Staging the “Reveal”

For years, when it came time to tell the high school choir where the trip for the following summer would be I just. . . well. . .  told them.  Those days are gone.

Recently, “reveal parties” have become popular and I have become a convert.  Here is what I mean.

When choir starts this  September, just like usual, no one in the choir will know where we are going on mission in 2016. . .NO ONE!  I don’t risk letting anyone know the location.

After several weeks of rehearsals and preparations, we will have a fall mini-concert on Sunday evening October 11.  Special invitations are sent out to all the parents to attend the evening worship time that night to support the students.  

After church we will have a parent’s meeting about fundraising details.  Every parent is interested in THAT!

But first. . . . . drum roll, please.

We will have the “reveal party.”

This year we are placing each letter of our destination city and state on to large sheets of paper.  Each letter goes in a large envelope and envelopes are throughly shuffled.

The reason I have chosen this “reveal” method is that the city has more letters than usual and so does the state.  This will increase the fun.

A separate set of letters with our “reward city” for the end of the tour will also be handed out;  on different colored paper.

If you are in a church that uses multiple locations on a single tour keep reading, I will have an idea for that a bit later.

The freshmen and sophomore groups will each be given a sealed envelope with the letters of the two cities and states inside.

The juniors and seniors will take their place on the elevated choir loft area in the Choral Hall. 

Juniors will be charged with arranging their fellow choir members into the mission location and the seniors will attempt to discover the “reward city.”

On a signal, the envelopes will be opened and shown to the upper class students, who will begin to call student’s names and move people around in an effort to spell out the cities and states.

An additional benefit of this game is that the students can learn some new names.

The competition continues as the juniors and seniors try to find their city first, while the parents watch the orchestrated “madness.”

I will have some clues ready, just in case.

The class that “wins” gets to be first in line for food at the next rehearsal.

The point?  Everyone knows that high school students love a great game and creative competition.

In the past, this reveal party has resulted in a high attendance day.

Students love a good mystery!

One year we revealed the location with “Riddle Me This.”  We divided the choir into their vocal sections, with each section given an envelope.  On cue, they opened, revealing the riddle to every section.

Riddle Me This—“My face is on ‘the mountain’ and my city is a state capitol”

The altos were the first to determine that we were going to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Another year, for the reveal party we had food and drinks (of course) with a separate line for the adult sponsors.

The sponsors drank from a variety of Starbucks “city cups.”  After a while of eating and drinking I asked everyone to notice unusual things in the room.

One of the freshmen mentioned that all the sponsors had cool cups to drink out of and the students only had styrofoam cups.

This was determined to be a significant detail.  Eventually the tour location, Seattle, came into focus.

Another year I got a large bag, (imagine one Santa Claus would carry), and filled it with all kinds of random small inanimate objects.  I just picked up a lot of toys from the preschool area of the church.  However, I put one small plastic lobster in the mix.  Everything else was blocks of wood, cars, trucks, lego pieces, etc.

After each person selected one object from the bag, I asked the students to determine what objects were different from the others.

Someone suggested Detroit, because of the cars and trucks;  another suggested Legoland in Minneapolis because of the legos. 

One student noted that the only “living thing” in the entire bag was the lobster.  Then, one of the sopranos shouted “Maine” and the kids celebrated.

But what do you do if your tour covers multiple cities and, perhaps, multiple states?

One possibility would be to have a scavenger hunt all around the church with people or objects representing each of the locations.

The adult sponsors (clue givers) might even get creative with costumes to suggest cities or states.

The teams of students have to put together a destination card with each location in the correct order (regardless of how the locations are initially found).

The students with the greatest geography skills will be in high demand!  (No fair cheating with “Siri”!)

Another idea for multiple locations is to go to AAA and get a large map of the state (or states) you are going to.  Mark the route of the tour with a highlighter.  

Cut the map into “puzzle” pieces and place each piece in an envelope and hand them out.  Students tape the map back together and all will be revealed.

I know what you are thinking.

This seems like a lot of effort just to reveal the location of the tour.  It is worth the trouble and creativity because it increases the interest and excitement in the trip in the fall, during football season—just when you need it.

The back story on this idea:  Twenty five years ago we were going to have a mid-year retreat to a resort in (believe it or not) Beaumont, Texas, just 2 hours from Houston.

The previous years’ retreats had been to Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.  There is NO WAY that the kids will get excited about Beaumont—even though the location was a fantastic resort.

So, I determined that we were going to have a “Mystery Retreat” and no one would know where we were going until we arrived.

On the day of departure for the retreat we met in the parking lot, parents were given sealed envelopes with all the details inside, with a directive not to open the envelopes until the vans were out of sight (this was in the days before cell phones and texting).

We had nearly twice as many students sign up for the retreat than the year before (in Dallas) and the idea of “secret” locations began.

The reveal party mystery is the child of that old idea!

Try it this fall and I’ll bet you will do it again and again!

Randy Kilpatrick


July 20, 2015