How do we engage with the 95 with the fantastic news of Jesus' birth at Christmas time? Here is a simple idea for churches to use to engage with families in their community
What is it?
Star at the Stable is a nativity photo booth that invites people to dress up as a character from the story of Jesus’ birth and to be photographed with a baby and a manger, helping them to enter into the story. The photograph is taken on the participant’s mobile phone or camera, so there is no need for permission forms etc. All you need is simple costumes, that can be put on easily over outdoor clothes, in sizes for both children and adults. The best are the sort that open up at the back, like a hairdresser’s gown!
Run it in a place that is easily accessible and very visible. The best places are on a high street or a market place. Think about places where particular special Christmas activities are being run. For example, if Christmas lights are being switched on in your community, try to run it where there is a central Christmas tree or carol singing taking place. Rather than be out of sight inside a church, borrow a gazebo and set it up outside so that people can easily see what is happening. It has also been run in a school playground as the children were going home (with the school’s permission).
Check that you have permission to run the event in the chosen location and that you are covered by public liability insurance.
If you want to take some photographs for the church to use on a website, or in a newsletter, make sure that you have permission in writing from the people you photograph. You might word a form as follows: “I give permission for photographs including (names of people in the picture) to be used by (name of your church) in publicity materials. Nobody involved will be identified by name.” Individual team members should not use or keep photographs for themselves.
You only need a small team of people to run this. There job is to invite people to take part and explain what is going to happen. To help them to select a costume and put it on over their own clothes, and possibly hold coats whilst this happens! They can help take the photo on the person’s mobile phone, and then hang the costumes up again. But, most importantly, they should take the opportunity to chat with the people, and if a leaflet about the story of Jesus’ birth is being given away afterwards, talk that through with them.
It would be advisable to have as many helpers as possible checked through the DBS service, but also to encourage parents to dress their own children.
Encourage people of all ages to get involved in dressing up: this activity is not just for children!
Letting people know
Why not have a banner made for the occasion and hang it up at the event? You could use a display stand or hand out leaflets to people passing by that explains simply what the activity is about e.g. “Dress up as a character from the story of Jesus’ birth and we’ll take your photograph on your mobile phone.” Make this as easy as possible to read as people approach the activity.
Things you will need:
- A manger and hay
- A swaddled baby doll
- A free-standing clothes rails & coat hangers (use one for children and one for adults)
- A gazebo and backdrop (might just be star and lights)
- A sign that explains what it is – ‘Nativity Photo Booth - Free!’ is probably enough
- Some extra lighting if being run at night (battery powered flood lights can be bought to hang off the gazebo)
- A simple Christian leaflet to give away
- Optional: stool (quite useful for mixed age group so that some can sit)
- You may also find it helpful to have a tally counter so that you know afterwards how many people have taken part in this