Presentation/Performance Ideas

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Over the years I have certainly heard the argument that Gospel Magic is of the devil…

that it’s associated with witchcraft or sorcery… that we are in league with Harry Potter etc. And for those situations, I have always had with me either a document by Randy Christensen: “The Magical Method”

…Or Bob Hill’s: “Should a Christian Do Magic?

Just copy and paste the text into your favorite word processor and create a document or brochure you can hand out – be sure to include the author’s name and copyright information.

But to be perfectly honest with you, the biggest complaint I’ve heard over the years from people about Gospel Magic is that people end up remembering the magic and NOT the message. The performer or presenter was a great magician… but had a tough time “Marrying” the Method and the Message together.

The second complaint I’ve heard over the years is that the magic was just a gimmick to get the audience interested in what the presenter had to say… the presenter, then, turned out to be a very boring and/or long winded speaker. In which case, they don’t remember the message and didn’t care about the magic because the audience felt duped into listening.

The reasons I hear this complaint are as follows:

  • Wrong Motivation
  • Poor Prep
  • Poor Presentations
  • Un-Assessed Presentations
  • Performers/Ministers Unwilling to Make the Changes

Come on people! WE can do better than this!

We are talking about presenting the Word of God. And the last time I looked into my Bible, it says that if we aspire to teach others the Word, we will be held to a higher standard:

“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
–James 3:1

I don’t care if you are a Pastor, Evangelist or a Performer who presents the Word… YOU have be entrusted with the greatest message in the world! Take that as a challenge to your motivation, preparation, presentation, assessment and the willingness to make the change.

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564736_597514190259187_754582564_nIllustrating the Word of God for kids is a good thing.

I have often heard the argument:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

It’s sad, really. It’s sad because I have watched effective Children’s Ministry communicators shy away from taking advantage of great and creative methods in their presentations because of that statement alone.

I was teaching several workshops on creative teaching methods at a children’s ministry conference where I overheard several criticize me and other workshop leaders for placing an unhealthy emphasis on the methods.

Guess what? I can agree with the statement:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

However, I can only agree with that statement with the following addendum:

“…as long as most of the time, energy and emphasis is placed on the method and very little time, energy and emphasis is spent on the message.”

Unfortunately, the aforementioned addendum is rarely heard… thus holding back the children’s ministry specialist from embracing the effective methods that are available to him/her.

And all of that is worked out in the planning stages of the message. 

In the next few posts I want to explain a few things that should be happening BEFORE the presentation starts… and hopefully, you, the children’s ministry leader – a teacher of God’s Word, can find freedom to “Marry” the message and the method so you can bring your messages to life.

Stay tuned…

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Memorize It

Knowing what you’re doing is different than planning what you’re doing. Again, you can start collecting your ideas and putting together all the stuff to make the service a success. But, if you don’t know WHAT you’re doing in the moment… it can create a moment of confusion, embarrassment or the sense from the audience that you aren’t prepared for them.  Even though, some of these items may be similar to the earlier section on Preparation… this list really is really all about “knowing” your service.  Memorization in a kids service has very little to do with knowing each service word-for-word or action-for-action – it has more to do with knowing the details enough to keep things moving along for so the audience will stay focused for maximum ministry results.

  • Know and be able to quote the main scripture – you’ll want to reference back to it during your teaching times.
  • Know and be able to quote the main idea or key point you want the kids to walk away with… you can’t get something into a kids world until it’s in you’re first.
  • Make and use a schedule of the service – As I mentioned in the last post, I prefer Planning Center Online. It gives you ways to schedule each item in your service and assign it a time. You can also use it to schedule team members for each item.
  • Outline your stories, object lessons, gospel magic routines, illustrative sermons and even skits. It’s not necessary to have it all memorized word-for-word. But if you know the main points and can elaborate on them, you’ll be more confident as you teach.
  • When doing an illustrative sermon or when many props and visuals are being used in one service, put them in order of their use on your table, in your box or from left to right on the stage or presentation area.
  • Make your team aware of what props and visuals you are using so those items don’t get touched, moved or end up getting put away before the service starts (I’ve had it happen).
  • Put a bookmark in your Bible where the main Bible story is found. Mark the passage with a highlighter or red pen… You ARE opening your Bible with the kids and having THEM read Bible stories with you – aren’t you?
  • Make sure everyone understands their cues for their parts. Music cues, key words, graphics on the screen or knowing that “…immediately after such-and-such happens…”, is when the next person needs to be walking on stage will help keep transitions smooth.
  • It helps to have a rehearsal with others involved, even if it’s just a walk-thru of each thing happening in your service.
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Have a very happy Easter – make it incredible for the kids at your church!

