are the disruptive ones, who often get in trouble because they always push the boundaries and step outside them in order to see what will happen. There are a few clowns, who may or may not get in trouble, depending on how good they are at staying just within those boundaries. There are some average kids, who are neither clowns nor pushers, and although many of them may not be particularly eager to learn, they do quite well in general. And then there are the smart ones. Some of them are simply very smart, and may not even realize it or they may not think much of it. But there may be some who like being smart and they are proud of it. Some of them want to answer all questions and do so before anyone else does. Some have a need to show off.

This sixth barrier, I’m So Smart, is not a barrier in all kids, but it is a barrier for kids who are prideful about being smart. This barrier is different than the previous ones, as most of those focus on kids who struggle to engage. This barrier focuses on kids who actually are very engaged, but they focus on head knowledge and impressing others, without engaging their hearts with the message. They have pride in their hearts.

The Bible says, “Knowledge puff us.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Pride is never good. We can be proud of our accomplishments in a humble sort of way, knowing that what we accomplished we were only able to do because God gave us the ability, but pride is not like that. Pride says, “I’m better than you!” In this case it says, “I’m smarter than you and therefore I am better than you!” And, though it may be subtle, it says so with attitude.

Well-meaning teachers often feed into this barrier, perhaps mostly unintentionally. It is fed when we have children memorize verses and hand out prizes to the ones who have memorized the most. It is fed when we only ask knowledge-based questions. It is fed when we always let the same children answer. It is fed when teachers favour smart kids. If left unchecked, the smart kids get more prideful and the not-so-smart-kids feel more and more left out, and will eventually give up and stop trying.

Knowing a lot about the Bible, of course, is great. Memorizing verses is important. Having brains that can process information well is a wonderful blessing. So how do we deal with this barrier?

Strategy 11: Reaching Hearts

Children’s Ministry is not about head-knowledge only, and it’s not about giving perfect answers. What is it about, then? I believe the answer is not so hard to find, although implementing it will require constant watchfulness on our part. Here’s our strategy: we must focus on reaching the hearts of the children.

“Knowledge puffs up,” the Bible says, and then it continues, “but love builds up.” Our answer is love. Focus on love. Help the children discover God’s amazing, powerful, transforming love for them. Help the children to love God above all, and to love others as themselves. As we do this, they will be built up in a healthy way.

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You see, God has always been after our love. He wants us to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) Although He wants us to know Him with our minds, God does not just want us to have head-knowledge about Him. Neither does He want just an emotional response from us. He wants all of us. No holding back. And the most amazing part of it is that above all He wants our love. He wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to love Him with our souls. He wants us to love Him with our minds. He wants us to love Him with our strength. How amazing that the Creator of the universe longs for my love, for your love, and for the love the children can give Him.

Here are some practical steps:

  • Teach the children from your heart. Let the stories enter your heart as you prepare to teach them, as I described in Strategy 7: Value Excellence – Excellence from your Heart. Let the story change you, move you, penetrate you. You cannot teach from your heart if the story has not entered your heart. If it has only entered your head, it will only come from your head and reach the heads of the children.
  • As you teach, point out things about God’s character and how He demonstrates His love, care, protection and faithfulness to the people in the stories. Focus on things that will help the children stand in awe of God, rather than just focussing on the facts of the things that happened in the story. This will help to strengthen their love for God as well as their faith.
  • Instead of asking “knowledge” questions, include other kinds of questions. Ask questions about how they can apply the stories to their lives. Ask questions that require honesty and openness about the things the kids might be struggling with. Praise kids for giving honest answers, not just the “right” answers.
  • Do not reward answering questions with candy or stickers or other things. This will only motivate the kids to answer by telling you what they think you want to hear, rather than telling you what is in their hearts.
  • Don’t always choose the same children to answer your questions.
  • Don’t treat smarter kids as your favorites, as this can breed bitterness in the other children.
  •  When children give answers that you don’t quite understand, or that don’t seem to make sense, ask more questions to clarify what they are trying to say. Sometimes they have a hard time expressing themselves, and they may actually have a great point hidden underneath their confusing answer.
  •  Encourage children to obey God, not out of obligation, but from their hearts. Teach them about having a positive attitude as they obey. Teach them to obey God because you love Him, not because you want to stay out of trouble.
  • Sometimes doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes understanding what is going on in our lives is hard. Model transparency and honesty. Tell the kids that you sometimes struggle with certain things as well so that they can see that nobody is perfect, and that it is okay to talk about it. Do this in a child-appropriate way. If they ask a difficult question and you don’t now the answer, tell them. You can say that you’ll look into it and will try to have an answer next time. Or you can tell them that some things are a mystery, and we do not have answers to all questions.
  • Model being teachable. Being teachable requires humility, and is the opposite of a prideful “I know it all” attitude. You can tell them about the new things you have discovered in the lesson yourself. Encourage the kids to be teachable as well.

When we focus on reaching the hearts of the children with God’s love, we will work to bring down this prideful barrier in our children. As we seek to build up our children through love, all children, the smart ones and the not-so-smart ones, will be able to know that they are loved and valued, not because of the perfect answers they give, but simply because they were wonderfully created by our God. Let’s show all our children that our mighty God dearly loves them.

