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Using Clowning in Ministry


Using Clowning in Ministry

by Michael Murphy

There is much to learn about clowning: the different types of clowns, character development, costuming and wigs, clown routines... The most important step, though, is putting it all together so we can use it to minister to others.

Clowning

This is where I found myself at one time -- I had my costume, voice, character, face, and even shoes, but I didn't know what to do. I asked myself, "How do I use this?" Answering this question is just as important as the makeup, nose, and rubber chickens. Whatever you do, do it the best you can do, as though you are doing it for Jesus Christ.

Where can you use your clowning skills to minister? There are many places and ways. Here are just a few: at a carnival, fair, community event or seasonal festival, such as a harvest party or Easter egg hunt. You can exercise your walk-around skills and close-up people skills, as well as any circus skills you learned like juggling, balloon animals, close-up magic, yo-yo tricks, etc. You can also make special appearances at children's church services. Why not represent your church in a local parade? Hospital clowning can also be a very rewarding way to use your skills.

Walk-Around Events

When working carnivals or fairs, take a few things into consideration. If the event is more than 90 minutes long, you will need to work in some time to take a break. You will need to take a breather, get a drink, get off your feet, etc. You won't want to do this in front of the attendees of the event. Make sure you have a staff-only space where you can take care of yourself. A good rule of thumb is to work 50 minutes of every hour. If your event is outdoors, or in a warm building, keep in mind that you have on several more layers of clothing, makeup, even hair than most anybody else at the event. Take care of your body, and don't let yourself get dehydrated or overheated. On the other hand, if you are in a colder climate and do outdoor work, design a coat or cape that complements your outfit, and can provide some warmth.

Children's Church

Many children's church directors could make use of a special character in their program. Some curricula come with written scripts to be used for puppetry or drama. If there is a silly or goofy character in the script, you could easily adapt the script to use a clown character. One word of warning, though: make sure you act out the skit in a clowny way. Use exaggerated movements and clown props. Never allow your clown to just stand in front of an audience and just talk. If a clown were to teach a Bible memory verse to a class, he or she might get all the words twisted out of order, or say the wrong words. Then perhaps another teacher could come up and help the clown out. As the teacher teaches the clown, the audience is listening in, and getting taught at the same time.

Hospitals

Many clowns are able to make a tremendous impact on families by volunteering in hospitals. Hospitals can be a very distressing and depressing place to be for the patients. Done with some planning and tact, clowns can bring great joy to patients and their families.

Ministry Material

When choosing material to do in children's church, or anywhere, ask yourself the question, "Why should a clown be doing this?" If you have a ho-hum activity, simply having a clown do it does not make it funny. The clown must change it, and bring some new element to the activity to make it fun or funny.

Don't forget, clowns aren't only for the silly stuff. Floyd "Socataco" Shaffer is a silent clown-- he never speaks in costume. I have attended services an hour long where, without a word, Socataco has brought us the Gospel, challenged us, and served communion in a moving and reverent way. I find the silent and serious clowning to be some of the most challenging and difficult methods to minister, but often these can be some of the most effective. Anything worth doing will take work, and clowning is no exception.

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