The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Congregation 'improvises' with Sunday school

Florida church has a history of creative worship

When Trinity Lutheran Church, Pembroke Pines, Fla., set out to infuse Sunday school with improv, members didn't know what to expect. But Kristin Berkey-Abbott had a vision of "rambunctious, yet controlled, play." In her blog prior to the first day of Sunday school in September 2010 she wrote: "Come, Holy Spirit. Move through us in exciting ways, as we try to give our youngest members the Scripture stories that will sustain them."

Keith Spencer, pastor, and Kristin
Keith Spencer, pastor, and Kristin Berkey-Abbott of Trinity Lutheran Church, Pembroke Pines, Fla., participate in Sunday school improv.

Fittingly, they started at the beginning: the creation story. Seven volunteers each represented a day of creation. When God creates rain, a child did a rain dance. When God creates trees and other vegetation, a boy stood in the yoga tree pose. When God creates creatures, a teenager led them in "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." The narrator recorded sound effects, so each time the text said "It was morning" a cock crowed. When "it was evening," there were cricket sounds.

Trinity's improv ministry wasn't the first time members had experimented. Six years earlier, leaders had noticed the positive response to interactive Bible drama during children's time in worship. They decided their Sunday school opening could use similar pizazz. About the same time, Trinity's pastor, Keith Spencer, was working on a doctorate of ministry, requiring him to design and implement a contextual project. He chose an intergenerational Sunday school with interactive Bible storytelling. Four teams introduced Bible stories by either acting them out, creating songs or using puppets.

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Embracing diversity