An interesting thing happened when I first made Joey’s Baptism (my baptism preparation booklet for children) available on the Internet. A children’s ministry leader sent me an email brimming with excitement.
He was a puppeteer who regularly used puppets in his ministry to children. While looking for materials to teach baptism, he came across my booklet, and he realized the story it contained could easily be adapted to a puppet presentation.
Some of his enthusiasm spilled over to me as I realized that Joey’s Baptism had inspired someone to take a creative and fun approach to baptism preparation.
Now … realistically … spicing up baptism preparation in such dramatic fashion (pun intended) is a big undertaking — and not practical for everyone.
But if you have a creative itch just urging you to take on an out-of-the-ordinary approach to baptism preparation, here are some ideas that will help you scratch that itch of creativity:
Do a Dramatic Reading
Choose three children to read Joey’s Baptism out loud. Have one child act as a narrator, another as Grandpa, and a third as Joey. They can either stand at the front of the classroom to read, or they can read by standing next to their seats. If you have enough children in class, you can switch up the reading assignments at chapter breaks.
By the way, if this method is dragging along because your readers are not as strong as they might be, you can take the part as narrator to help keep things moving.
As a variation on this approach, you could have one person act as narrator and then divide the remaining children into two groups. The first group can read Grandpa’s part in unison and the second can read Joey’s part.
Have Adults Act Out the Story
If you’ve got a couple of outgoing adult volunteers, they could learn and act out the parts of Grandpa and Joey. A third adult can act as narrator to fill in any parts that aren’t clear from the acting alone.
And if you’ve got some volunteers who are really ambitious, you could film the action and create a fun presentation of part or all of the booklet narrative to watch on TV. The additional advantage to filming the presentation is that you have a resource that you can reuse with future preparation classes.
One Christian education director who purchased Joey’s Baptism told me that she was planning to have the children in her class use finger puppets to act out a baptism.
Perhaps there are other parts of the story where you can have children do role playing, maybe with finger puppets or maybe by acting with a partner. Another idea would be to have your class act out a portion of a church service that includes a few people pretending to get baptized — sort of a practice run. Anything that gets your children physically involved in the story or in the concepts being taught will more strongly reinforce the concepts they are learning.
A Puppet Show
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the method that was described at the start of this article. The man who told me about his idea for the puppet show made one easy but significant change when he did his show.
He changed the character of Grandpa into Grandma. This change made it easier to create distinct voices for the characters. And this, in turn, made it easier for the children to keep track of who was saying what.
Mix Several Approaches
Instead of just using a single one of the ideas above, choose two or more and apply each to one or two chapters.
Getting Carried Away
I do want to add a bit of caution here. When you come across creative ideas for spicing up your teaching, there are two common but not very helpful reactions.
One is a feeling of guilt. The guilt comes from a conflict between what you think would be good and what you know you can’t do. On the one hand you see the tremendous possibilities that a more elaborate presentation holds for enhancing your children’s learning process. On the other hand you can be painfully aware that you don’t have the time or energy to create such an elaborate presentation.
The other feeling is one of unbridled excitement. You may feel like a child in a candy shop with so many possibilities, you’re not sure when to stop. It’s easy to get caught up in a flush of exhilaration and take on much more than you can reasonably do. If you take on too much, you run the risk of either making things too hard on yourself. Or you may end up with a presentation that has lots of rough edges, because the number of things you included prevented you from doing any of them well.
The antidote for both of these reactions is to take on only as much as you can comfortably get done AND to decide not to feel guilty about how much you do. Remember that while our role in baptism preparation is certainly important, the ultimate responsibility for your children to learn about baptism lies with God through the Holy Spirit; we are only his helpers in this regard.
And as His helpers we do best when we do a quality job within the limits we face rather than a poorly prepared job that overwhelms us. God specializes in filling in the gaps when we “do our best but don’t stress.” As Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12:9,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas to satisfy that creative itch you may be feeling. Any little bits of spice you add to your baptism preparation will help your class to absorb your teachings more deeply and retain the material easier. While you’ll want to be careful not to overcommit, don’t be afraid to try some things that are a little out of the ordinary, some things that do more than go strictly by the book.
Coming Up: In our next mini newsletter article we will cover
Child Baptism – 6 Irresistible Reasons To Include Parents in Preparation Classes.