  1. Pray
  2. Make the story of Jesus come alive
  3. Greet every kid with anticipation of the day
  4. Give a salvation opportunity
  5. Inspire your leaders all this week leading up to the weekend
  6. Give the kids something to remember their experience by
  7. Present something the kids have never seen before
  8. Keep a record of attendance, salvations, first-time guests, returning guests, etc
  9. Thank God in advance for the victories won
  10. Celebrate your results with your leaders
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Fine Tune Your Ability to Create the Experiences

Whether you choose to use Gospel Magic or not, there are some things you should be doing in any creative presentation method that will help you to create an experience with your class or audience:

Self Evaluation

As you tweak your routines or put the finishing touches on a prop; ask yourself:

  • How am I creating an experience for my audience?
  • What else can I do to add that little extra ‘whoa’ in the moments that I’m with them?
  • What will these kids talk about when they leave?
  • What am I doing to advance my skills as a performer/presenter and ‘experience creator’ so my program stands out?  And not just from others… but, from the last ‘experience’?

Be Willing To Face Evaluation From Others

These are vital questions – and they need to be answered if you plan on succeeding as a performer/presenter.  No question about it, you’re going to have to subject yourself to criticism and evaluation.  Find a coach or several coaches whom you will allow to freely comment on your presentation.  Record yourself on video and invite those who are already successful in the realm of children’s ministry presentation to view your presentation(s)… they can help you.  Invite also, those who are trained and seasoned in drama and theater to view your presentations and get their insight.

You Have The Potential To Be Amazing

If you love what you do… kids will love you, you will feel very fulfilled at what you’re doing.  Put that all together and you’ll be at your best as a presenter.  And when you’re at your best – it will show up in your presentations- therefore, it will help you to create a stronger experience.

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Anticipation – Create It… Maintain It… Satisfy It.

I believe in the old education model.  I believe you can use it in your #KidMin services to create, build and satisfy anticipation.  What is the old education model?  I’m glad you asked!  Here’s what it looks like:

• Tell them what are going to teach them

• Teach it to them

• Tell them what you just taught them

Notice that you’re doing the same thing over and over again.  It’s called repetition.

And believe it or not, repetition works.  And believe it or not, repetition works.  And believe it or not… you get the point.

You’re doing the same thing over and over again, you’re just going to do it in a different way.  Throughout, you’ve got to have anticipation that will keep kids on the edge of their seats.  Here’s how to use the old education model to create, keep and satisfy anticipation:

Tell them what are going to teach them –

This is the icebreaker/opener that introduces kids to the lesson or topic.  In this moment that happens at the beginning, you’re going to introduce a problem, dilemma, big question, challenge or a cliffhanger that you can refer back to throughout the service.  Here’s an example:  You have a character named Herman enter with a bottle of mustard.  He says that he’s going to: “…teach that guy a lesson by squirting mustard all over his new bike!” You attempt to talk him out of it but he won’t listen.  He leaves angrier then when he entered.  You tell the audience of children that today would be a good day to talk about “Revenge: what does God say about it?”  Go into a scripture memory game.  You’ve just created a cliff-hanger that kids will want to know what happens.  You’ve created ANTICIPATION

Read more over at

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Performance Skills 102

Specific training to increase your on-stage professionalism

Catchy Title huh?

For some it could be intriguing and they are instantly hooked in, but for the most part I would predict that the title is confusing as the topic of on-stage professionalism is not usually talked about in the world of Children’s Ministry. In our preaching we focus a lot on content, our MC-ing being energetic and making our kids scream, and our performances either being funny or very heavy with the topic we want to teach on. It is not often you will get someone stand up and say “let’s get more professional”.

Now we are not talking about sub-contracting writers, hiring actors and a catering truck. Instead we are talking about working with what you have and taking what you do in your ministry, and sharpening your skills to make it more professional.

Today we are going to talk about something that affects the communicator – the preacher, the MC and the performer (especially on film). There is a phenomenon out there that can plague these people’s performances and most of the time they have no idea it is there. This is not something that makes the difference between a good or bad performance but it is the difference between a great and professional one. This phenomenon I have taken the liberty to call “The Glorified Um”.

When we were children and trying to communicate, a lot of the time we didn’t know what to say. So as we were talking there would be a lot of pauses and because we didn’t want to lose the attention of our audience we filled that pause with an “Um”.

“Mum… um…. can I ….. um…… can I….. um…… because i’m hungry…….. um…………… can I …… um…………have… um…a um…cookie……. um?”

As a child we believe that pauses are not good so we foolishly fill the spaces with that wonderful word “Um”. The word “Um” communicates that we are unsure of what to say next and/or we are not confident in what we just said. This habit is tolerated as a young child but as we grow it is often corrected by parents and teachers because they know that you will disadvantaged in areas of life, especially when it come to job interviews.

“Um…..I ….think… that …I….um….. I…..would ….um….be very good as um……….ummmmm…..a…um… salesman…um”.

Fast-forward to now and you are in Children’s Ministry and you are happy to report that your days of umming are now behind you. Or are they? Over my years of performing and being in ministry I have realised that the ‘um’ is not behind us but in fact it has evolved and it plagues our preaching, performing and MC-ing. The Glorified Um is in full force.

