The curly questions that dumbfounded a minister

For Matt Gorton, Creative Director of Quiz Worx, the highlights of his year have been going into new areas and sharing Jesus with kids in schools that don’t have regular RI (Religious Instruction) or SRE (Special Religious Education).

During a week in Gympie just north of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he presented a show called What is the Way? at 14 schools for about 900 kids, of whom 600 don’t have regular religious instruction.

“Their parents have signed them into doing religion classes, but the churches haven’t got enough people to go in and teach. And so my lesson was effectively the one lesson they got for the year. So I did the show and then, at lots of them, I would look at a teacher and ask, ‘Do we have time for questions?’” Matt explains.

The minister from nearby Mary Valley who escorted the team was blown away when he heard the curly questions primary school children asked after seeing the show.

“The kids were asking awesome questions, just brilliant questions,” recalls Matt. “They were not surface-level questions, but the kind that showed they were working through what they’d heard. I’m glad I’ve been to Bible college, to be honest.”

Some of these questions include:

Why did Jesus have to die?
Why doesn’t God stop bad things happening?
Why did God create bad things?
Do you come back as your spirit animal?
Who wrote the Bible?
Am I special?
Why did God make Jesus when all he was going to do was die?
Why did God let my sibling die?
And, of course, who made God?

“And when we finished, the minister said to me, ‘Is that what it’s like? – are kids asking those kinds of questions?’ And I said, ‘Yeah’. And he goes, ‘Oh, I’m going to start encouraging more people to go into schools and teaching RI after they’re trained because we want them to do it well.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really exciting’ because the one-off shows are great – I love what we do – but it is so good to encourage them to be able to talk to local Christians. And working in partnership is a big thing for us.”

In the lead-up to Christmas, Matt has loved hearing the children’s raw and honest responses to the story of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus in their new show, The Saviour of the World. The show uses puppets, engaging props, upbeat music, a hilarious drama and even cookies to show from the Bible that Jesus is the most important thing about Christmas. A four-week period from November 7 to December 7, he performed 35 shows, but he was just one of the team who shared Jesus with more than 50,000 kids in more than 330 shows in nine teams, travelling tens of thousands of kilometres.

“This year has been, in many ways, like Quiz Worx always was,” says Matt, who co-founded Quiz Worx with Simon Jessup back in 1998 and has been full-time since 2003.

“Quiz Worx had been growing and growing. 2019 was our busiest year – we did over a thousand shows and over 500 Christmas shows. It was crazy. Obviously, the COVID period changed everything. This year we didn’t do anywhere near the same amount of work during the year, but at Christmas, we did 330 or 340 shows in four weeks. So that’s been really, really exciting. Everybody was like, ‘This is so good,’ but we all discovered this is also really tiring. So we’re excited but tired.”

It was the first time in three years that Quiz Worx could present live shows in NSW.

What’s different from 2019 is that during COVID, Quiz Worx developed two types of online resources – Home Delivery and School Delivery – consisting of videos to use, particularly at Christmas and Easter.

Check out a promo for this year’s Christmas video here.

“This year, we realised we probably can’t manage to do that and live, so we focused on live shows, but we’ve got so much positive feedback, particularly from the School Delivery. It’s been such a blessing. That’s why every year, we’re going to commit ourselves to do at least an Easter and a Christmas video that can be used in schools when we can’t be there. It’s awesome that we did 300 schools, but there are a whole lot more schools that we physically can’t be at.”

In 2023, Matt would love to find ways to make the Quiz Worx Christmas and Easter videos more accessible and widely known.

“That all came out because of COVID. There was no such thing as Quiz Worx home delivery before, we were just focused on live. COVID came, and we couldn’t do that. We started and they’re now being used around the world. We’ve had people sign up for Quiz Worx home delivery in over 90 countries.”

He adds that it could be just one person in some countries because all the material is in English.

“But we’ve heard the encouragement of missionaries who showed their kids the videos. And we’re now having subtitles done for our Christmas and Easter videos in Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. I would like to work out ways to get them overdubbed because subtitles don’t work for kids, but we’re nowhere near that stage.”

To fulfil Matt’s vision to keep sharing Jesus with kids, he needs more people, he says.

“We would love to do more, we really would. There are so many more opportunities than we have the people power to be able to do. There are currently 20 people at Quiz Worx. We could quite easily have another ten and still have much more work to do.

“We have a couple of new interns starting next year, which is exciting. We’re looking forward to spending time with them and the other senior team training them and helping them go out and share Jesus with kids.

“I’d love to have more people partnering with us, hiring us, using our material, giving if they’re able. And if this kind of ministry sounds like something that you’d be interested in doing or you know somebody that would be great, please contact us because we are always looking for more interns. We’re also looking for more permanent staff with at least a year of Bible college training because there are so many opportunities to go out and share Jesus.”

One of the things Quiz Worx stresses in all of its shows and videos is that the message is Bible-based.

“We say ‘The Bible says’, not ‘Matt says’, not ‘Quiz Worx says’, and if we can’t show it from the Bible, then we don’t say it.”

Although Matt is mostly upfront these days, he still loves performing as Scruff, Quiz Worx’s main puppet.

“I love how the children laugh – sometimes it just sounds like a laugh track – and having kids squeal with delight or when they’re freaked out because the puppet has just suddenly popped up when they weren’t expecting it.

“Honestly, I think the best part is when we’ve built up how amazing Jesus is, and then we say that ‘he died’ and there’s just dead silence. It’s like, ‘No!’ ‘He can’t!’ ‘What’s going on?’ And the puppet says, ‘That’s terrible.’

“And you go, ‘Yeah, it is, but it’s also wonderful because the Bible tells us that when Jesus was dying on the cross, he was paying for all of those wrong things that people have done, so now people can be friends with God again.’ And the puppet goes, ‘Oh, that’s awesome, but it’s still really sad that he’s dead.’ And then you say, ‘Oh no, no, he died, but the Bible tells us he didn’t stay dead. The Bible tells us he came back alive.’ And some of the time, you hear kids go, ‘What?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t see the death coming. And I definitely didn’t see the resurrection coming!’

“This is the first time some of them have heard [the gospel] – they’re not just the church kids, and so this is revolutionary for them to hear. I love that they are genuinely excited but then genuinely like, ‘What’s going on?’ and then ‘Wow, that is amazing!’

“Then I love hearing kids go out singing the song that says exactly what our big idea is – [that Jesus is the Saviour of the world].”

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