Other articles in this series:

From Barriers to Values
Barrier #1: No Relationships
Barrier #2: Church is Boring
Strategy 3: Value Fun
Strategy 4: Value Creativity
Strategy 5: Value Learning Styles
Strategy 6: Value the Uniqueness of Childhood
Barrier #3: Poor Presentation
Strategy 8: Value Storytelling Techniques
Barrier #4: It’s Just a Bunch of History
Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!

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Barrier #4: It’s Just a Bunch of History

Our youth group leader once asked us this question: If someone were to observe you live your life, but he would never actually talk to you, would he be able to tell that you are a Christian? Frankly, this question scared me. I thought, “Oh, no! What if this person couldn’t? How is a person supposed to be able to tell that I am a Christian through the way I live anyway?” I started to look for answers by listening carefully to pastors on Sunday mornings. For years I sat in church on Sunday mornings, waiting for them to tell me what I should DO with the things they preached. But sadly, they never did. They preached wonderful sermons, and I agreed with most of the theological things they talked about, but then, as they neared the end of the sermon, and I was waiting for them to tell me how to apply this to my life, the sermon came to an end. They never did tell me. I was not able to find an answer in church.

I wanted to know how I should live my life as a Christian. I wanted to know what it should look like on Monday at 6:23 AM and on Thursday at 11:35 AM and on Friday at 8:56 PM. You see, I knew most of the Bible stories. I had heard them in Sunday School, at the Christian schools I had attended, and at home every evening after supper as we read the Bible together. But somehow, hearing the stories and understanding how to apply them to my life were two different things, and they were disconnected. No one taught me how and therefore, when I was 26 years old, I still didn’t know how to do that. For the most part, the stories in the Bible were stories, and that was it. They were historical accounts of things that happened to people a long time ago. But I did not know how to move on to the next level.

So if I, as a 26-year-old, having gone to church all my life, could not figure it out, how do we expect children to know how to do it? The answer is that they won’t know, unless we teach them how to do it. If we don’t, we leave a major barrier in place. This is Barrier #4: The Bible is Just a Bunch of History, and we must implement a value to conquer the barrier.

Strategy #9: Value Relevance, Practical Application

Years after the challenge that was given by our youth leader, God intervened in our lives. I read books written by Floyd McClung and Loren Cunningham and other authors from YWAM. Praise God, those books did provide the answer to my question. God totally changed our lives around during that season. We also started to use the FLIPT curriculum from Promiseland (Willow Creek) in Children’s Ministry in our church in Canada. Each and every single lesson had a clear, practical application for the lives of the children. Each week the kids learned how to apply a story from the Bible to their lives. I was super excited. I had been struggling with this for years, and here these kids were, in church, learning how to do this, every single week! I saw this value in action, and I strongly believe that this is a vital strategy as we reach out to our kids.

I wholeheartedly believe that we must give our children clear, relevant, practical examples to show them how the stories connect with their lives. The more specific our examples are, the easier it is for the kids to understand what we mean. Instead of saying “When someone is mean to you, you should show kindness”, make it specific and say, “When your sister says, ‘Leave me alone, you little brat!’ and you feel like saying something mean back to her, don’t give in to the temptation. Be kind instead.”

Let me give some examples from our Joseph – Living for God lessons to show what I mean. In our lessons we call it “The Connection”, as it connects the story to the lives of the kids.

Joseph is Tempted – Genesis 39. The connection: Joseph said ‘no’ to temptation, and so can we. What kinds of temptations do the children in your group face? Here are some possible questions:

You are upset with your brother because he read a secret note you had in your notebook and he told his friends about it. You feel like telling your friends something embarrassing about your brother to get even with him. What can you do to say ‘no’ to temptation?

You broke you sister’s shoelace when you borrowed her shoes without asking. No one knows you did it, and you put them back where you found them. A little later your sister asks if you know how her shoelaces broke. What do you do?

Here is another example from Joseph in Prison – Genesis 39 and 40. The connection: Joseph served God no matter where he was, and we can serve God too. The children will think about situations in their lives in which they can serve God and serve others. Kids can serve God at home, at school and in their neighbourhood. Here are some possible questions:

Your mother is sick. Name three things you can do to help.

What could you do to help your teacher?

You walk to school with your younger sister. She forgot her notebook at home and she needs to bring it to school. What could you do to help her?

In the He Loves Me curriculum, there is the story of the Good Samaritan. During this lesson the kids think about ways in which they can show compassion to others. The story about Bartimaeus will help the children to think about what it looks like to call out to God and how God answers our prayers. After hearing the story about Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, they think about what it means to surrender everything to Jesus, and how He takes care of us when we use what He has given us.

Connecting the stories to our lives is of huge importance for the growth of our faith and our relationship with God and others. No matter what story we tell or what lesson we teach, we should always show the kids how the story is relevant to them and how they can live out their faith in practical ways. Then they will see that the Bible is so much more than just a history book!

Read about the next Barrier: – Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!

Read related posts:

From Barriers to Values

Barrier #1: No Relationship

Barrier #2: Church is Boring

Strategy #3: Value Fun

Strategy #4: Value Creativity

Strategy #5: Value Learning Styles

Strategy #6: Value the Uniqueness of Childhood

Barrier #3: Poor Presentation

Strategy #8: Value Storytelling Techniques

Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!

 

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