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He Went to College to Become a Lead Pastor, but then God Proved to Have a Sense of Humor

Randy Christensen knew his future — or so he thought — until God redirected his steps down a path he never imagined.
When Randy Christensen left Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to become a student at North Central Bible College (now North Central University) in Minneapolis, his vision for the future was to graduate, perhaps find a soulmate along the way, and follow in the footsteps of his father and become a lead pastor. Graduate? Check. Awesome wife? Check. Lead clown? Ch… wait. What?

Gerald Christensen, Randy’s late father, summed it up well several years later: “I sent you off to college to become a senior pastor and you came out a clown,” adding with a twinkle in his eye, “and we’re so proud!”

And, in reality, Gerald was quite proud of his son, who is now a 61-year-old children’s pastor at Hillside Church in Mankato, Minnesota. For although Randy’s personal dream was unimaginably rerouted, God’s plan for his life has opened ministry opportunities throughout the United States and around the world, impacting countless lives of all ages.


An acquaintance of Christensen’s recalls encountering him when they were teens attending the AG church camp at Spencer Lake in Waupaca, Wisconsin. “You just looked at the guy — how he dressed, how he stood, how he spoke — and he had senior pastor written all over him.”

And few, including Christensen, would disagree with that evaluation. He was locked in! Yet from the moment he entered his college dorm room, in hindsight, one can now see that God was up to something.

It began with somehow Christensen, along with another freshman roommate, being assigned to live with a college senior. That just doesn’t happen. The senior roommate? David Boyd.

Boyd, who admits he wasn’t thrilled about going from a private room to sharing it with two freshmen, was already passionate about children’s ministry. And some may already recognize the name -- David and his wife, Mary, are now well-known as a children’s pastors, conference speakers, illusionists, and globe-trotting evangelists who led the national BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge) program for two decades, raising well in excess of $100 million for missions.

Despite the initial frustration of the room arrangement, Boyd soon began to urge Christensen to join him and Mary in doing outreach ministry as clowns in a local park. He had no interest.

“We decided to go as clowns to the children’s hospital around the corner from the school,” Boyd recalls. “When he heard we were going to the hospital, that made more sense to him, so he agreed to come.”

A red nose, a trip to Goodwill for some oversized clothing, and a quick tutoring of clowning basics and Christensen headed out on his first clowning adventure. He didn’t realize it then, but Christensen was hooked.

“Then he wanted to learn to juggle,” Boyd says. “I’m a decent juggler, but it only took him like 45 minutes to get it down – it was kind of remarkable. Little did I know that in my very hands was the future president of the World Clown Association!”


Randy met Karen when they were freshmen — it took him a year to work up the courage to ask her out. They started dating, fell in love, and between their junior and senior years, they got married.

A college couple getting married isn’t that uncommon, but remember, when the two initially started dating, Randy’s goal was still to one day become a senior pastor. In other words, Karen fell in love with who she believed was to be a future senior minister . . .

“I never thought I’d be married to a clown,” Karen reflects. “I always thought I’d be in ministry in some form, but never obviously (she pauses) a clown? It was good for us to go to Prior Lake (as children’s pastors), which helped me prepare and learn on a smaller level.”

Early on, Randy was the front man, with Karen focusing more on the administrative side. But when Randy was working with stage puppets, Karen found herself being the one interacting with the puppet in front of the children.

“I wanted things scripted, written out,” Karen says with a laugh, “and Randy, he wanted to improvise and just go with whatever came to mind . . . at first, that was a real challenge for me, but now I can handle it – we balance each other really well.”

But being funny is hard work. In order to be elite in the craft, it takes the same dedication as in any other profession.

“You have to become a student of comedy and culture,” Randy explains. “It takes years of experience and training; you have to know how people will respond, what will draw them in, what sends them away — it’s like a science only every person is unique, so in addition to ‘reading the crowd,’ you have to locate and read individuals who can positively or negatively influence the crowd.”


As Randy was ministering as a children’s pastor he was also continuing to hone and build his talents as a clown.

“Randy became more of a circus showman than just a clown,” Boyd says. “He juggles, rides a unicycle, performs illusions, is a ventriloquist, performs acrobatic stunts — he’s more like a master of ceremonies. He’s very accomplished and he’s trained clowns all over the world and has taken his Christian faith all over the world . . . and people sometimes forget, he’s also become a world-class children’s pastor.”

