Church “Mascots” for Children’s Ministry?

April 4, 2007 by

Recently I was part of a team of people that used a store mascot to do some local marketing. OK, I was the guy dressed up as a giant A&W Root Beer Bear. My team visited an elementary school in the community that was having a family carnival night. From the nasal perspective of my costume (I see out of the nose), the evening was a massive success for the school, the families and our store. In fact, I even overheard a few kids talking about when the Bear mascot had refereed their hockey game a few months ago.

It reinforced an idea I have been thinking about for awhile. Why don’t children’s ministries in church utilize some kind of mascot or character to connect with kids? I have seen how much my own kids love going to Chuck E. Cheese and singing and dancing with the mouse mascot there. And my experiences in the Root Beer Bear suit have given me first hand, experiential knowledge of the fact that most kids really enjoy interacting with an over-sized animal. I think churches need to get on board with this and use it as a way to get kids excited about visiting church each week.

Now obviously I am not proposing that we eliminate Jesus as the hero, or even that we replace him with some critter costume. But couldn’t we at least use a mascot to engage the kids in hearing about Jesus? Why not use something larger than life to teach kids about the one who truly is larger than life? My instinct and experience tells me that our kids would go nuts over this kind of thing. It is sort of like how on children’s Sunday the pastor always uses puppets. There is something about the fantasy that hooks the attention of kids.

I do have one fear though: My fear is that churches would start creating really cheesy Bible mascots. There is always a temptation to over spiritualize everything we do in church. I don’t think this is the right route. Let’s meet kids where they are at and connect a non-Bible character with the characters in the Bible. Let’s use something exciting for the kids to teach truths that are eternally significant.

So can a church mascot work? The thought of a Churchy the Church Mouse mascot is a little unnerving, but if you pulled it off just right it could work and be a fun way to connect kids to your church.

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Brenton Balvin

Brenton Balvin is a writer and speaker who is passionate about helping churches create great first impressions, developing innovative ministry ideas and making sure church marketing doesn't suck.
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27 Responses to “Church “Mascots” for Children’s Ministry?”

  • Bobby Williams
    April 4, 2007

    We actually do use characters or “mascots” for our children’s ministry called Kidz Street @ New Life Fellowship in Clinton Tn. We have a character come in to lead the children out to back to our children’s environment. Each week is a different character and during the children’s service, that character gives the lesson for the day.

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  • Holy Cow!
    April 4, 2007

    We developed two characters for a children’s ministry “The Fillin’ Station”, Diesel and Octane.
    The kids love it! And just as you said it’s easy for them connect with these characters and creates a lot of buzz through the community as we use them in parades and other events.
    You can see them here (sorry I don’t have a picture of the costume version)

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  • Cory
    April 4, 2007

    Our kids have a mascot as well: “Sporty.” (Not to be confused with Sporty Spice). He’s an over sized baseball with legs and googly eyes. Our kids program is called “All S.T.A.R.S.” (an acronym which stands for something that escapes me at the moment). We have him out every once in a while to welcome children to our preschool.

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  • C. Michael Pilato
    April 4, 2007

    Let’s not forget Sparky, the friendly firefly, from the AWANA program.

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  • Kent
    April 4, 2007

    Here is a link to a church that has been using full body costumes in children’s ministry since the ’80s:

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    • Pastor Solomon
      September 13, 2017

      Thank you so much, this information is the confirmation that I am not delirious!!!!

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  • Melissa
    April 4, 2007

    Hmmm…I don’t want to suggest that this can’t work or that churches using this approach are doing something wrong, but it just sounds very consumer-focused to me. I think a lot of children’s ministries are leaning too far towards entertaining kids rather than teaching and discipling them. (A problem that extends far beyond children’s ministries…)
    Don’t get me wrong–I agree that it should be fun and engaging, so I’m sure there’s room for it to work. But I hate the thought of kids associating their church experience more with make believe characters than with, I dunno, Jesus?

