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Argo’s Central Church engages kids through puppet video productionscomment (0)

September 11, 2008

By Ashley McCleery

Elmer felt the pressure. At every turn, he was invited to sin by partying, making fun of a friend and stealing money.

But he kept a smile on his blue face and remembered who was in charge of his blue button nose and scruffy brown hair. “Resist the devil. James 4:7,” Elmer, a puppet from SteppUp Ministries at Central Baptist Church, Argo, repeated continuously. “It’s just like Mr. Stephen said, ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ James 4:7.”

This is just one of the lessons Stephen Searcy, the children’s minister at Central Baptist and SteppUp team leader, and six teenagers from the St. Clair Baptist Association church have taught through the puppet ministry that they began only a couple of months ago.

“God put it on my heart to do stuff with puppets with our group of teenagers,” Searcy said. “They’re such a great group of teenagers with a sweet spirit.”

Although puppet ministry has been a norm during his 16 years as a bivocational children’s minister — nine of which have been spent at Central — this is the first time he has produced videos with them.

Each week, Searcy, his son Zach and five other teens — Ben Borrello, Anthony Borrello, Michael Hawkins, Laura Hawkins and Joseph Newcomb — brainstorm and then shoot the videos.

After Zach edits the footage, the videos premiere in Kid’s Chapel, the children’s worship time, on Sunday, reinforcing Searcy’s lesson from that morning. Sometimes the videos are followed by a live encore presentation.

“The kids think it’s neat,” Searcy said. “One kid last week saw the video, and then the puppets came up live on stage. The kid said, ‘You’re so famous. I saw you on TV.’”

While Searcy is overjoyed with the children’s responses, he also wants the videos to reach more than just the 150 people at his church each Sunday. Listening to the prodding of the Lord, he posted the videos on YouTube, a video-sharing Web site, and launched a Web site for the ministry.

Ben, a puppeteer, thinks YouTube is a great way to minister to people all over the country. “Millions of people watch YouTube a day, and maybe one person will see it and start thinking about God,” he said.

And the ministry’s name can point him or her to salvation — something Zach stumbled upon by mistake when trying to think of a name. “I spelled puppets backwards just to be funny,” he said. “And it actually means something, SteppUp, and it connects to God because we want to step up into heaven.”

In keeping with this idea, Searcy chose Galatians 5:25 for the ministry’s core verse, which states, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Since SteppUp is so new, Ben said he’s excited to see where the Lord will take it. “I have daydreams, visions of us going to different places in the country and performing at other churches,” he said.

Right now, Ben said he is content donning Elmer on his hand and listening to the children’s chuckles.

“I like to see smiles on kids’ faces when it’s all over. It feels good to know that I’m doing something for the church and for the Lord.”

For more information, visit www.steppupministries.com.

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