Christian Clowning is a resource that aims to help Christians reach out into the community so they will be touched by the love of God. Clowns add life and fun to outreach. Where do you begin to clown? How do you reach a crowd? This simple guidebook intends to show Christians what is needed to train clowns and let them loose to create fun and community spirit in outreach.
This manual is a revision of an earlier Fusion manual by Greg Hawkins and Dale Woodward. Their names are noted where their material has been included.
Graeme Frauenfelder is a Global Gypsy wandering the world doing storytelling, clowning and teaching creative performing arts.
Contact Address: PO Box 312 Toronto NSW 2283, Australia Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynda Ward is an Information Detective (Librarian) at Tabor College Sydney during the week. On weekends she is Esther Bags, community clown, found at churches, markets, parties and anywhere.
A merry heart does good like medicine. Proverbs17:22
The clown shows people that they are important and lovable. The clown expresses the joy of love from heaven. Clowning Ministry gives people the opportunity to laugh at themselves and to recognise that they are not alone in their troubles. Clowning can be used in relationship building; church work evangelism and outreach; mission promotion and pastoral care.
Essence of the Clown
Go into all the world and preach the Gospel and if you have to, use words. Francis of Assisi
The clown is a spontaneous inner child within each of us. The clown is one of the most effective communicators to all ages and cultures. For example, the circus clown, Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean are appreciated worldwide. The clown is able to reveal and open doors that have previously been closed. The clown gives license for the harmless expression of otherwise pent-up emotions. All emotions are valuable. The clown is childlike, emotionally honest, exaggerated, full of joy, imperfect, very human and without masks. The clown has awe, wonder, and a sense of forgetfulness. Clowning is more than entertaining. Clowning can bring healing to the heart, the mind, the soul and strength.
Floyd Shaffer, founder of clown ministry since the sixties, relates this incident. Following a clowning workshop the participants visited a nursing home. One girl who was apprehensive about clowning was asked about the visit. She did not feel she had been very useful.
She said “I met an old lady, who thought I was her granddaughter who had come to visit.” “What did you do?” Shaffer asked. “Oh“, she said, “I just became her granddaughter and sat beside her holding her hand the whole time.”
However the girl was more valuable, than she had thought. A held hand message can communicate more than a wordy gospel message. The elderly woman heard and felt the important message.
“I am loved; I am a person of worth”1
Creating Your Clown
Being a Clown
Putting on clown clothes and make-up makes you look like a clown. However it takes more to be a clown, than just a human in a clown costume.
Pray: Pray about every aspect of your ministry.
Forget: Forget the adult world and all its unwritten rules of how to act and think. Forget being logical and serious, and making sense. Try flapping your arms. Let them become wings. You can fly. Who cares that you feet are still on the round. Express surprise if someone thinks you aren’t airborne. What is wrong with their eyes? You know you are flying, so you are!
Remember: Remember what it was like to be a child. Live in the moment. Become excited about little things. Find wonder and awe in everything. Be petty. Stamp your feet. Fight and make up. Sulk openly and then forget why, when something fun comes along. Dance, leap and skip for joy. Be shy, curious. Show everyone your discoveries.
Watch & Mimic: Observe children playing. Just watch and see what they do and how they react. Try to copy them. It gets easier with practice! Better still, be a kid with them. After they get over the shock they will laugh and love you to bits. Act and play like a child with another clown or two.
Exaggerate: Make your movements and gestures really big or really small. For example Walk differently. Take giant stride or tiny steps. Notice how you normally walk. Exaggerate your normal movements. Be aware of what your body, limbs, hips and head are doing. Watch and copy different people. Then exaggerate their movements. Exaggerate with words. Make an ordinary story into a tall story.
Feel: Be in touch with your feelings and let them show. When your clown is sad, be really sad. A clown can even be angry. Act really angry, but not so much that you scare the children. Point your anger at an invisible or inanimate object. If you are tired, make it show. If something interests you get really excited and try to show everyone around you. If you are feeling uneasy or embarrassed about being a clown, or what it is your clown is doing, use that as part of the act and LET IT SHOW.
Experiment: Try things out. Do things you’re never done before. Watch others and see if what they do works for you. Be creative. There is no right or wrong way to clown. Find what you enjoy and what works for you. Your comfort zone expands as you practise and get experience. Don’t feel silly if you try something and it doesn’t work. Move on to something else.
Lighten Up: Loosen up and see the funny side of things. Be naughty (but not bad)! Tell silly jokes and riddles, and find them funny. Laugh for no reason at all. Tickle yourself. Pull faces in the mirror. Make fun of how adults take things so seriously.
Move: Use your body. If you feel restless, then be restless. If you are happy then dance. Run. Fly. Swim. Stamp your feet. Be expressive. Move your face muscles, pucker your lips and/or wiggle your ears.
Play: Have fun. Fun is contagious. Play games. Pretend others are playing even if they are not! Soon they will be. Play Hide and Seek or Peek-a-boo. Enjoy yourself. Clowning is NOT serious business. Play games and fool around with children and adults.
Speak: Record your voice on cassette recorder. Experiment with different volumes and pitches. Exaggerate the inflections of your voice. Whisper and shout. Try being dumb, then charming, then excited, speak fast and slow. Experiment with different accents and invent your own accent. Get a puppet and be its voice as it talks to people. You will only find your clown voice if you try a few on for size. Experiment and have fun then create a clown voice that is easy and doesn’t strain your voice, or irritate the listeners. Don’t use your regular human voice because you are no longer a regular human!
Imagine: Imagine that you are a different person. Invent a name and all kinds of things about you. What do you do all day? What has happened in your life? What family do you have? Who are your friends? How old are you? What do you like? What do you hate? Where do you live? What mannerisms do you have? What are your favourite foods? Dwell on this until it becomes real for you and you can believe it’s for real when you are clowning. It’s just a game so enjoy it. Believing you really are this clown character helps you to act naturally. Pretend you are really to be somewhere magical. Be in places that no one else can see. Imagine it and act as if it is real. Then others can and will enter your imaginary world.
Be Gentle: You want to touch people’s lives; put a sparkle in their eyes and love in their hearts. Take it easy. Show kindness and love in ways that get through to them. Some children are scared of clowns. If they are scared of you, back off and find another way to reach them. Get down to the child’s level. If the child is crying sometimes if the clown cries as well, the child wants to comfort the clown. Some adults like to give clowns a hard time. If you are not getting through to them, move on. There are plenty of others who would love your attention.
CAUTION: Being a clown is not about being stupid, although you may do silly things. Be childlike, rather than childish. You can be childish occasionally for laughs. If you overdo it, you will probably stir the children up and soon they will be acting up. That’s when you will want to run for your life.