ANTHONY, Kansas — Kid Power bounds around the stage at Chaparral High School, energetically and playfully informing the elementary school children in the audience about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise.
But a few children in the audience knew the secret identity of this healthy-living superhero.
He’s their pastor.
“He was very awesome,” Wyatt Williams, a fourth-grader at Anthony Elementary and churchgoer at Anthony United Methodist Church, said after the Kid Power performance. “He’s a great guy.”
Kid Power’s alter ego, Bruce Wilson, has been a fulltime local pastor at Harper and Anthony UMCs since 2021.
The audience at the auditorium at Chaparral, which is between Harper and Anthony, also included members of Wilson’s churches who wanted to see their pastor’s performance.
“I knew it’d be good, I just didn’t know it’d be this good,” said Pat Bertholf, Anthony. “He involved all the kids, and they loved it.”
“It was fantastic,” said Erin Albright, Anthony, who attended with her husband, Dusty. “He had all the kids totally engaged the entire time.”
Dusty Albright said he was even prouder to have Wilson as his pastor after watching his side gig.
“I think, ‘Man, I get to watch him every week,’” he said.
In the finale of his show, Wilson as Kid Power fessed up to his identity.
After sprinting through the auditorium picking willing volunteers to come up on stage, he made a general announcement.
“Everybody who’s in one of my churches come on up,” he said. “You can’t fool me — I know who’s there on Sunday mornings.”
Bruce Wilson had Broadway on his mind when he left his native Wichita after graduating from Friends University for New York City.
To make a living during his 14 years in the Big Apple, he got a job performing health curricula to elementary school children throughout New England.
“It started out as a love of performance; that’s what I was interested in was the opportunity to perform,” he said. “It was a job working with kids, and I fell in love with kids.”
By 2008, he had the urge to create his own character. He co-wrote a script and hired a composer to create “Kid Power’s Operation Lunch Line 3D,” a totally interactive, Broadway-style production that combines videos and animation along with three-dimension glasses for kids and adults to wear as they “shrink” themselves down to enter the body of Max, a boy whose eating and exercise habits change for the better through the course of the show. By the end of the journey, Max and the audience learn about the benefits of good choices in their lives.
As Kid Power, Wilson toured the country for more than a decade, playing venues from school auditoriums to performing arts centers. In all, Wilson estimates more than a million kids have seen one of his performances.
Adding to the need to educate about health, Wilson said, was the diagnosis of both of his parents with diseases he said were related to their obesity — his father died of a fatty liver, he said, and his mother is a breast cancer survivor.
“From the experience I’ve had helping my parents, my joy for performing has expanded into a desire for real food advocacy. That has really taken a new hold on my heart,” he said. “I was seeing and feeling the impact of peoples’ poor food choices on their lives.
“I really feel like God used this time in my life to convict me to make food choices that actually glorify Him, and teach other families to do the same.” Wilson added.
To follow this new calling, Wilson rewrote his script to help faith-based audiences of all ages learn to place Jesus into the center of their food and fitness choices. “The new show is a more worshipful experience glorifying God’s gifts of real food and physical movement,” Wilson said.
Wilson is proud that one month shy of his 50th birthday, he’s able to fit into the same Kid Power costume he did when he was 28. Admittedly not super-nutritious 24/7, he always orders first when he’s dining at a restaurant with a table of presenters so that they feel at ease when dining with a nutrition superhero.
“I’ve noticed whenever my hosts order first, they always choose a salad and then I usually ask for a thick cheeseburger,” Wilson said with a laugh.
Wilson moved back to Kansas when he created Kid Power to be closer to his parents.
As he transitioned into faith-based work, Wilson became a youth director at his home church, Wichita Pleasant Valley UMC, and a few others in the Wichita area. He decried a long-standing “junk food drawer” in every youth fellowship room that was constantly being replenished, especially after events like trunk-or-treat.
“They would treat the youth center like a convenience store and just rip into as much of the lowest-quality junk food they could eat,” he said.
He was also surprised by the massive amounts of donuts he saw being passed out to those attending services at a local megachurch.
“Our churches are promoting the idea of ‘Come on in, meet Jesus, have some junk food,’” he said. “I just saw this giant disconnect between our behavior with food and our faith journey.”
