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One-Man Nativity

Whew. Today I gave the longest kids' talk I've ever given, although there weren't any kids in the audience!

For a long time I've been doing "children's talks" at our church Eden Baptist, which is a fun challenge that I've quite grown into: the idea there is that someone stands up in the morning service and gives a short 3-5 minute talk, mainly aimed at the primary-school-age children in the audience, but with awareness that the whole congregation of 300-400 is listening. So it's usually quite visual, quite dramatic, some quite silly analogies being made, that kind of thing.

Well, I got asked by a member of church who'd seen me doing these talks whether I'd be able to give a Christmas presentation at the charity she works at, which is a day centre for adults with learning disabilities or other special needs. The brief was for a talk with the same kind of accessibility level as if it were aimed at kids age 3-4; but I was invited to talk for up to an hour! That's wayy longer than I've given a children's presentation before, at least this kind of up-front stage talk. I've led Sunday school lessons for that duration before, but that's sitting with a class and the freedom to do games, crafts etc. This was more of a storytelling focus. I was invited to tell the biblical Nativity story, taking as long as I wanted over it.

So for the past couple of weeks I've been preparing a script. I've been pulling material from a few places, especially a Christmas assembly script that a friend of Rachael's wrote and has performed several times. Given the target age range I knew I'd need to keep any individual section short and dynamic, and keep mixing things up to keep attention. The script outline I ended up with was:

  • Opening talk about Christmas presents
  • Mary and the Angel (using a repeated refrain line "Mary, Mary, don't be afraid, God has a special plan for you!")
  • The Journey to Bethlehem (short, focusing on the donkey's POV)
  • Song: Little Donkey
  • No Room at the Inn (getting the audience to help me make knocking sounds as Mary & Joseph visit each inn; lots of varied voices for different innkeepers)
  • Poem: As a Baby Jesus Came
  • Retired Shepherd (quick costume change; monologue from a nostalgic retired shepherd reminiscing in a broad country accent)
  • Song: Go Tell It On The Mountain (lots of hand clapping rhythm)
  • Interview with a Camel (glove puppet camel, speaking with a very posh, proud, self-important voice)
  • Closing Thoughts & Prayer

So, how did it go?
Overall, it went pretty well! The accessibility level was pitched about right. The audience varied in their levels of comprehension, but I think they mostly understood, and nobody felt talked down to or patronised. The camel puppet (which I'd borrowed from the church children's worker and it was my first time using) was a big hit, even though he kept slipping off my hand.

The one thing I deliberately did differently to how I'd give a show to actual 4-year-olds was that I included several little "application moments" where I just spent a couple of sentences talking about how some aspect of the story shows something of God's character and how God wants to relate to us today. That seemed to be a good choice - the audience seemed to understand and engage with those bits at least as well as they did the rest of the show.

On the negative side: I really should have learned the songs better, as I fumbled the words a bit and found it very hard to keep the clapping rhythm going through the verses of Go Tell It On The Mountain. My Bluetooth speaker was rather quieter than it's been before - I suspect it's running out of battery. And I had a sore throat so I needed to stop for water a few times. It seems I was really nervous because I was sweating a lot in the second half of the presentation.

But despite all that, it went well. The staff at the centre were very grateful to me and repeatedly said it had gone very well. They asked if I'd ever done anything like that before, to which the truthful answer is no, not really, but I've done a few things vaguely similar that helped me know the kind of techniques and presentation style to use.

Ultimately the glory went to God, which is exactly how I'd want it :)



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2015 12:41 am (UTC)
Ooh, congratulations, that sounds pretty good.
Dec. 16th, 2015 08:57 am (UTC)
That's quite a thing to pull off solo!
Dec. 16th, 2015 03:14 pm (UTC)
That sounds a pretty amazing thing to have done, thanks for writing it up! I haven't done any teaching at all with learning disabled adults myself. But this sounds like a really well written script / show, I'm glad to hear it went well.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )