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Why Improv Ministry Skills Are Crucial Right Now

Last month I was one of 50 youth pastors at Group’s ministry leadership retreat called Reboot: Using the Power of Improvisation to Transform Lives In Your Ministry.

Little did I know, I would soon get the chance to use the power of improvisation to transform lives in my ministry much sooner than I expected, and in a much different way than I’d planned.

The main focus of the training was to equip youth workers to lead ministries in an “improv” way, and to use teaching strategies characterized by relationally charged environments, experiences, and conversations fueled by “Why Questions.”

At Reboot, we learned the four rules of improv:

Rule 1: To agree with the person you are improving with.

Rule 2: To say Yes, “And” Doing so allows a bridge to form, continuing the dialogue.

Rule 3: There are no mistakes in improv.

Rule 4: Listen and pay attention.

The fifth “bonus” rule is to “follow up with great questions”! So, what does this look like in practice?

  • Asking more “why” than “what” questions,
  • Creating questions that don’t have an obvious answer and are open-ended,
  • Asking questions that make you stop and think, and are specific, and, finally,
  • Asking questions that create a personal response from the group, allowing them to share from their hearts.

I thought I would come back to my Nebraska youth ministry and go right into using improv in my teaching. I didn’t expect to use these same improv skills to cope with unknowns of the COVID-19 virus.  The uncertainty of what’s next has created an unintentional, highly charged relational environment in youth ministry. All of us must learn to become more deeply dependent on the Holy Spirit and His direction through all of this. At Reboot we learned that there are “no mistakes in jazz,” and when I embrace that ethic in this season of nuclear change, I can relax my control and trust in a Jesus who morphs mistakes into music.

  • We can take the four rules of improv and use them to respond to the unknowns of Covid-19.
  • We can agree that we’re in an unknown situation, and will be for a while.
  • We can then say “Yes, and”—we are in an unknown situation, and we look forward to experiencing how the Holy Spirit will work through us in this crisis situation.
  • We can trust that Jesus will take what is ugly (what looks like a mistake) and do something life-changing with it.
  • We can listen and pay attention to our communities, churches, youth groups, friends, and family.

Finally, we can ask great questions! Questions like:

  • What are you learning from this experience?
  • In what ways are you changing the way you’re living because of COVID-19?
  • What’s a story about another time in your life when you felt uncertainty?

We, as youth workers, are being stretched to improv for an unknown period of time while still needing to keep the momentum going in our ministries. This is precisely what improv is! We’re saying “Yes, and” to many things we’ve never had to before! What an opportunity this is to lean into God’s grace and mercy while focusing on His provision.

Let’s all remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:19-20: “Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

One thought on “Why Improv Ministry Skills Are Crucial Right Now

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    Gertie Heimpel

    Thank you!!

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Why Improv Ministry Skills Are Crucia...

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