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Adding Variety to Your Stick Ministry Performance

Adding Variety to Your
Stick Ministry Performance

When you're involved in creative ministries, sometimes it can be a challenge to describe to others some of the things you do. At least many people have some idea of what you're talking about when you use terms like "puppetry" or "balloon twisting," but many people have probably experienced confused looks when using the term "stick ministry." Stick ministry?! You mean like what you find on the ground? Chopsticks? What is this stick ministry?

For those of you who have never experienced this unique performance technique, it involves a group of performers, each equipped with two or more wooden dowel rods, approximately a yard long. The performers usually do their movements along with a song. It's hard to describe, but you can find examples of the technique being demonstrated on YouTube by searching for "Stick Ministry." This technique was created many years ago by Jeff Smith, who has since created several instructional DVD's on the subject, many of which we sell.

The possibilities for stick ministry are huge, but just like with any ministry technique, it is important to keep looking for ways to add variety to what you do in your stick ministry performances. So let's look at some simple ways to add something new to your stick performances.

Many teams that use stick ministry have begun moving the technique into the realm of blacklight. While blacklight can bring new possibilities to your performance, it also presents some problems. First, it is important to realize that blacklight is NOT appropriate for all stick ministry performances. Many times the full picture of your performance is not based on the shapes you make with the sticks, but also on the body position and expressions of the performers. In blacklight, you lose that. Some images simply do not work in blacklight.
For example, many teams have performed the song "God's Got an Army," which often includes a move where the performers hold their dowel rods at an angle as if they were soldiers carrying their weapons. If done in blacklight, that same move just looks like some floating, glowing sticks. You lose the image of the soldier completely. So, if you're using blackight, you need to make sure that your images make sense and still reflect the message of the piece even when you can't see the performers.

Personally, I have found that blacklight works best as a small part of a stick ministry performance. In other words, begin your production in white light, then as you reach the high point of the piece you can switch to blacklight. This way, it becomes a "special" effect and will leave a bigger impression on your audience.

Of course, in order to do stick ministry in blacklight, you need to have sticks that are fluorescent. It is possible to paint wooden rods with fluorescent paint so they will glow in blacklight. It is recommended that you paint your rods white first. After that has dried, you can paint the rods with a fluorescent color. We do this because fluorescent paint is typically transparent. Putting the paint on a white surface will make the fluorescent colors "pop" a bit better than they would if painted on bare wood.

Dress Up Your Rods
Even beyond the world of blacklight, there are things we can do to make our dowel rods look a bit different. We already talked about painting our rods with fluorescent colors, but there are many other ways you could paint your sticks that aren't for blacklight. You can also add colors to your sticks in other ways. Wrapping strips of colored tape around your sticks at certain intervals can create an interesting striped effect for your dowel rods.
Adding colored ribbons to the ends of your sticks can create a completely different effect. The ribbons will flow through the air as your performers move the sticks from one position to the next. This may not be appropriate for all performances, though, so make sure you don't permanently attach the ribbons to your sticks.

Another way to add some color to your dowel rods is to cover them in a sequin fabric. Sequins can catch light in an interesting way and give a new bright look to your performance. You may also get an interesting look by gluing glitter to your sticks. However, glitter can be messy. You'll need to plan on vacuuming the floor when you're done if you perform with sticks that are covered in glitter. Speaking of glitter, we've seen teams use transparent plastic tubes filled with glitter for their stick ministry performances. This allows the glitter to actually move, which creates a unique effect.

There are many more possibilities for changing the look of your dowel rods. We once saw a group do a performance that had an African theme, so the dowel rods were covered with various animal print fabrics. Red, white and blue strips of fabric could be used for patriotic performances. The possibilities are endless.
Dowel Rod Alternatives
The stick ministry technique is one that can be adapted to use other items in place of the dowel rods. You can be as creative as you want to be when using this art form.

Lightning Sticks are short foam sticks that light up with different colors and patterns. There is a button on the bottom to move from one type of light to the next. Though they are quite a bit shorter and thicker than regular dowel rods, they can add a new visual element to your performances.
Other prop items can be used to take the place of dowel rods. If your program has a baseball theme to it, you could use plastic baseball bats in the place of your dowel rods. We once saw a group use umbrellas in the place of the dowel rods. This added another element to the performance since the performers could use the umbrellas either opened or closed.

The more you use the stick ministry technique, the more you will want to find new and interesting ways of enhancing this performance style. Keep looking for ways to add visual variety to your stick ministry performances.

An Important Note: Though we love to see this sort of creativity, please remember that stick ministry performances entered into competition at our Creative Ministry Festivals, must use dowel rods. Using other items like umbrellas, or mops, or brooms is against the competition rules. Please feel free to use these items in your other performances, but for competition you need to use dowel rods.

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