Today’s guest post is by a fellow AWSA author, Karen Whiting. The ideas Karen gives here for mentoring the next generation in the puppet ministry could be applied to any ministry. Our church has a puppet ministry, and just as Karen describes below, the youth are being trained early to participate in the ministry and the seasoned puppeteers are training them.
My high school daughter started a puppet ministry for teens with my husband and me as the advisers. Over time, it also became a mentoring ministry where the experienced members and adults trained new recruits. A few activities developed leadership qualities:
1. We held a week training camp each summer. We divided the campers into three or four small groups or pairs and they rotated through four areas each day. In one, the less experienced team members showed videos and led a devotional they had enjoyed during the year. In another, the next level of puppeteers taught how to use props. The third group of the most proficient puppeteers taught the new members how to hold and move the puppets. The last group met with a few of the artistic members and myself to make a puppet or some props. Each group of leaders felt important and started at a comfortable level to mentor newcomers. They also looked forward to moving up to the next level and that inspired them to work hard during the year.
2. We held quarterly meetings to plan shows. We had the most experienced members lead the meetings. They brainstormed ideas and listened to songs and read skits they might want to use. The other adults and I added thoughts to encourage some of the ideas put forth or to point out the challenges they might face. They also discussed parts and worked to give puppeteers roles that would develop their skill and reward members who had worked hard. This kept the experienced ones from hogging parts and helped them continue to train less experienced members.
3. We competed at Christian puppet festivals. To help everything go smoothly practices included how to set up the puppets and props backstage for easy access in the order needed. The teen leaders chose a few prop masters and stage directors to take charge behind the scenes. After the competition we read the judges comments and celebrated the outcome. Within a year or two we generally won gold medals and sometimes took the people’s choice award.
4. We chose spiritually mature teens to lead devotions before each practice. The leaders sometimes led the devotions. This helped keep unity and a focus on serving God.
5. We held a lock-in at least once a year. We enjoyed icebreakers and games, and spent some of the time practicing a show. It gave us time to bond and just be ourselves.
The adults always made themselves available for anyone who wanted counseling or advise. We also met before practice with the teen leaders to provide feedback, encourage them, and listen to their ideas. It amazed us to watch how the teens matured and developed leadership qualities and a heart for the members.
Now I write for tweens and teens and hopefully the books help them develop skills, confidence, and leadership qualities.
Bio: Karen Whiting is the author of eighteen books, including Nature Girl: A Guide for Caring for God’s Creation. She’s a former television host and served as the adult director of the teen puppet ministry for thirteen years. Currently she helps with Officer’s Christian Fellowship (OCF) for the midshipmen at the US Naval Academy.