Some clowns showed me how to “BE the church”

Un payaso para Heydi

Did you know that clowns can be messengers of God’s Word? (I’m not talking about preachers you don’t like.) I’m talking about actual clowns with white faces, big red noses, enormous shoes, and funny hats delivering messages from the Bible. Yes, it’s true!

Clown ministry groups in churches across the country teach important Biblical truths through light-hearted skits. Their performances include messages like: God loves you, he has plans for you, and he expects you to care for others.

Most clown ministry members do not have professional training. They simply want to give it a try. Existing clown ministry groups, and even professional clowns, help new ministries learn skits, make-up application, attire, and etiquette.

I have always enjoyed watching clowns capture attention through laughter. So, when an opportunity to wear a rainbow wig came my way, I jumped aboard.

Sunny the clown-that’s me

Clown ministries, like the one I was part of, perform at church services, vacation bible school events, nursing homes, and hospitals. Some of the groups use words to convey their messages, but ours used only props and mime. As the youngest clown in our ministry, I was “capably” assigned all stunts and somersaults.

Lately, I have been thinking about the popular phrase “BE the church”, and it occurred to me that my clown experiences had something to teach me about this.

Are you familiar with the phrase “BE the church”? These words are used to motivate people to serve their communities like followers of Jesus. In this sense, a church becomes much more than just the brick and mortar of a building, or the lessons taught inside such a building. Being the church means people take the responsibilities of ministry upon themselves – they represent and share the teachings of Jesus in their everyday lives (whether they attend church or not).

Here’s what some clowns showed me about being the church:

  • Actions speak louder than words about God’s character. Clown ministry does not deliver sermons, shame people, or try to “save” people. The actions of the characters demonstrate virtues such as love, kindness, and humility. In much the same way, being the church means we also reveal a great deal about God’s character to others simply through our attitudes and behavior.
  • Laughter creates receptiveness and fellowship. Skit messages from clowns connect with people emotionally, in a way that is different from the pulpit. Humor helps people lower their defenses, thus opening their minds up to see something godlike in a new way. Laughter brings people together, creating friendships to rely on in harder times. Being the church can mean simply sharing a laugh with a neighbor.
  • Interpreting the Bible does not have to be intimidating. The language of the Bible can be hard to understand. Clown ministry skits work at making the Bible more relatable. In a similar way, being the church means helping others interpret the Bible by sharing our own stories and the tools we use for better understanding.
  • Take God seriously, not yourself. Not all churches support clown ministry; they see it as disrespectful and unholy. For some, perhaps it is not a good fit. In my opinion, clown ministry skits honor God while seeking to teach his messages in creative ways. We can do the same! Many church clowns believe they reach people that were unreachable before because of the playful and humble nature of their performances.
  •  Everyone is worthy of God’s love. Clowns are the ultimate misfits; their clothes don’t match, they get confused, and they fall down a lot. And, clown ministry performances use these characteristics to portray God’s unconditional love for everyone. Being the church means letting God’s love invade your own heart and offering acceptance to all.
  • No matter what you do, some people will not like you. Some people have a genuine fear of clowns (coulrophobia). Others just feel uncomfortable around them, or find joy in other ways. The same is true about religion. Many people turn away from religion because they have had a negative experience with it. It makes them uncomfortable. Some will seek enlightenment in other ways. In order to be the church, we must be willing to offer every person love and respect for the place they are at on their journey.

It’s been quite some time since my last clown gig. Back then, I did not think much about why I was clowning, and certainly not about what it meant to “BE the church”. I just enjoyed being a clown. That was what my journey called for at the time. I think it’s interesting how reflections and lessons sometimes come much later.

Life’s like that, right? You never know when your past might circle back around and teach you something new. Hey, wait a minute…that sounds a lot like a somersault. Ha! I think maybe God’s being funny now.

Scriptures to Apply:

“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9 New International Version (NIV)

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.'” Psalm 126:2 (NIV)

“But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” New Living Translation (NLT)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) 

Prayer for the Week:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for guiding me along this journey of life. I am grateful for the people and experiences along the way that have helped mold me into who I am today. Show me how my past can better my future. Help me think about what it means to BE the church and how my life can serve you in this way. Teach me to be brave in my endeavors for you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Resources:

Learn more about clown ministries here

Our clown ministry group
The clown ministry group I was part of at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Edina, MN