Family Sculpturing and the Balloon Demonstration: visualizing with impact (Group KidMin 2013 Conference demos)


Balloons background

Kidmin and children’s ministers want a lot of hands on, visual and role-play kind of presentations.

Two of my favorite demonstrations in to use in teaching about the child of divorce and used at the Group KidMin conference were

  1. Family sculpturing
  2. The balloon stress demo

Family Sculpturing

In the family sculpturing we have participants role-play different parts. We have a

  • Child
  • Mother
  • Father
  • Grandparents on each side of the family
  • Minister, Sunday school teacher and church ladies
  • Neighbors and coworkers of each parent

In the first scenario the mother, Mrs. Smith, has a terminal illness and she dies. We then role-play what each person says and does and how they act toward the bereaved family. It’s quite interesting when the church ladies bring in meals and the minister is there to pray with the family and help them negotiate planning the funeral.

The neighbors work to help the distraught father by mowing his yard and they care for the child. Co-workers cover for the dad so he can grieve. Sometimes mom’s co-workers will say they will take up a collection to get start a college fund.  Each person who role-plays a part brings in his or her personal experience with a death situation. At the end of this scene all those playing a part surrounds the child and the father.

The second scene has all the same players but this time the mother and father begin to fight and the dad moves out. A divorce takes place. Again I ask how everyone would respond in their respective roles. This scene takes on quite a different tone.

The church ladies no longer bring in meals. Some church ladies will say they are worried the single mom will flirt with their husband. They usually shy away or gossip in the form of prayer, “Let’s pray for Jana. You know he left her for another woman?”  The minister usually says he or she is going to try and minister to both parties. But in reality the minister usually disappears out of the scene after awhile.

The neighbors may start out helping the single mom but after a while it gets tiresome and they fade away. This time one of the neighbor ladies said she had always had an eye on the dad so she moved over the dad’s side.  A co-worker said the same thing and she went for the dad. Mom begins dating or she is so overwhelmed with work that she moves back away from the child, as she gets busy with her life.

At the end of this scene everyone is spread out across the room except for the Sunday School teacher who stand beside the child.

No one helps the single parent navigate the legal system. No one brings in a meal when the marriage and family dies. No one helps with a college fund.

While this is a fun and somewhat contrived situation it is an eye opener about what the child of divorce experiences when the once in tact family dies.

The Balloon Demonstration

In this demonstration we have someone volunteer to be a child of divorce. Several people in the audience blow up balloons. We talk about all the stressors a child of divorce has on piled on them.

People in the audience assign a stressor to a balloon and we hand it to the “child”. As in real life we can all handle a little stress or fairly insignificant stressors. But after a while even the insignificant stressors begin to affect us as more and more stress is piled on. As we pile on the stressors in the form of the balloons we watch as the “child” struggles to balance the balloons.

As the “child” is standing there loaded down with stressors, juggling the stressors, dropping the stressors, we can envision the “child” of divorce. Is it any wonder some are barely surviving? Is it any wonder some children have out of control behaviors? Is it any wonder you tell a “child” to hang up their coat, grab a juice box and sit at the table and you look a few minutes later to see the “child” sitting at the table, coat on and  no juice box? All those “balloons” aka stressors are blocking the child’s vision, hearing and understanding.

Several people said the family sculpturing and the balloon demonstration really opened their eyes as to what life must be like for the child of divorce.

Opening Doors

I’ve been ministering to the child of divorce for years. I’ve presented at hundreds of events over the years and this is the first time at both the LifeWay and the Group KidMin events that people have actually stopped me in the hallways and said, “Thank you for your ministry.” Or, “Thank you for what you do.”

This tells me the church doors are beginning to swing open for children of divorce. Let’s swing them open wider and reach the millions of kids from single parent families that are living in all of our communities.

Comments? Thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Family Sculpturing and the Balloon Demonstration: visualizing with impact (Group KidMin 2013 Conference demos)

  1. Love the balloon demonstration. I did it last year at a conference workshop on understanding the emotions of a child of divorce, and it really made an impact. As you know, I’m stealing your family sculpturing idea to use this year. 🙂 Thanks for all your hard work!

    • To be copied is a compliment. Thanks Wayne. Let me know how your family sculpturing goes. I am always surprised at the comments the “characters” make. It is a good way for people to share what their experience has been with divorce.

  2. I love the Balloon demo. I’ve used it over and over again when training volunteers for DC4K and one can see the “light bulbs go on” in participants. I have adapted it this way: I have written a short story (a composite of all the kids who have gone through our DC4K) about 9year old Kevin which I read. It’s written in the 1st person and as each stressor is mentioned, a balloon is handed to “Kevin”…someone who has been co-opted from the trainees. Apart from being serious we have a lot of fun as all the balloons begin to fall! Did training at the beginning of the month using it…have 6 Safekeepers..praise the Lord!

    • Love it Mal that you have gone above and beyond. You are so right about those light bulbs going off. I see them too and that’s how I know it is a powerful demonstration. Thanks Mal for sharing.

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