Just clownin’ around: MBC clowns also evangelists
By Bob Baysinger
May 25, 2004
|JEFFERSON CITY – David Church, clown/evangelist and director of missions, North Grand River Baptist Association, demonstrates how to apply clown makeup on Danny Decker, MBC men’s missions and ministry specialist. Pathway photo by Bob Baysinger|
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Men’s Mission and Ministry has decided it is time to start “clowning around.”
Responding to requests made by Missouri Baptists earlier this year, the Men’s Missions and Ministry team hosted a basic clown school at the Baptist Building May 14-15 to get some clowns ready to take the Gospel to the streets this summer and fall.
“During the evangelism conference we had several stop by our booth and ask if we could put on a basic clown school that was not a part of the clown school at Windermere,” said Danny Decker, MBC men’s ministry specialist.
“We couldn’t do an extensive school, but decided to do a basic school to train a small number of people to get involved in evangelism dressed as a clown.”
The basic school was taught by David and Brenda Church of Trenton. David is director of missions in the North Grand River Baptist Association. Both David and Brenda have been involved in clown evangelism since the 1980s.
“The purpose of clown evangelism is to reach a certain group of people who might be closed to a Gospel presentation,” Decker said. “Sometimes people will take a tract or a Bible from a clown when they wouldn’t take one otherwise.
Decker said clowns work with a “straight” person.
“The ‘straight’ person would normally close the Gospel presentation,” Decker said. “It is felt that it is best not to ask someone to pray with a person dressed as a clown.”
Clowns will be used this summer, Decker said, at the State Fair, in local communities where there are local fairs and mission fairs and possibly in Romania as the MBC continues its partnership with the eastern European country.
“Some of the people trained at the basic clown school already have some familiarity with clown work, having done skits at church or at camps,” Decker said. “They will begin working with someone else right away. They will become more familiar with being a clown as they go along.”
Decker said his department has begun exploring the possibility of doing an advanced clown school next year on a larger scale. The school likely will be conducted in conjunction with the MBC evangelism department.
“We will be teaching how to do Gospel presentations as teams, as well as advanced skits for presentations at youth camps and children’s camps,” Decker said.
The old adage that “everybody loves a clown” is not 100 percent accurate, according to Church.
“In all the years I’ve been doing it,” he said, “I’ve had maybe three people ask me to leave them alone. If they act that way, it’s usually because they’ve had a bad experience with a clown. One of the things we tell Missouri Baptist clowns is to never make fun of people. It’s all right to make fun of another clown, but never make fun of a person.”
Church said he expects the new clowns to accomplish great things for Christ.
“I remember during one of our previous training sessions that we sent one of the ladies we had trained into a room at a nursing home,” Church said. “We heard this nursing home resident laughing and were told later by a nursing home employee that the woman had not laughed in two years.”
Church got his start as a clown during street witnessing activities at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. “I felt very uncomfortable doing it, but it was a way of getting tracts into people’s hands. That’s what peeked my interest,” Church said.
“I’ve learned that being a clown breaks down a lot of barriers. I do acts of kindness as a clown giving gifts or by dusting off people’s shoes. It provides some tremendous opportunities.”
Church said the eight people who received the basic clown school training learned quickly the impact a clown can have.
“After we talked to them about putting on their clown makeup professionally and about being prepared spiritually, we left the Baptist Building and walked down the street to give them a little exposure.
“There weren’t that many people on the street, but two women were standing on the street corner with a toddler. When the toddler saw us, she broke and ran and wanted to hug me. They will have many experiences like that.”