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Reform Magazine | May 18, 2024

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Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘Thousands of children at churches across the country could do the same’ - Reform Magazine

Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘Thousands of children at churches across the country could do the same’

Paul Kerensa gulps to see his children acting in church

My children were recently asked to help with the church drama slot. Well, no, they were asked to do the church drama slot. A five-minute sketch on John the Baptist. My children are eight and 11 – unusual names but we like them. Surely that’s the oldest joke in the book…

They don’t know the old jokes though, nor do they know everything about the Good Book. Surely they’d be given a pre-written script? They wouldn’t be given five minutes of the Sunday service and complete free rein?

Well, they were. The leader who asked them didn’t write them a script. He showed them the Bible passage, the puppets, and a good deal of trust.

What’s the worst that could happen?

If you’re expecting an article where I now give you the excruciating details of the disaster that followed, I’m sorry to let you down. This is not The Play that Went Wrong. It went really well – and I’m not saying that as a proud parent. In fact, more than anyone, I was thinking: Gulp. Can you think a gulp? I did.

I know my children, and I don’t think I’d have given them carte blanche for five minutes up front at church. Gladly then, I’m not in charge. Instead, they were – for five minutes, at least.

They read the story of John the Baptist, in both the NIV and the International Children’s Bible. They wrote and rewrote a sketch, practised with the puppets, and added some topical jokes (‘I’m sorry, but due to current restrictions, if you’d like to be baptised you have to pre-register and scan this QR code.’). I didn’t help them at all – I’d only have ruined it.

Don’t tell them this – but my kids aren’t special. Thousands of children at churches across the country could do the same, given the chance.

A church near us has one service a month where the children don’t go out for their groups – the grown ups do. The children stay in the main church (it’s theirs as much as anyone’s), while the adults head to the nooks, crannies, prayer rooms and vestries to break into small groups.

That may be a bit much for some. I don’t expect every church to let the children take over to that extent. But elevating their role in church life might be one way to cling onto them. We all know that once the teenage years hit, it can be tricky to keep young people in church – especially if every Sunday, they’ve been sent out of it.

The first sketch I ever wrote was for the church I grew up in. They took a chance on me. They didn’t quite give me the freedom my kids have just been given – I had a theme, a grown-up co-writer, a multi-generational cast and a few rehearsals to ensure it was right. The end product was called ‘Have I Got Pews For You’, and while I don’t know if we converted anyone that day, some hopefully learned a thing or two. I know I did. I stayed in that church till we moved house, and I ended up writing sketches professionally – and it started with that trust.

My eight-year-old daughter can’t wait to do another church puppet sketch, while my 11-year-old son has somehow just become the worship band’s sound technician. I’m a little nervous how that will go. But I need to do what the church leader did when he gave them that freedom: trust them, trust God, and trust that they’ll stay with a church that cherishes them. What’s the worst that could happen?

Paul Kerensa is a comedian, broadcaster and author of So a Comedian Walks into a Church. paulkerensa.com

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This article was published in the February 2022 edition of Reform

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