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  • Betsy
    April 4, 2007

    Hee hee. That reminds me of a story about my friend’s daughter. We attended a very conservative, serious church. When my friends moved out of state, and went to a new church, the first time they saw the children’s center, with a huge mural of the Veggie Tales, their youngest daughter turned to her mom with wide, horrified eyes, and said, “Mommy, do we need to tell them about Jesus?”
    I think there’s wisdom in both camps. I grew up learning the stories of the Bible from the Bible itself (with exciting flannelgraph from time to time), and I wouldn’t trade that knowledge and familiarity with the Bible for anything. However, kids these days were raised with TV and internet access and their attention has to be captured. I think any method that grabs their attention is a good one, as long as it doesn’t take priority over teaching them the stories and values found in the Bible.
    I do know that using a costumed character is a great way to draw attention from both kids and parents when promoting an event. We use Garfield, the Easter Bunny, whatever is available or appropriate for the event. When a costumed character shows up at the park or school or mall, kids run, dragging parents to you. It’s a great opportunity to make kids happy and inform their parents about what your church has going on for their children. Parents are looking for a place that values their kids, and it’s a big incentive for them to come.

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  • Tim Bednar
    April 4, 2007

    When I did children’s ministry, especially outdoor. Mascots were the best “marketing” I could do; kids remembered my lion as he walked the streets handing out balloons and invites to our street event.
    Every week we used the mascot to go out and bring the kids in for our street event. By mid-summer, kids would see him and run down the street to meet him, his handlers and grab a balloon. He attracted lots of attention walking down Lake Street with 100 balloons in tow.

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  • Hector
    April 4, 2007

    you now you give a prefect idea of how can we attract some kids to our organization in order to produce more benefit for the kids.

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  • Geoff Brown
    April 4, 2007

    Actually, not a bad idea at all!
    And, to think that we figured we were kicking the envelope pretty hard by giving a teddy bear to each child we baptize!

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  • Brenton Balvin
    April 4, 2007

    Wow! One of the things I love most about the internet is how it connects so many people and can transfer ideas so quickly. Thanks for all the feedback. I can’t wait to check out some of the mascots you all mentioned.

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  • Geoff Surratt
    April 4, 2007

    We were pretty cutting edge back in the 80’s when we used Memory Mouse, a giant furry mouse as a mascot in our children’s ministry. Frankly I think the huge rodent scared the heck out of the younger kids, but we thought it was fun.

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  • Tony McCollum
    April 4, 2007

    We’ve had Leo the Lion greeting kids as they enter Kingdom Safari for a couple of years. He’s a big hit with the kids…well, most of them.
    I’ve often thought that we should expand Leo’s role and let him go to birthday parties and such. He could hand out candy and possibly invite kids to church. Just a thought.

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  • indie
    April 4, 2007

    I have to admit that one of the big draws about our church is the Montessori curriculum. I don’t have to worry too much that my child will be exposed to more commercialized characters-like or plastic crap from China. My daughters both love coming to church to play with their friends, receive Eucharist, play church with the mini altar and communion set (made with real wood, glass, linens). There is even a kid’s chapel with kids sized everything. (We just need to find someone to take over the children’s church ministry.) Sometimes I think we have to consider what we are attracting people to when we use an attractional model without discretion. My daughter loves this church and is falling in love with things that will be the same when she’s grown up (just bigger and more complex). She hated the “relevant” church that we used to go to with Veggie Tales and “exciting” lessons. But maybe my kids are just weirdos. :)

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  • Derrick Henslee
    April 4, 2007

    We have a couple of full body characters that we use at We have Saftey Sam and Eli the Elephant. They go from campus to campus and are used in the curriculum so that the kids know who they are. They help teach kids via video and when they appear at a local campus the kids go crazy for them!
    I really believe that you have to do everything you can to capture the attention of the kids first. The world offers some great competition for us as believers. They are really skilled at getting our kid’s attention. I think it’s time we did something about that!!!

