What’s one way to get children excited to learn about the Bible? Holding a puppet show, of course!
Puppets of Praise, an outreach ministry led by BJU staff members Kevin and Melissa Delp, uses puppets to teach kids about God’s Word. The team, composed of about 12 students, produces shows at local Chick-fil-A restaurants as part of “family fun nights” that many of the restaurants hold on Tuesday evenings. Sometimes churches in the area will invite the group to run their children’s programs when they have revival meetings, or to help out with their Vacation Bible Schools and Bible clubs.
“It’s a great way to be a testimony for Christ,” said Emily Turner, a senior history major who has ministered with the outreach for several years.
The puppet shows consist of biblically themed scripts combined with songs from Patch the Pirate. Some songs are just for fun, such as Patch the Pirate’s song “Wiggle Worm,” a favorite with the children that is included at least once in every show. The scripts, mostly acquired through various online puppet websites, are modern-day stories intertwined with lessons the children can directly apply to their lives, such as being a good friend or telling others about Jesus.
In between the script changes throughout the show, Mr. Delp performs magic tricks and talks with the adults in the audience. On a busy night at Chick-fil-A, the puppet show attracts as many as 20 different families throughout the few hours they perform. Many of the families are loyal fans who regularly attend, such as Paul and Tracy Morrison and their three children, each of whom has a different favorite part: Paul appreciates the variety, Brycen likes the magic tricks and Brooke enjoys the puppets.
The team currently has more than 100 puppets in their collection. They mostly use people puppets, but they also use animal puppets, food puppets and a few crazy puppets affectionately known as “rascals.” Most puppets change identity from script to script, but a select few have their own unique character. One of these is a big blue puppet named “Elmer,” who always makes his appearance as a hick farmer who loves football.
Puppets of Praise’s focus is sharing the Gospel message. “We do stress with all our puppeteers that the message is the most important thing,” Mrs. Delp said. “When we’re singing a song or doing a script, we don’t want to do anything with our puppets that will distract from the message. If the character is too goofy, then the children are caught up in that instead of what the true message is. It’s about finding that balance.”
Many former members of the Puppets of Praise team have gone on to start their own puppet ministries after graduating from BJU. “It’s a ministry skill that people can take with them,” Mrs. Delp said.
The group practices a few times each month to learn new songs and scripts and to get better at working with the puppets. No puppetry experience is necessary to join the puppet team; the Delps will gladly train anyone who desires to serve in this way. The team is in particular need of students who are able to drive. They perform at several Chick-fil-A locations, including Pelham Road once a month, Greer whenever there is a fifth Tuesday in the month and Seneca once a semester. If you are interested in participating in this ministry, please email Emily Turner at email@example.com.