Talk to the hand. No, talk with the hand.
That is what a group of approximately 45 youth between grades 7 and 12 are doing to help spread the message of their faith with GLO Puppet Ministry.
“This gives the kids a unique way to spread the word,” said Tammy Rogers, one of the eight adult leaders.
GLO is an acronym for Go, Love, Others. The name was voted on by the founding members of the group, because that was what they hoped to do with the ministry.
It is comprised of youth parishioners from Sunnyside Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn. The group started about 12 years ago with only a few kids and a mission to help spread their beliefs. Approximately 8 to 10 kids performed an occasional song during Sunday service, puppets in tow.
Now, the group puts on elaborate and in-depth performances. The youth puppeteers are cloaked in all black behind huge sets that take up the entire stage at the church. The only thing visible is their puppets, singing and dancing for the audience in front of them.
The prop room now overflows into three closets at the church, each filled with puppets of all creations and colors and props that help to bring the settings to life.
The latest show was their Christmas performance, “The Heart of Christmas.”
“Our most recent show was a comedy,” Youth Pastor Todd Latham said. “But no matter the genre, it all revolves around the messages of Christ. We just come up with different ways to present them.”
Latham stepped into his position five years ago and was a fan of what the kids were doing from the start. It not only helps the kids minister to other people, but it also provides them with intangibles that they will need in life, he said. “It can help them get out of their comfort zone.”
“It helps them to be brave and really step out of their shell. The younger kids are the future and foundation of the Church. Sunnyside will continue to grow because of the seeds that these kids have planted.”
The kids love GLO just as much, if not more than the parents.
“It’s a neat way to reach the young children,” eighth-grader Lydia Helton said. “I love the kids reaction to the puppets. They have such a good time that it makes it even better. You also get to form a camaraderie with the people you do it with.”
Even the older kids love the smiles it brings to the children.
“It’s a unique way to spread the message to the kids,” senior William Latham said. “The shows get their attention and they are able to follow the message because it keeps them entertained.”
The group has traveled around the area and even out of the state to Ohio and Georgia to perform. They go to preschools, nursing homes and anywhere else that requests.
“If anybody asks, we usually perform,” Angie Helvey, another one of the dedicated adult leaders added.
Those performances are provided free of charge and any donation that is made goes right back into the puppet ministry.
But none of this would be possible without the parents lending their time and ideas. All of the plays are written in house and all of the props and stages are made by hand. Most of the wonderful puppets used in the performances are purchased at Bears-N-Friends.
“The adult leaders' time and dedication that they put into it is really a testament to why the puppet ministry is doing so well,” the youth pastor said.
One recent performance in March, “Underwater Musical,” was done completely under a black light. The glow of the light brought the setting and puppets to life and provided a spectacular array of colors.
Some of these performances can be seen on the blog that was created by Rogers, glopuppetministry.blogspot.com. It was created to help show the progress of GLO but, more importantly, it was made to help other churches see the benefits and the fun to be had by starting their own puppet ministry.
“We have learned so much, we just wanted to help other churches,” Rogers said about starting the blog.
On it, you will find updates and pictures of the events taking place. There are also tips and instructions on different ways to make puppets and props. Most recently, the group has been helping Darthula Baptist Church from Hiltons, Va., prepare their puppet ministry for a mission to Nicaragua.
GLO’s next big production will be set in a rainforest and will take place during Vacation Bible School, which is slated for the first week of June.
Anyone interested about learning more about GLO Puppet Ministry can visit the blog or Sunnyside’s website at sunnysidebaptistchurch.org.