This page is designed to give Sunday school teachers and homeschoolers some ideas for using puppets to teach. Here you will find articles, resources, and much more to help you use puppets in a learning environment.
How to Start a Puppet Ministry Quick Tips and Valuable Resources
So, you have heard all the commotion about having a Puppet Ministry. Neighboring churches are just ranting and raving about how successful their ministry is with children of all ages. Why, even adults get excited when they watch a puppet performance.
Now, you want to catch the Puppet action at your church, but where do you start? Here are some quick tips and valuable resources that you will want to know about to get your Puppet Ministry off and running. Please bear in mind that these are the nuts and bolts to get your juice flowing. There are many great books about the subject as well.
Preparing for the ministry:
- You will need a director. This will be a "take charge" person who can pull the whole ministry together and act as the point of contact for the ministry.
- You will need a financial plan. Depending on your vision, your ministry can be as small or as large as you like. It is a good idea to have your church board on-board with you in the financial process. Consider fundraisers, too.
- Bring in the puppets. You need a variety of different puppets. It is a good idea to have some generic puppets, so that you can change costumes and use them for different skits. You can purchase puppets ready to go, or you can buy puppet patterns and have someone make them for you. Either way puppets can be costly. Find some great deals on-line, if you can.
- Staging. Plan a stage that you can grow as your ministry grows.
- Finding your team of puppeteers. Teenagers and adults with lots of enthusiasm should work well.
Organization is the key to success:
- Rehearsals. This is a good time for devotions. Never leave God out of the picture! Remember you are doing this to glorify Him. Start with easy skits to get used to the puppets. Then work your up to longer skits as your team feels comfortable.
- Plan your year. Marking performance dates will keep your puppeteers focused. Try limiting performances around certain months (like September to May), and avoid doing all-year performances. This will lessen the worry for burnout of the puppeteers, and the kids will be looking forward to you starting up again with anticipation.
- Purpose for puppets. It is easy to lose sight of why you started a Puppet Ministry. Make the ministry more than just rehearsals. Take advantage of the friendships you will make, stay earnestly in prayer for each other as you work together, and make sure the kids who are watching the performance can see the spiritual message you are trying to deliver.
You will need workers during performances who are comfortable with:
- Puppet care and storage
- Stage set up and props
Although it seems like a lot of work, once you get used to puppets and learn to work together as a team, it will just be fun! And, as your ministry grows, you will be amazed at what you can do with puppets!
Here are some resources that will help a whole lot:
One Way Street - Lots of basics on starting a Puppet Ministry, songs, skits, necessary forms, and much more!
Puppet Revelation - Same as above, lots of great resources and products.
Recruiting Puppeteers Tips for a Successful Puppet Ministry
In order to find reliable and suitable puppeteers for your Puppet Ministry, you have to start by having a clear mission statement for the ministry. What is your goal? Will this ministry consist of weekly or monthly performances? Will it be geared for preschool or upper elementary audiences, or perhaps both? Will you write your own skits or buy them? Answering these questions will help you determine what character traits you will be looking for in puppeteers and help you decide what kind of time committment you need from the puppeteers. Now you will need to advertise for puppeteers and see who transpires. Here are some others points to consider when recruiting puppeteers:
What age should puppeteers be? Some churches have a Puppet Ministry led by older elementary aged children, while some use teens in the church, and still others have an all adult team of puppeteers. Some churches even combine all age groups. Knowing your goals for the ministry will help you decide what age your puppeteers should be. If you are in a large church, you may have more flexibility to choose an age group; whereas, a smaller church may have to make due with a intermingled age group. As long as your volunteers are willing and committed, it really does not matter. It's what works best for the ministry.
Who makes a good puppeteer? Basically anyone makes a good puppeteer, if they are willing to be. As long as your volunteers are willing to be teachable and stay committed to the ministry that is all you need. Your best bet for finding good puppeteers is seeing that they understand there is more to this ministry than just putting on shows, but that the message they are giving to the audience is more important than anything else. The ministry is for the glory of God, and not just to make children laugh.
Should tryouts be necessary? Tryouts are not really necessary for puppeteers. If you have people that are willing to commit to rehearsal times, learn the ropes, and have a heart for leading children in God's Word, then they can be taught to be a successful puppeteer. When you first announce that you are looking for volunteers for the Puppet Ministry team, you may get a good response and, in that case, you may have the opportunity to screen individuals that you think would be good for the team. If you get a low response of interested individuals, you may have to work with who you have, and that is fine, too. Again, the most important part of choosing puppeteers is that they understand this is a ministry before anything else.
How many people does it take to have a successful ministry? You want enough people to run a smooth performance, but not so many people that someone might lose interest in the ministry because they do not have enough to do. There is a definite balance. It helps to have your year planned out with the scripts you will want to perform ahead of time, so you can get an idea of how many parts there are in each script and average out how many puppeteers you will need. If you are new to Puppet Ministry, then start with smaller scripts and use about five or six puppeteers, and then work your way up to bigger skits with more puppeteers being added at a later time. It's easier to add, then to let someone go.
Puppet Care and Storage Basics for Keeping Them in Tip-Top Shape
Whether you have a successful Puppet Ministry in place or are gathering information before starting one, you know that puppets can be costly. They are considered an investment into children's lives, which makes them priceless, but if not taken care of properly, you won't get all the mileage out of them that you intended when you purchased them.
Here are some very handy tips for making sure that your puppets stay in great condition and last for years to come:
- Try not to let them get dirty. People puppets, especially, with their flesh-colored fabric, can show signs of wear and tear very easily. When using puppets over and over again, you have to expect some signs of usage, but if taken care of properly, this won't happen any time soon. When practicing skits, remind the puppeteers to lay the puppets down in their storage boxes and not on floors and tables where they will come into contact with soil and dust. Scotchgard fabric protector works well to keep stains from getting on the puppets. Remember to test a small spot first before spraying the entire puppet, and avoid spraying eyes. Another good product to have on hand is a spot remover that can gently clean away stains in small sections.
- Have a designated storage space for puppets. Giving your puppets a home of their own will lessen the effects of usage. Store them in a closet or cabinet that is under lock and key. If you place them somewhere where the general public can access them, you will find the puppets deteriorating quickly.
- Properly storing puppets is important. It is best to purchase cardboard storage boxes that can be closed and secured to contain the puppets. While you are at it, label the boxes according to skit name or type of puppet (animals, boys/girls, etc.). This will make it easier when you need to find a certain puppet. Line the box with a blanket. Don't smash puppets together when placing them in a box. Let them sit on top of each loosely. Turn the puppet face downward into the box to less contact with the cardboard. Do not store with the rods. Put the rods in a separate bag.
- Check for early signs of wear and tear. Give the puppets a look-over about once a month to be sure there are no signs of ripped arms or legs and that no fabric is torn. If you do find these signs, take care of the situation right away. Perhaps you know of a seamstress who can mend the puppets in an inconspicuous way.
- Common sense comes in handy:
- Don't have food and drinks behind the puppet stage.
- Wash hands before handling puppets.
- If working outdoors, bring large blankets to keep the puppets safe from dirt and grass stains.
- Never pick up puppets by the hair or areas on the face.
- While it may seem cruel, for the puppets protection, do not let puppeteers take puppets home to practice. You never know when a 2-year-old brother or sister may want to take up puppeteering, too!