Sunday, February 12, 2012

Four Simple Ways to Spice Up Your Teaching Space, Part 4 - Audience Plants

Just to put you at ease, this is not a post about filling your Children's Ministry with ferns.  No, I'm talking about planting storytellers, actors or other programming volunteers in the audience with your kids.

For the past several posts we've talked about ways you can shake things up during your teaching times by making creative use of your space.  We've already looked at teaching stations, runways and teaching in the round as ways to reconfigure a traditional audience/stage room set up.  If you have a more traditional Sunday School table and chairs set up, check out this post on how you can create some basic storytelling space.

Standard Set Up

Unlike the other options we've covered, audience plants give you the same outside the box storytelling effect without having to change anything about your room set up. 

Audience Plants

Here's how it works.  Let's say you're teaching a story and you want to use a few actors to act out the story as you narrate it.  Put them in the crowd, sitting with kids as if they are ordinary leaders.  When you get to their part in the story, they just deliver their first line right where they.  It will blow your kids' minds because it's totally unexpected. 

One weekend I was telling the story of the Elijah and the poor widow.  I told the story quickly in a very straightforward way the first time through.  Then, much to the kids' suprise, one of their leaders (an actress I planted in the crowd), said, "Wait, I don't get it." 

Then as I began to dialogue with her, another leader (a second actor planted in the crowd) spoke up, "Yeah, me neither.  That doesn't make sense." 

Finally a third leader (my last plant) chimed in, "I'm with those guys.  I don't get it either." 

So from there I brought the three actors up on stage and had them act out the story as I told it under the pretense that I was helping each of them get it. 

By planting the actors in the audience, we were able to capture the kids' attention from the very beginning using a technique they never saw coming.

Obviously I had rehearsed several times with these actors ahead of time so that what at first appeared to be random ended up being an incredible storytelling experience.

You can also use audience plants in simpler ways.  How about sprinkling the crowd with a few well-rehearsed middle school actors who would pop up to recite some key Scriptures at the right time.  Imagine if you're teaching on the I Cor 13 love passage and instead of reading it straight from Bible, three student actors stood on cue and each recited a line from the passage.

The bottom line is that the options for using plants is limitless: actors, fellow storytellers, even singers if you want.  How awesome would that be to end a lesson and someone in the audience breaks out into a song that perfectly wraps up what you just taught? 

As with anything else, audience plants take a lot of rehearsal and are no substitute for solid, simple storytelling.  They can, however, enhance a lesson that's already great.  If you're already using multiple people in your program, consider starting one off in the audience and seeing what happens.

What are some stories or Bible passages that you could get creative with using audience plants?

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