How Do We Train New Communicators?
Communicating effectively to children requires an ongoing commitment to growth as a speaker, as well as a constant evaluation of what is said from the stage. We’re dealing with a wide range of little minds and our job is to be certain that kids are connecting with the content we are sharing.
Becoming an effective children’s communicator doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time, energy and a whole lot of practice.
This brings me to today’s question, “How do we train new communicators?”
Last year I hired a young man by the name of Dan DeBell to oversee our new 5th and 6th grade class. Dan is a great guy, extremely likable and very willing to serve…but there was just one problem…he had no stage experience whatsoever. Needless to say this was not ideal. Our new middle school class was scheduled to kick off in just a few weeks and we needed Dan to be ready. It was sink or swim time as we gave Dan a crash course in stage presence, speaking style and overall communication comfortability.
I thought I would let Dan share with you in his own words how this process has gone thus far.
First off, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Dan DeBell—our middle school pastor. I grew up here at Church on the Move, volunteered for quite some time with Oneighty, and have worked for the past few years in our facilities department. Last year I was given the awesome opportunity to join the KOTM team. I love this church. I love our children’s ministry. And I jumped at the chance.
One of the first things I figured out pretty quickly is the value we put on communicating to kids the right way. Since the majority of my experience at first came from hosting and sketches, that’s the angle I’ll hit.
PRACTICE AND REHEARSE
It’s important to be able to walk confidently on stage and know your material. That only comes from practice (at home) and rehearsal (on stage). It is my responsibility to know my lines; otherwise, throughout the sketch, I’ll be thinking, What is my next cue? The first time I performed a sketch, I was incredibly nervous, especially since it included me interacting with characters. But I made sure to practice my lines until I could say them without thinking.
Practice isn’t enough. Once you know your material, it’s important to rehearse it on stage until you get it right. When the service begins, I have to know my blocking (where I’ll stand on stage), my lines, my transitions, and, most importantly, how the entire sketch is going to end. All of that is established in rehearsal.
It’s easy to feel like you’re coming across as much more excited than you actually are. So if I’m going to make the storyline of our service interesting, my actions and voice have to be bigger and more exaggerated. One of the best ways I learn where I need to improve is from watching the film of our rehearsals. This gives me the opportunity to review and make changes before I’m in front of a live audience.
HOW WOULD I REALLY RESPOND?
In one of our services, the Evil Andrew Dale steals the kids’ popsicles right in front of me. After the service, my producer mentioned that I reacted pretty calmly to the thief. He then asked, “How would you really respond?”
Right there I learned to sell the sketch: I have to get lost in the story and ask myself, “If this were really happening right now, how would I react?” When I ask this, my performance and the sketch truly come to life.
INVITE THE CRITIQUES
Early on, I learned to thicken my skin. If I want to get better, I have to take into consideration the criticisms with the compliments from my associates, my producers, and myself. I never blow off a critique. I also evaluate those better than I.
If you’d like to check out the sketch with the Evil Andrew Dale, you can listen to our podcast. Check out WEEK 4 of MY CHURCH ROCKS.
I know we’re going to talk about this more here on the blog and at Seeds Conference. Hope to see you there!