True to the nature of this topic, this article is written in the style of a play. After a theatrical production team meeting to discuss the value of using drama to share the gospel, the acting team works through practical examples of using drama in ministry.
Producer: Welcome to our production meeting. Part of our meeting today is to help educate our fine fellow evangelists to see the value of drama and how important it is to our work and ministries.
Actor 1: Drama is a form of communication that combines the visual, verbal and aural. Research tells us that we retain ten percent of what we hear, fifty percent of what we hear and see and eighty to ninety percent of what we hear, see and do.
Dancer: Language is the foundation of our society. The ability to communicate with one another through a common voice allows for the function of our world. Language is our greatest asset for communication.
Sound tech: The voice of language can therefore be articulated beyond vocal communication and into any realm where beliefs are communicated between individuals. Language can be communicated in books, media, art, architecture, body language, television, theatre, music and beyond.
Lighting: Drama and the creative arts are a part of every culture, race, society, tradition and sphere of life. Storytelling which goes hand in hand with drama is very much a part of the world that God made. We are natural storytellers and story lovers. In wanting to discover a common voice to reach into our communities, drama can creatively provide that common voice.
Costume: Stories and dramas reach all ages; they are personal, a representation of life and an expression of human thought. They can take simple, complex or abstract ideas and turn them into digestible and entertaining messages.
Graphic designer: Theatre holds within its walls a medium that embraces the visual and the verbal essence of language; it invites people into a new world and engages the intellect of the imagination – this is achieved in conjunction with the opportunity to communicate educational, historical and meaningful, even eternal, messages. While a book also contains within its pages a similar achievement, the live, participatory nature of theatre enfolds the observer, capturing the emotive intellect and communicating a message.
Prop maker: There is little dispute that drama or storytelling is a powerful tool that pushes all the boundaries of attention and touches hearts as well as heads.
Conductor: Thus, the deepest layer and essence of the “why” of theatre embodies itself in the captivating culmination and meeting place of the mind and the heart.
Actor 2: Human intelligence and human emotion.
Prompt: Cognition and compassion.
Choreographer: Cerebral and sentiment.
Actor 3: Thought and feeling, the physical encountering the mental, the emotional and the spiritual.
Musician: As the stage’s backdrop has layers of paint with colours, perspective and illustrations, theatre too has a layer of entertainment.
Actor 4: A layer of communication.
Actor 5: And a layer that captures the heart and the mind, providing a platform to provoke thought and provide meaning to reach people and glorify the one true creator.
Producer: Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful contributions to our discussion. We will continue by looking at the biblical basis for drama. As the set designers create the foundations, layers and backdrop of the production, God is the basis and foundation upon which we stand.
Set designer 1: Why do we want to use drama? First and foremost we are commanded to teach our children God’s laws (Deuteronomy 6). With drama as such a powerful communicator, should we not be using that powerful form of communication to impact children with God’s word?
Set designer 2: God wants us to use our gifts for him. I Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he or she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
Set designer 3: We are God’s storytellers; Jesus was a storyteller. Matthew 13:34 says, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using parables.” Jesus knew that stories could stick in people’s minds. Jesus told parables in ways that were relevant to his listeners. We too need to be creating ways of communicating relevant truths in ways that are attractive and yet challenge people to think. Psalm 78:1-3 says, “Oh my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things from of old—what we have heard and known and what our fathers have told us.”
Set designer 1: The prophet Nathan used a story to help illustrate to David his sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 12. David’s emotional reaction to the story helped him to understand the consequences of his own sin.
Set designer 2: Music is often used in the Bible and it is used in celebration of God. Matthew 21:14-16 says that children sang praises to Jesus and celebrated God with “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
Set designer 3: God deserves our best and deserves our talents for his glory. We need to reach people to share the message and stories from the Bible. We need to engage, challenge, excite and teach biblical truths; drama provides a fantastic platform to achieve this.
Set designer 2: God’s message is powerful and we need to be humble, faithful messengers. God and the Holy Spirit will do the growing.
Director: We will now get our cast moving as we work through each scene and see our dramatic production evolve before us.
Act 1 Scene 1: Creativity
Narrator: Let’s begin by engaging in a journey that brings to life in a unique way many of the stories in the Bible that you know and love. One of the important components that makes drama unique to a standard verbal communication is the use of creativity. With a twist of creativity or imagination a simple concept can become attention grabbing and attention holding. For example, take two well known stories in the Bible, the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) and the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), add a bit of creativity and they can become dramatic messages. Observe our actors.
(Still frames: Story of Joseph. As narrator speaks and as each event occurs, the actors turn themselves into a still frame picture. For example, “Joseph dreams about his brothers bowing down to him” and “Joseph is captured by his brothers.”)
(Turn a story into an interactive group activity: Using the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the leader narrates and the audience gives the appropriate sound effects on cue. For example when the narrator says, “Poor Lazarus,” the audience groans.)
(What you can do with a piece of chalk: Using your imagination a piece of chalk can become Moses’ staff, a piece of fruit, the pen that Paul wrote his letters with or the tent needle of Priscilla and Aquila.)
Act 1 Scene 2: Communication
Narrator: Communication reaches far beyond the vocal and into mime, music or movement.
(Charades variation: You have been doing the story of Pentecost and want to recap. Place the names of people or significant events into a hat, for example, Peter, fire, wind, Holy Spirit, tongues. Each word is pulled out and the individual has to either act it out or describe it in one sentence or one word for others to guess.)
Act 1 Scene 3: Compassion
Narrator: Becoming a character and entering into another world is an essential part of acting and an excellent tool to foster empathy and consideration of others. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” Perhaps it is in the empathetic and heartfelt emotional context that drama begins to impact people beyond what a sole cognitive communication will achieve.
(Give case scenarios of real and relevant situations that can have different endings adapted to act out: Scenario: You are playing ball on the playground and someone comes up and takes the ball from you. One group acts in anger, one in compassion.)
Act 2 Scene 1: Characterisation
Narrator: Drama is an additional source of experience to what life already offers; theatre as an education for the emotions. Drama brings together character’s emotions, choices and actions. There are many amazing characters in the Bible and great biblical truths to be taught through these characters.
(What would they do?: Take characters in the Bible and ask, “What would they do?” You are the women at the well, Ruth, Esther or Peter. You could also take on other Christian personas – Mary Jones, Corrie Ten Boon or famous Christian athletes. Play the game “Guess who I’m interviewing.” Encourage empathy and the question of how they feel God’s word wants us to respond.)
Act 2 Scene 2: Cooperation
Narrator: As we reach the end, one final element of drama remains: its power as a great unifier and evangelistic tool. As Christians we need to be working on our partnership and cooperation. As the body of Christ it is good to encourage unity. Any dramatic production will help to see this happen as people with different backgrounds, gifts and talents contribute. Musicals and stage shows are a fantastic way to creatively reach a community.
Basic Musical Tips:
Narrator: We have reached the end of our creative dramatic journey together, a journey of discovery where the heart and mind meet, a journey that allows the use of every ounce of creativity that in God’s grace may help to teach, admonish and encourage one another as we live and glorify our wonderful savior. Thank you to our audience, actors and production team. Enjoy being dramatic. To God be the glory!