After moving back to Wichita, Kid Power became such a big business for Wilson that he needed an assistant and hired Melissa Baum.
“We worked together for a long time and decided we really liked to spend time together,” she said. “I was already a fan and supporter before we started our marriage endeavor.”
They married on New Year’s Day 2019, and their daughter, Piper Joy, was born that October.
Bruce Wilson talks about the two of them going to presentations in Wichita by singer Sandy Patti, Christian rock band Casting Crowns and Christian filmmaker Alex Kendrick, all of whom not only inspired them in their faith but in an entrepreneurial spirit for Kid Power.
As they worked on promoting their new faith-based family version of the production for churches, they continued touring nationally for school-aged field trips to keep their non-profit funded.
And then COVID happened.
For nearly three years, Kid Power met his kryptonite. Schools out of session and those studying virtually weren’t taking field trips to see a performance. No one was packing into performing arts venues.
“I’m very open about telling people we had a career in edutainment, a business that we believed in and put our heart and soul into,” he said. “Then a pandemic came along and shut that down.”
As much as he enjoyed donning the green coveralls and white gloves with neon fingers in his Kid Power costume, he realized the well had all but dried up for a time. To support his family, a friend recommended the UMC Candidacy Summit to explore a full time job in pastoral ministry. “Not long after that, I literally ran into my DS, and he asked if I would be open to an appointment,” Wilson said. So Wilson attended licensing school and began serving his two-point charge.
Wilson says he doesn’t have a coming-to-the-crossroads moment or a bright-light-from-heaven revelation that pushed him into ministry.
He is a Jesus follower and knows how to keep the interest of people, whether they be an audience or a congregation.
Wilson was appointed to Harper and Anthony, about 10 miles apart, beginning in 2021, and has begun course of study.
“What’s sweet is that because I’m a brand-new pastor, I’m sure there were things about my ministry where my parishioners thought, ‘Well, he’s green but energetic and committed,’” he said. “Two skills I bring with me are my ability to deliver a message well and engage in people. Those skills are the same in performance and ministry.
“Without diminishing the worship experience, there are elements that overlap,” Wilson continued. “Sunday morning is a bit of a production that you put together and offer to your parishioners. They’ve always enjoyed the little things I do to make sure the experience is of good quality.”
Melissa Wilson says being a pastor plays to her husband’s strengths.
“Bruce has a great stage presence, and when we go in front of our congregations he has a great way of presenting God’s word to the people he shares with. I think that’s really important,” she said.
Her managerial skills come into play as well as she works with each church’s administrators.
“In our Kid Power business we do all the things, marketing, accounting, tour logistics and presentation,” Melissa said. “It’s the same way with a small church. We have to know how to do all the things. Bruce and I make a good team and have complimenting skillsets.”
While his mentor suggested perhaps he should take a deacon track in his church future, Wilson is taking his time to determine what his next steps should be.
“OK God, what other opportunities fit the giftings you’ve given me?” he said. “I’m thrilled to be used in this way to serve my communities, but I feel called to a real food ministry, too. Still, if this is God’s plan for me, I hope I can step into that and continue.”
For two Thursday mornings in February, Wilson revived Kid Power, packing a portable screen, costumes and projector equipment into his minivan.
Not only were students from area elementary schools — Medicine Lodge, Caldwell, Kiowa, Attica, Argonia, Anthony and Harper — invited, so were his congregations.
“This was an opportunity for me to say to my community, ‘Hey, guess what? Pastor Bruce also does something else, and Pastor Bruce would really like to share that with you.’”
Also invited were representatives of area health departments, with Wilson’s hope that they might find a way to work with him for other presentations.
Even still, as the performance dates approached, he prayed for intervention.
“OK God, if this is something you want to happen, bring all these parts together, and if it’s something I’m doing that’s not what you want, then by all means make this a snow day. Throw a roadblock in there so I’m certain it’s not the right time or the right place,” he said. “I would love for this to be a ministry that is much bigger than Harper County. I’ve dreamed of that for a long time, way before I got to this job.”
Wilson said he’ll leave his future up to the Lord.
“Personally, it is a self-sacrifice daily to seek God’s will in this process,” he said. “I’m the type of person that believes if you want your dreams to come true, if you want a miracle to happen, you have to position yourself so you’re ready to receive it when God answers that prayer.”
Contact David Burke, content specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.