Muskingum Valley Presbytery, PO Box 946, New Philadelphia, OH 44663

Mission Improv

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For the most part, I (Matt) am a rookie when it comes to acting. Like some of you, I was in grade school plays and a few church productions along the way. Just don’t ask me about how I earned the moniker “The Hunchback of Bethlehem.” Well, on second thought, go ahead and ask. I can laugh at myself.

Not being an expert in the art of acting, there is a lot I can learn from this world. This is especially true in the realm of improvisation. More importantly, the skills to be learned through improv activities can greatly benefit us as individuals, and our shared ministry in the world.

Improv is an exercise in what psychologists call “self expansion.” The “self expansive” nature of improv can be seen in at least 6 ways:


Every improv experience is something new and novel. As humans we have a need for novelty. Novel experiences stimulate us, and believe it or not, are more important to our well-being than stability.


Improv presents new challenges that we haven’t experienced before. The human spirit craves to be challenged in new ways. This can be seen in the evolution of triathlons to Iron Man competitions.


Improv is filled with uncertainty. Research shows that uncertainty actually elevates pleasure. For example, no one enjoys a movie that has a predictable end, but we all love the exciting twist in a story line.


Improv is a world built around variety. Variety is a motivator. Imagine if you had a job that required the same action 10,000 times a day with no variance. How long would your full attention be on your work? Yet, when we stimulate our minds with new projects we gain a spring in our step.


Improv provides opportunities for mutual vulnerability. This is important because community is built around three main factors: safety/belonging, united purpose, and mutual vulnerability.


Improv also teaches us that it is ok to be uncomfortable. God knows that we need this in the life of the church. The Gospel has less to do with personal comfort and more to do with sharing God’s healing grace even when uncomfortable.


The first portion of each gathering will help us learn basic improv skills through games and activities. For example, we may sit in a circle and tell a short story one word at a time as our voices loop around the room.

As we begin to benefit from novelty, new challenges, uncertainty, variety, and mutual vulnerability, and as we begin to become more comfortable being uncomfortable, we will be better prepared to minister along the way, finding opportunities to heal, nurture and teach–just like Jesus and the disciples.


These Improv Learning Labs are only the first part of each gathering. After a group of people gather for lessons in improv—after we are warmed up—we will go into the world for a few hours and ask God to offer us opportunities to spontaneously participate in God’s mission in the world. After all, this is how Jesus and the disciples functioned!

This spontaneous mission is exactly what I mean by Improv Mission. Perhaps we will find ourselves sitting and comforting strangers. Or maybe we will be building relationships at the local bar. Who knows how God will invite us to be the hands and feet of Jesus?

BOOK a Mission Improv Event!

To host an event you only need to provide space, snakcs and a time.