Clown Ministry Brings Smiles to All Ages
Ten-year-old Nanna Banana and adult sidekicks Plum Cute, and U-Jean the Clown share Bible stories and bring joy to others on behalf of the Cokesbury UMC, Houston Clown Ministry.
When Jennifer Howard moved to Houston, she sunk into deep despair resulting from an empty nest, unfamiliar surroundings and the absence of any new friendships. “In that despair, I surrendered myself completely to God,” she recalls, “and as I learned to trust Him with my life, I heard about Clown School and my heart literally jumped for joy.”
Jennifer learned there was more to being a clown than most would realize. “People probably think you just have to slap on some makeup and act silly,” she says, “but I soon learned there is actually an art to making people laugh, getting costuming done well, and there’s even a clown hierarchy and appropriate clown etiquette.” In that experience, she joined an organization that provided clowns on request to nonprofits and she met several Christian ladies who mentored her and included her in a nearby church ministry geared around clowns. She attended additional clown training taught from a ministry perspective and became inspired to start such a ministry at her new church, Cokesbury UMC.
Jennifer personally understands the Texas Annual Conference focus area of Investing in the Young. While her church pays for face painting and some of the educational fees, she has to apply her personal funds to expand her passion. “It’s an expensive hobby,” she says, “as clown shoes can be $300 and up, so I created a character named Plum Cute and started with small activities. I worked with some nonprofits and I helped at VBS as a clown, and as I interacted with the people I saw joy in all of their faces, particularly an 8-year-old girl named Savannah that always seemed to be in my shadow.”
Jennifer mentored Savannah and her dad Rey, who accompanied his daughter to Clown School to follow her young passion as well. The twosome graduated this year and joined Jennifer on the Cokesbury Ministry circuit, most recently doing a VBS follow up worship service on a Sunday night. “Normally, our evening service has about 20 people, but we had over 60 coming to see our skit that reinforced the Bible story from that week,” shares Jennifer. The clowns, posing as strangers traveling together to the Big Top in the sky, learned how to appreciate their differences, and that Jesus loved them – no matter what.
“I get lots of ideas I can translate into skits, through my Bible study,” Jennifer adds. Nine-year-old Savannah enjoys Clown Ministry as much as she thought she would. “It takes me an hour to get my costume on, and only five minutes to clean up, but I thought it would be an interesting way to show God’s love to people, and I was right! Her favorite activity so far has been to interact with foster children at a local park. “My dad and I can make balloons for them in shapes like parrots, swords and dogs.”
Jennifer has developed a number of resources and would be honored to mentor others in clown ministry for other churches and communities. “I’ve seen clowning turn people’s lives around, including mine,
and when we can share the inner joy of Christ in this way,
there’s nothing better.”