This was an electric chair. I found an electric chair in the kid min storage closet.
During my first two years as a kid min pastor, we were working in a moderately large community in the southwest. When I first came on staff, I decided to take inventory of the kid min closets. And, when I say, “take inventory,” what I mean is, “throw a bunch of this junk away.” You know what these types of storage spaces can become. In kid min, you are constantly creating, week after week. New ideas that require new props, or costumes, or outlandish objects borrowed and never returned (because the owner does not want it back – they were happy that you got it out of their home). Once you are finished with the creative lesson that inspired all of these creative items, you proceed to move them to the closet. And honestly, on a Sunday, after pouring yourself out with the kids, you only have enough energy remaining to drag everything to the storage area and close the door.
Additionally, though, there is always this mysterious flow of unwanted household items from well meaning members of the community. When they are cleaning out their home storage spaces, and find unusual junk, the first thought they have is, “I think this could be used for the kids.” Bags and boxes of stuff end up in the kids department storage area. And the kids leader usually finds out on Sunday morning when they open the closet to get the items they need for the service.
…although some of my “creative” ideas will help me teach kids, it is likely that I will come up with some very creative ideas that are misguided, at best.
So, I was taking inventory. First order of business, clear everything out of the storage area which quickly fills up your entire teaching space. I grabbed an unfinished wooden stool, and as I was removing it, something tugged on the stool. At first, I figured some other item had entangled itself to the stool, but that was not the case. Attached to the underside of the stool was what looked like an electronic transformer, and there was an electrical cable running from it to the floor and under a storage container. I pulled the wire, and sure enough, there was an electrical plug on the end. Looking at the seat of the stool, I saw holes drilled through with electrical leads from the transformer to the seating area of the stool. This was an electric chair. I found an electric chair in the kid min storage closet.
I called my wife over and asked her to sit on it while I plugged it in. She left without a word, and without sitting on the stool. In my defense, we had not been married very long at that time, so it was just one of many dumb mistakes that I was making during that season of my life. I did find out that it was a working electrical stool. It was designed by some electrical engineering genius before me that used it during review quiz time with the kids. If you get the answer right, your team gets points, if you get the answer wrong . . . well, you get a life-changing experience. And, after you awaken from your shock-induced stupor, all you are able to remember is visiting the very portals of heaven and seeing your entire, short, partial childhood, flash before your eyes just before you are jerked back down to earth, and into your trembling body that is now on the floor next to your kid min pastors favorite prop, the electric stool.
…it does help you create something that has actual direction and purpose.
I kept that stool. I made a special spot for it in the storage closet. Kind of a shrine, maybe. Really, it was a reminder to me. A reminder that, although some of my “creative” ideas will help me teach kids, it is likely that I will come up with some very creative ideas that are misguided, at best. The question is: how do you keep your creativity on track?
1. The lesson comes first – Know where you are taking the kids. What do you want them to learn for those few moments that they are under your care. What is the thing that you want them to repeat as they leave, and as they are driving home with their parents.
2. Brainstorm early, and with a team – You may be an electrical engineering genius, but REAL brainstorming happens in a group. Brainstorming is when all ideas are accepted. An electric stool for kid min is the fruit of a great brainstorming session, but it should not have gotten to the production stage.
3. Let the ideas sit – You need to allow “down” time between brainstorming and the idea deadline. Your brain makes wonderful connections with all that brainstorming fodder while you are NOT thinking about it.
Does this simple process remove ALL bad ideas, and leave you with only pure gold ideas? No, but it does help you create something that has actual direction and purpose. And if you can do that, you don’t feel quite as bad about the mess in your storage closet.