This post is a continuation of my series on doing a Family Experience in a small church. You can view the introduction post which also links to the others in the series.
One of my greatest frustrations with the family experiences of other churches is this, they are really designed for elementary aged kids and their parents. While not a bad thing in itself, I’ve always struggled with where teenagers fit in to that model. I want the teens to feel as much a part of their family as the kids (which is also a reason I do not believe in calling someone who works primarily with kids the family pastor, but that’s a discussion for a different day). Statistically, the absolute best way to get teens to stay in the church is to get them involved in the ministry. Give them a purpose and a vision and they will not want to leave. More on that in a minute.
At every FX, we have an intro sketch and an exit sketch. The skits feature a group of “kids” and their adventures in their clubhouse. The “kids” have hyperbolized personalities, much like the characters on the show Saved by the Bell. During the intro sketch, a problem is created for the “kids,” or they create one for themselves (more common). The problems are relatable to the audience and often are at least somewhat realistic to things kids face. During the exit sketch, a solution to that problem is realized and points the audience back to that day’s virtue. The characters come out right after the exit sketch for a brief wrap-up of the lesson they learned.
What I love about the scripts we use, which are slightly edited versions of the 252 Basics scripts, is the balance of life application and humor. As an adult, I can often find application in my own life as well as see how it applies to kids. I also watch as kids, teens, and adults all find something to laugh about in each skit. It isn’t parents enjoying it for the sake of their kids, it’s parents actually enjoying it along with their kids.
Now, back to the teens. I have seen adults do a great job acting as “kids” in other churches, but I took the risk and asked a group of our teenagers to do it instead. Teens are not known for their ability to commit, but so far I’ve been pretty lucky with them notifying me in time to find a replacement (and rewrite the script as necessary).
What I have been most surprised with is our teens’ ability to act! We’ve had our share of stage fright, forgotten lines, and stress, but they have always done an excellent job. I watched one teen cry the night we introduced her character for the first time, only to go on stage and knock it out of the park. Other teens have forgotten lines, but their ability to improv the script without losing the meaning is nothing short of impressive. And I know they feel silly when they have to go up there and act like that in front of their family and friends, but it never shows once they step onto the stage.
That’s how we do our intro and exit sketches. It works for us because it involves the teens and frees the parents to be in the audience with their kids. I’m not saying ours is the best solution, just the best for us. What I am saying is that it is okay to take a risk and try something you’ve never seen done before. It’s so crazy, it just might work!