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  • st. Mars
    April 5, 2007

    Involved in a children’s ministry for a sister church to Church on the Move, we had used the idea of a superhero( Can Do Man) & his side-kick (Do Do Boy). The kids went nuts over it. We never had a problem getting workers for the services either.
    However, we did visit a church once with a multi-million dollar kids building. The inside looked like Disney & the light show was cool, but the name of Jesus was hardly mentioned….I was soooo disappointed!

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  • Stephan
    April 8, 2007

    That is the biggest issue, st. Mars. Sometime the focus becomes the attraction rather than the WORD. I commend those who make this work and still keep the focus on Jesus with the kids.

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  • Jason
    April 10, 2007

    Ok- I get the whole “we should make this fun” , “kids love mascots” angle and I don’t disagree with that thinking…I’m all for fun- I think Jesus was fun…but hmmmmm….
    I imagine a mob with torches will form shortly after I type this…perhaps I am too cynical and will have to repent….
    nonetheless, I’m going to ask this question (and then run away before the rocks come hurling at me!)
    I wonder how the underground church in China- or India, Afghanistan, Pakistan- or Iraq and Iran does it without mascots?
    (I love to read this blog- I love many of your comments- I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon…just trying to ask the question so we can dialogue)

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  • jamie
    April 11, 2007

    I think the mascot thing is a great idea!
    To respond to the blog over China, India, etc… There families are new and overwhelmed by just having a page or two to read out of the bible. Here in America everyone takes everything for granted, many are not thankful for what we do have! If you have a child whos parents do not come to church, you have to have something catchy to keep them coming every service. I think the mascot would likely do just that. Also having the mascot out in public, chilren would recognize it and tell their parents about church.
    I think the more a church can get the message of Jesus to the public the better off the world will be!

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  • Jason
    April 12, 2007

    Jamie I don’t disagree with what you are saying about how we take things for granted and mascots may help-etc…
    the point I was actually trying to make was that in the countries I listed, it would not be legal for them to have mascots- in fact many Christians in these countries face imprisonment or martyrdom- yet the faith is spreading like crazy.
    So ultimately- it may just be a cultural context thing…but it seems like the power of what is happening in these countries is way beyond what we can conceive of…and yet they don’t employ any marketing that I know of…and yet they are now sending missionaries to the US to convert us. Interesting.
    So when you say we need to do something catchy to attract folks to our churches, I totally agree. Where I may disagree is on what would be catchy.
    The bottom line for me was more about- maybe we can have all the right flashy ads, mascots, cool programs etc….but I think these folks are smoking us when it comes to making new disciples. I picture trying to have a mascot conversation with, say- a mother Theresa, and wonder if she wouldn’t stare back at us puzzled, then walk away and go back to washing a leper’s feet?
    Or to try and talk to a Jackie Pullinger (Hong Kong) and have her point to the mobs of teens she just got off the streets from heroin…and how their whole family comes to serve at the church because their family member got off heroin?
    Maybe I’m an idiot. Mascots just seem pretty silly to me in comparison to a radically changed life in terms of advertising power.
    What if we are pushing the former (mascots) in the US/western church because we don’t’ have the latter?? (changed life)

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  • Derrick
    April 24, 2007

    At the core of what you are saying I think you’re motivated by Jesus and changed lives. I totally agree that Jesus is all we need and He alone is who saves us. Unfortunately the very nature of those countries passing laws that implement the death of Christians doesn’t lend itself to mascots. This does seem trivial and silly in the sight of those churches.
    However, that is not what it is like here in the USA. Here, Satan’s tools are not the same. Here he equips the world to distract and pull our kid’s attention away with anything BUT Jesus. So we have to attack with different tactics than a church in China would.
    To me, there’s really no comparison. It’s like apples and oranges. We have to adapt to the culture that our churches exist in. Becoming all things to all people so that by all means we might save SOME. We have to steal our kid’s attention in order to get their heart.
    If a church is using mascots and proclaiming Jesus…and it’s working…what’s the big deal? I would say we should do a post on why people are still thinking that felt boards and clip art is effective! That’s who we should be skewering here! Although, the felt board figures were a fun part of my childhood….oh well…so were the smurfs….I digress.

