Monday, October 12, 2009

#78-Puppet Shows

When I think of the great mysteries of our Apostolic identity, one of the first things that comes to mind are bird nest hairdo's. The second thing that comes to mind are church puppet shows...

Seriously, what in the world happened? Where was our head at? And if your church still actively utilizes this form of children's ministry, Godspeed my friend, Godspeed and a buxom blessing to you....

And the reason I write this post as if puppet shows (ministry) were past history, from my limited experiential framework, I have not ran into an actual live running puppet show in several years. It seems to me that once Pixar started making full CGI movies, the Sunday School teachers knew their puppet technology was long past it's expiration date....

That's not to say that the Puppet Show ministry was worthless. On the contrary, some of my most detailed memories of my childhood were observing puppet shows....they were entirely effective for people my age and older (who were not raised in such a technology dependent society)...the mystery is simply how in the world the puppet show ministry was sooooo effective?

Like nothing could shut the kids up from their rowdy behavior more than blaring a cassette from some cheesy kids Christian song that sounded terrible through the audio system, and having a strange shaped puppet dance obnoxiously around the puppet stage falling into other puppets trying to lip-synch the song. Seriously nothing touched the effectiveness of the puppets for calming kids down....

So as I write this post, let me just go kind of stream of consciousness of some of the most impacting memories of these puppet shows and their imprint in all of our lives as children....feel free to leave some of your fond recollections in the comment section....

  • As far as my recollection goes, puppet shows in church were the only acceptable venue whereby one could mock holy ghost dancing openly and without fear of repercussion. Of course this luxury was only afforded to the puppeteers themselves wherein they would have the puppets literally spasm, lift hands, dance and shout as if this were actual church all in the name of a good laugh....
  • How jealous were you of the people who could go behind "the curtain?" (by curtain I mean the entire puppet structure which was enclosed usually by a blanket of some sort)... I can remember wanting to kill to get back behind the curtain of deception that hid all the puppeteers during the performances. You were always left wondering what went on back behind the curtain when you knew there were more people back there than there were puppets being used.....Which I now firmly believe we can reasonably deduce that there was a puppet party going on behind the curtain where the puppeteers themselves would drink the grape juice left over from communion and entertain each other with their strange puppet performances....Weird rituals like this keep my mind spinning.....
  • And what about the one Sunday school teacher who took the puppet ministry far too seriously? He/She was the one to have a puppet ministry seminar for a WHOLE Saturday that spent hours trying to demonstrate how much more realistic puppets appeared when they lip-synched songs with their top of their mouth still, and their bottom lip the only part in motion (I learned this trick from an inside source years ago who would probably be immediately ravaged by a pack of hungry wolves sent by the secret puppeteer society should his name actually get out). This same teacher was the one who saw the puppet on his/her arm as a true extension of self and thus would get really mad whenever a kid would go up and smack the puppet. The serious teacher would usually scold kid asking how the kid would like it if the puppet did that to him?
  • The art of puppet voices: Did anyone have a real puppet voice? To me all the puppeteers could muster to disguise their voice was implementing this tip: If you are using a female, gather the most annoying and high pitched voice you can muster. If you are a male, gather the most annoying and and low-pitched voice you can muster...And if you have the main character/funny character of the skit, try to do your most mediocre job imitating a voice from the Muppets/Sesame Street...which brings me to....
  • Why did Jim Henson never sue the UPC for copyright infringement? Seriously, i can specifically remember a Kermit the frog and a ugly version of Ernie being utilized at several puppet performances in church....


  1. hahaha, How would you like it if the puppet smacked you!

    I wrote a skit for our church's puppet ministry back when I was 12 (we started ministry early). It was about a puppet girl who dyed her hair and then felt convicted about it later.

  2. Jessica, Central OhioOctober 13, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    Oh no, Brother! Puppet ministry is still alive and kickin' in Central Ohio!! My (slightly warped) father is the Guru in our church. His Sunday School 'kids' BEG and PLEAD not to graduate to the next class 'cause the "OLDER teachers don't know how to have fun!" Needless to say...I grew up behind that fabled curtain and Yes, Virginia, we did have silly parties back there when we weren't performing :)

  3. Puppet shows may be outdated, but as long as little kids still respond to the message/song that is being presented, it is still a viable ministry opportunity.

    We have several children in our church that received the Holy Ghost after being ministered to by puppeteers.

  4. Until you have had a child rip off the eyes of a puppet that you spent your hard earned cash for, you will never understand the guy who felt as if the puppet was an extension of himself.

    I grew up unchurched an idolized Jim Henson. There is a lot of his personality in the skits that I write and put on for the Sunday School kids.

  5. Favorite Church Puppets Memory in 2 words: Ticklish Reuben

    What this character had to do with Christianity or Spirituality, I will never know...and why it was appropriate to sing this song in church, I will never know...but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Bro. Story (the grand-daddy of Pentecostal puppets, IMO) and Ticklish Reuben.

  6. Favorite puppet memory. The song "The Holy Ghost will take the chicken out of you" and watching as a puppet used a rubber chicken to beat up the devil puppet.
    I also was involved in puppet show ministry 2 yrs ago where I was Jeff Crow and used my parrot immatation voice for a crow, but it worked for the kids :)