However, Randy says that when he first left Bible college with his pastoral degree and a minor in Bible in hand, he took a step back.

“I stopped and asked myself, Am I doing this clown stuff just because I am having so much fun or is it actually effective?” he recalls. “Was I out here just making people laugh, like a balloon and you pop it and there’s nothing left?”

Yet as he reflected, God brought to mind how He had used Randy as a clown to touch people’s hearts and lives — responding not just to the clown, but also the message he was sharing.

“God showed me this was a valid and effective ministry,” Randy says. “On a regular basis, people come up to me and tell me how they laughed, and cried, and then realized their relationship with Jesus needed to change because of what they saw me present. God reminded me of the fruit of this ministry, and it inspired me to continue on this path.”


No one, not anyone this side of heaven, could have predicted that Randy Christensen’s ministry pathway included being a clown. But as Boyd alluded to, Randy is gifted with extreme hand-eye coordination, a quick wit, a compassionate heart for children, and a calling to share God’s Word.

“He’s one of the AG’s premier kids camp speakers and excels on emphasizing the Holy Spirit,” Boyd says. “His ability to help kids understand the experience they’re seeking and guiding them in receiving the gift and then in using their gifts is masterful. He inspires kids and children’s pastors towards excellence.”

Of some note, Randy has been the guest speaker for over 50 weeks of kids camps and is the author of numerous books and created resources for those in clowning and children’s ministry, including Crucial Concepts in Kids Ministry.

Although he is free to share God’s truths in personal, church, camp, and Christian school settings, in some public settings Randy is forced to do what other Christian ministries do – talk about character. Not-so-surprisingly, good character and the advice that goes along with it happens to fall in line with what the Bible teaches.

“I want to bring smiles and comedy relief into tough situations,” Randy says, “but I also want to share life principles that will help kids avoid future pain and handle life struggles. I want to provide experiences that build connections between family members as they laugh together.”

Randy says one of his favorite clown characters he performs as is Oxford P. Nutts — a funny uncle who seems to be saying all kinds of wild and funny things.

“It seems like he’s all mixed up,” Randy says, “but then suddenly, a golden nugget of truth comes out.”

As the Christensens got more heavily involved in clowning, Randy joined the World Clown Association (WCA), which brings clowns from 35 countries around the world in contact with each other for support and learning, including an annual convention.

“There are all types of clowns,” Randy explains. “One of the departments in the WCA is Clown Ministry, and I became involved in that.”

An active member of WCA, over the years Randy — in addition to other contributions — has been recognized as the Clown of the Year, earned the Master Clown Award, has led trainings and/or performed at various WCA Conventions, served at the president of the WCA, and was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The WCA has been a springboard for me to interact and talk with numerous secular folks from around the world,” Randy says. “Often I have a table of books available after my performances or teaching sessions, and I stand there hoping that people have seen Jesus in me. And it’s not uncommon for a ‘secular’ clown to come up to me at the table with a problem and ask for me to pray with them.”


Although some may smirk at the idea of being a clown, it is a serious profession that brings smiles to faces and lightens hearts. Sadly, thanks to Hollywood, in relatively recent years, the profession has had a lot of negative and scary images to overcome. Randy admits that it does take extra effort now to win some kids over, but in the end, he almost always does.

“The most rewarding thing for me is that moment of connection,” Randy says. “When a child giggles while sitting on her grandpa’s lap and they’re both laughing together, having a shared experience they’ll remember for years . . . when you connect with a child, in that moment you can tell it’s real, it’s authentic.”

Yet it was those “moments” of connection that have kept Randy and Karen from spending their entire lives on the road.

“Karen and I have a heart for discipleship,” Randy says. “Being on the road, there’s a lot of evangelism, but not a lot of discipleship going on. We are wanting the consistency of relationship and to help disciple kids over the long term. Of course, our pastor, Mark Miltimore, really supports outside opportunities, so when a call comes in for a missions trip or children’s camp, he allows us to do that.”

In the end, Randy puts a bow — or perhaps a red nose — on what it takes to be an effective clown for God or in whatever ministry work one is involved in.

“I make it easier for kids to pay attention and it’s easier to teach kids about God’s Word when they want to pay attention,” he explains. “And even though I’ve been told that people don’t like clowns, here’s the thing: people don’t like clowning done poorly, but people like clowning done well . . . just like in any ministry, you have to put in the time, work, and effort to create a quality experience for people and let God do the rest.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.