So what is the Glorified um?

The Glorified Um is a word or a phrase that you the presenter (the word presenter covers all aspects of preaching, performing and MC-ing) will use over and over again whilst presenting. This usually will not be in your script or notes but will come out when you are adlibbing or slightly deviating from what was rehearsed. This phrase or word will not just be in the presentation but stem out from the performers life and be heard in their everyday conversations. For example I once worked for a youth pastor who used to say at the end of many sentences “do you know what I mean?”

This is a classic example of The Glorified Um. Like an um it communicates that he does not know quite what to say next, he is not confident in what he just said and he is cheapening what he is saying by filling his presentation with a habitual saying. I can guarantee on his notes he did not write that phrase once, yet he said it over 10 times.

Now that must not be confused with The Confirming Phrase that is a specific phrase designed to give the audience a chance to confirm what they just heard. An extremely experienced preacher I know always says “Are you getting this?” The difference is that the second presenter deliberately chose to say this, whereas  with the first it just came out without thinking. You can also tell because the first also slightly slurred the phrase and didn’t deliberately pronounce each word.

The Glorified Um is not just phrases at the end, it can be words at the start. Phrases such as: ‘It’s like’ or the word “but” are common examples of this. This can also be found in duel presenters when they start their sentence by acknowledging the other person with the same “it’s true” or “that’s right”. Finally it can even make our way into our writing and you can have a whole play or video with the whole cast using the same Glorified Ums as you do and you won’t even notice.

So what do we do to fix it? The cure is very simple but involves a lot of work and some help.

1. Recognise that a Glorified Um is a problem that is not a part of a professional presentation. I said before you can still be a great presenter with one but you will not reach that level of professionalism with it.

2. Find out if you have a Glorified Um. Look out for it, listen and watch old presentations you have done and look at the people you are leading because if you have it most likely they will have the same one. The best way is to ask a close and truthful friend to find out.

3. Fix your general conversation. A glorified Um is your normal speech creeping into your presentation. Get those close friends to pull you up on it constantly until you realise how often you are using it. This is where it gets frustrating but the effort is worth it.

If you have a platform to present to children on behalf of God then you have a privileged opportunity and I believe you are expected to work on your talents to increase them. If you do the hard yards you will put yourself a cut above and I look forward to seeing where it takes you.

Have Fun


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Why 16?  Because, it’s what I came up with.  Perhaps this will inspire you for tomorrow’s opportunity to give kids the Word.

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Pray
  • Study so you’ll know what you’re talking about
  • Have a plan. When you don’t – they do.
  • Make the stories come alive
  • Meet their level of intensity… and then, go beyond it a bit (or – a lot)
  • Be animated with your body
  • Be animated with your words
  • Be animated with your voice
  • Make eye-contact
  • Get kids to respond verbally
  • Get kids to respond by cheering
  • Use kid-volunteers to help you
  • Use visual aids
  • Teach like Jesus (like one who has authority)
  • Expect results – ask the kids for a response (See my blog series on Making Time for Response)
  • Say “thanks” to God for the victory won
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    I recently posted the following comment on media driven ministry over at: BTW if you are not a member of – I highly reccomend it. If you check out the entire topic, you will see that it is a rather spirited discussion with a great cross-sectoin of children’s leaders from all over America… And, at times, all over the World!

    …to quote the Cars: “Shake it Up!”
    Use the latest and greatest as well as tried and tested methods. I believe in the statement: “Everything works somewhere – but, nothing works everywhere.”

    Study your culture – the kids in your community. Find out what works. Be willing to change according to response and effectiveness.

    The other day, my son and I were setting up for church (we meet at a school) I told him to roll the media carts off of the platform that we use for our kids’ service. He grabbed the cart with the overhead projector on it and said, ” we have this in our classroom at school.”

    “Oh, does your teacher ever use it?”

    “Yeah – it’s pretty cool Dad! You put plastic pages on it and it shines it up on the screen. You can even draw on it!”

    I realzed that my son had never seen me use overhead transparncies (He’s 9). I had written off the use of those things ten years ago!

    I’ll let you think about it – blessings!

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    I tell people all the time that I practice “the evils of Gospel magic…” I usually get laughs, sometimes stares and most times I get, “Yeah, uh, welcome to McDonald’s…”

    So this post I have included a great Easter Illusion that clearly illustrates the Resurrection of Christ. You get to make the prop (so easy – um, a caveman could do it…) so you can re-use it or make more. The utility prop has been coined “the Bag O’ Plenty” by friend and fellow illusionist, Eric Reamer. Once the bag is made and you have experimented around with it a few times, you could make more and create all kinds of routines and lessons!

    it’s a free download with the same company that I publish my books through and put online:

    Go Here for the Download and enjoy practicing the “evils of Gospel Magic!”

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