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  • Joseph
    April 24, 2007

    Long time reader, first time poster. We had a church split over a year ago. The largest critique of our side was that we would become “seeker-friendly” that we no longer exposited God’s word, but were merely teaching topically. This was not true, but something that we were sensitive to none-the-less. After Easter we decided to do a 4-part series on Real Questions About God. In order to retain the twice a year church goers. It worked! The Lord has added to our numbers 200 weekly. It will be interesting to see how many stick around for the Rest of our Matthew Series as we go back to expository bible preaching.
    What am I saying? The great commission cant happen with out people to reach. If people have mascots and they bring people to Christ, then cool. If they dont and they bring people to Christ cool.
    I am sure you can make a case for graven images or false idols, but the heart and result is what matters. Remember that all of the law and prophets hang on two commandments. Love God and Love your neighbor.

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  • Sam
    April 24, 2007

    Again it comes to motivation. Why are you doing it? We are in the process of creating 3 mascots, a boy, a girl and their pet dog. We go into the public schools and do assemblies we will use the mascots at the schools and then as a point of contact when they come to church and when we go into the community to do outreaches. We need to ask ourselves if we are trying to be cool or are we trying to reach as many people as we can with the gospel.

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  • MascotNet
    May 12, 2007

    I’m so sorry I missed this topic a month ago! I’m a professional sports mascot turned children’s minister. Even as a team employee I understood my role was not to take the field and win the game, but to get people excited about what was being played. I brought joy into their lives in a novel, short-timed way. I got to lighten their mood and leave them with a smile.
    We have a team of four mascots for our church, we’ve used them for lessons, but really they are used to let our older students have some fun, draw attention to our church at community events like parades and sports mascot nights, and to help transition between lessons, worship, etc.
    We’ve used the mascots for object lessons, no different from puppet skits. The mascots have even made an impact on some of the local sports mascot performers, since we start off our gigs with group prayer, and we pray for the other actors.
    Please feel free to contact me about what you’re doing and what you could do! God gave me this gift for a reason, it helps me make those initial steps into relationships once the suits come off… and it’s helped disciple quite a few young hearts!

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  • brenda
    March 9, 2008

    Well, as the parent of 2 children…one who LOVES costumed characters and one who is SCARED TO DEATH of them…I’m not sold.
    I would never get my 4 year old in the door again. She was so scared of one of the puppets when she was 2 the teacher had to stop using it. Theo the FaithRetriever is dead to us.

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  • Sam Fabe
    November 11, 2009

    I am Sam Fabe of Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. We have a Feeding and medical Program here called MISSION SMILE. We go to some of the most remote areas in Mindanao bringing food, Medicines and fun and games since 2005. Part of MISSION SMILE is a mascot and clown costume that we have been borrowing since 2005. Now, our friend that is the owner of the mascot and clown costume is transferring to Luzon and that means that we can no longer borrow the said mascot. This program is financed solely by our Youth ministry here that is why we cannot afford to buy a Mascot here in the Philippines despite the fact that it is very effective mascots are only sold in Manila, Luzon.
    Can you direct me to other people or ministry that might have used mascots and clown costumes that we can purchase at a lower price? We do not want to stop this program because as we have seen most of the children including the parents in all the areas we went has never sen a real mascot nor a clown before. We just want to bring the Saving Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to the less fortunate families in the hinterlands, share to them the love of our Lord through in action and not just in words. Above all we just want to make children Smile.
    God Bless!
    Sam Fabe

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