Drama is a great way to help students learn more from your Bible classes. You may already use drama to make a Bible story come alive or illustrate an application concept. Drama is also a great way to help students develop relationships with their Church family and discover and develop talents God has given them to serve Him.
Unfortunately, if the drama isn’t carefully chosen and executed, it can confuse your students more than it can help them. It can make students dislike coming to church. It can even cement some very inaccurate ideas about what’s in the Bible in young minds.
So what can you do to make sure your dramas are helping students grow? Keeping these basic tips in mind can help.
- Make sure it’s accurate. Some dramas add so many details to a Bible story, it becomes almost unrecognizable. It also sends a subtle message that we can use creative license and change God’s Words whenever it suits us. Try to stay as true to the original scriptures as possible. If you do add details, make sure they aren’t changing the meaning of the story.
- Don’t introduce fictional characters into Bible stories. I recently saw some children’s curricula that added a popular cartoon character into Bible stories. I guess it was an attempt to capture the attention of kids, but it confused all of the young concrete thinkers. They suddenly believed this cartoon character is in the Bible. Life is confusing enough without adding unnecessary confusion.
- Have students participate as much as possible. In general, students will always learn more from doing than watching. If at all possible, include students in any drama you present to them – even if they are just the Israelites following Moses through the wilderness or some other background characters with no lines.
- Be very careful when assigning speaking parts to students. This is when it is very important to know your students well. Introverts will most likely perform small or non-speaking roles. Extroverts will tend to want large roles and some may want to ham it up and cause issues. In general, it’s best not to have a “star”, but rather lots of smaller roles. Also, please make sure every child is included and if possible there are even last minute non-speaking roles for those who come into your church half way through rehearsals. I know there are reasons for not allowing late comers to join a cast, but remember this is often more about building Christian relationships than anything.
- Encourage students to take increasing responsibility for creating and performing dramas. Especially for dramas performed for parents or other adults, it is important to allow the kids and teens to do as much as they possibly can. It may not look quite as professional, but that’s not what dramas in church are for. This is a great way for young people to discover, develop and use gifts God has given them to serve Him. Don’t stunt their growth by insisting adults do everything so it looks “better.”
- Consider adapting familiar stories and have characters learn about the Bible, but be careful to respect copyright laws. (Also make it clear the characters are telling Bible stories and don’t become a new character in them.) Yesterday, I had someone share with me a great adaptation of A Christmas Carol they had written and performed. Instead of being visited by ghosts, Scrooge was visited by angels. One of them showed him the birth of Jesus. The Crachit family was having a family devotional, reading the Bible together when Scrooge “visited” them. You get the idea. This is a great way to show biblical principles in the “real” world. Notice though, Scrooge wasn’t suddenly a character in the story of the birth of Jesus. He was told the story. It’s a subtle difference, but very important for young concrete thinkers who already have a difficult time separating fact from fiction.
Once you start doing drama in your ministry, you will find many people in your congregation have been given gifts by God to help you execute them. Make it as much of a church family project as possible. It’s a great way for your students to experience Bible stories and godly principles, but it’s also a great way to help them develop relationships with Chrisitans of all ages. Often it’s those connections that will keep a young person attending Church.