It’s that time of the year again! Yes, I know it’s still July but for me, that’s when I start planning for this year’s kids Christmas musical for our church. You might think that’s really early and bit a crazy and it kinda is, but I have a system and it works. It also keeps me from picking out something in a rush that may not be the best for our children’s drama ministry. Drama ministry is my passion. I love it! There is nothing like the feeling that somehow God used a drama to change someone’s life or touch their heart. And yes, kids dramas/musicals can be the most powerful. So, how do you pick out the right one for your church?
I’m going to try to put what I’ve learned from being involved in drama ministry since I was a kid here to help you. Even if you’ve never been over a drama ministry before, you can do this. The main thing is that you have a heart for it, and the rest will fall into place with prayer and planning. Each step should help you narrow done your choices to help you decide which drama/musical/play or skit will work best for your Children’s Drama Ministry.
- I start looking at Children’s Christmas Musicals in July. This is when the newest musicals are typically released so you can check them out early. I take my time perusing the websites and reading the descriptions and previewing the music.
- I also take an inventory of all the kids at our church. Our children’s musicals use kids that are 5 years old to 5/6th grade. Any younger than Kindergarten can either participate in the preschool ministry or the children’s drama depending on their maturity. Look at who comes regularly versus sporadically, to rarely and base your drama selection on the ones you know are consistent and would be willing to participate. Anyone else that shows up is a bonus and can help fill out your choir or be used in other ways. In other words, don’t pick out a musical that has speaking roles for 19 when you know that you’d only have 7 for sure kids.
- Once you have a good idea of how many kids you will have, then you can start to narrow your choices. Like I said before, choose a play for the number of kids that will be committed, not how many you hope to have. You can always split parts into more characters if you have more kids than parts. Having more kids helps to fill out your choir. Also, don’t feel pressured that every child has to have a solo or a speaking role.
- Now that you’ve narrowed down to only the drama/musicals for the number of kids that you have, it’s time to take a more focused look at each choice. Write down how many boys versus girls that you have and their age/grade and compare that the roles in the drama/musical you are thinking about. How many teens or adult roles are there? Do you have people who would be willing to fill those roles? Are the children’s roles gender specific or could you easily change them to fit what you have? Also, think about the personality of the kids you have compared to the personality of the roles in the drama you are looking at. Can the kids you have to work with fit those characters?
- Do you like the music? This is a big one for me. There are musicals I’ve passed on where I’ve liked the drama but couldn’t stand the music. Music speaks in ways that words can’t and it’s important, so make sure you like it and you
thinkknow the kids will like it. You want them to be excited to sing it! What about choreography? Can you picture it? Not everyone can, so enlist help or check to see if they have a choreography/motions DVD to along with it. The music should speak to you, if not, are you able to change the music? Is there another song that fits with the style of the rest of the music that would work? Don’t forget to look at the number of solos? Do you have kids that can fill those? It’s perfectly fine if Suzie can’ perfectly match pitch the whole song, remember they are kids, not professional singers. But on the flip side, you don’t want to put a child in a position that would make them uncomfortable and embarrassed.
- Listen to or read the drama in its entirety if you can. If you can’t view or listen to the whole script on the publisher’s website, see if there is a video of the same drama or musical on YouTube. If that is not an option, you may have to order a preview. Make sure you not only like the message of the drama but that it fits with the views of your church. You can always rewrite lines that are weak, but who wants to rewrite an entire play?
- Can you close your eyes and picture it on your stage? If not, why? It may not be the right one or maybe you need to take a break from it and come back later. Don’t feel like you have to pick one out the day you start looking. That’s another reason I pick July, it gives me all month and part of August if needed. I can look and come back as often as I need. Sometimes when you hear or read about one the first time, you may not like it and then after time away and listening to other musicals you may love it when you come back or vice versa. That’s happened to me more times than I can count.
- Does the musical or drama make you feel an emotion? I always tell my cast, whether they’re kids or adults that the drama they are doing should speak to them as much as it does the audience they are ministering to. For me, I know it’s going to be good if I cry when I listen to it, even if it’s very upbeat. But remember don’t make your decision solely on emotion, it has to fit the above criteria too.
- By now you should have it narrowed down to a few choices. Think about the length of the play. Is 45 minutes too long for the kids you have? You’d be surprised on how long even the most energetic kids can go. Do you only have time for a 20-minute mini-musical? Check the production notes for staging and costumes. Will this work for your church? Do you have people who are willing to help if needed?
- Lastly, if you are still unsure, let your assistant or someone else help you. Sometimes you need another person that is familiar with what you’re doing to listen to the drama/musical. Go over the number of kids versus characters you have. Do they like the music? Is it cost-effective for your church? Another person can be very helpful but remember in the end it is your decision, or at least you and the pastor.
- By now, it’s August and I have the play I really want picked out! The last step once you have narrowed it down is your pastor’s approval if you need it. Think about the budget you will need for sets, costumes, cd’s, etc. for your meeting if you have one.
Even if you have hopes of doing a huge musical, but only have a few kids or a very small church, remember that sometimes the simplest plays can have the biggest impact. You can take a very simple drama and add music to it and it can be just as amazing. You can add lines, additional characters, and music to a simple play or skit and with a set and costumes, it can become something very powerful.
This is why I start in July because it takes time to sift through all the choices that are out there. There are tons! By starting in July, you can take your time and work through them. Then by August you’ve hopefully found the one, gotten approval and you can get started. And now you’re thinking that it’s only August and December is still months away! Yes, but there are rewrites to do, scripts to type, song lyrics to type, copies to be made, sets to design, costumes to sew, etc, and practices begin in mid-September. You heard me! But that’s another post!