“What Happened to Drama in Churches?”
If you follow this blog, you know I have commented in several of the postings about the decline of drama ministry in the church. Willow Creek Community Church was the model that everyone followed and now apparently they too have abandoned drama. Here is a a great commentary on this from one of Willow Creek’s own, Sharon Sherbondy. Please read.. and I would love to hear your thoughts!
What Happened to Drama In Churches?
Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 8 comments
great, relevant article. Thanks for sharing! This has happened at my church as well. As the drama director/playwright/actor I’m really feeling left out; nice to know I’m not alone.
Drama is a language, not a tool. Languages change and evolve but rarely die (unless you want to speak Latin). Tools, however, become extinct when better tools are invented. Because churches used drama as a tool or even a vitamin for church growth, it has come to this. With apologies to Willow Creek, for most churches drama has been a gimmick to get people in the seats, when with more attention and clarity it should and could have been the greatest sermon of all. When it is optional, it is trivial.
Great comment and insight Lin! I am guilty of the “tool” gimmick. Not so much in the heart but in the “selling” of my ministry. I allow myself to go there because the church is looking for the “tool” and I just happen to have one! It is easier to sell the tool than the “language.” Thanks for the reminder!
Wow! Having served in CP now 28 years, rarely having a day that we don’t perform, let alone a Sunday where we’re not serving a church…doing plays not only with conflict but also resolution…I’m shocked to hear the authors blanket statements. I wonder, first of all, where/how she’s done her research to support her claims that “drama is not in the church”?
Cathy and I are in a unique position of having served in the same area for over 20 years now…cultivating relationships with many organizations that use us annually. There is frequently comments like “this was the best yet” or “you keep getting better and better.” I tend to think they’ve forgotten the last performance…the quality of the performing, that is. They often comment on the content, though, which says to me that when the drama is “complete” – from situation to resolution, it will stay pertinent, will be well received, will even be anticipated by the audience.
Drama is not on hiatus!
Kurt, I see where you are coming from, but having been a part of helping so many churches launch drama ministries that are now defunct I also see very much where Sharon is coming from. While you and I may still thrive in a professional since of bringing drama to churches, the fact is that many churches that were making drama a mainstay of their ministry 10 years ago have abandoned it today. The Willow Creek model of drama on a regular basis in worship services is gone. Replaced by the video clip or even nothing in it’s place. For a number of years I was doing several workshops a month and teaching drama tracts at worship conferences all across the country. I think I did one workshop last year and drama tracts at worship conferences are rare if they exist at all. So I have to agree that drama in this form is on hiatus. And when/if it comes back it may not look anything like it did the last round.
There are clearly many different definitions of “drama in the church”. If people’s immediate thought on hearing that phrase is the style typified by Willow Creek, that is a reality that those of us who still do “drama in the church” need to take into account in our promotion of our ministries. The question is, how do we best communicate how God has used / is using / will use the type of drama we offer, in a way that people will understand, and will make them receptive to what we have to offer.
Dr. Jana Jones
I agree that there is a lack of training for the theatrical practitioner wishing to work in church or in professional religious theatres. I wrote a book about this professional problem. In my dissertation, I suggest how this program of study can be adapted to serve as an educational tool for Christian universities of any denominations as well as secular educational institutions.
I compare the different aspects of the Christian-oriented BFA with those of the secular BFA. I discuss how the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Religious Drama is different from the BA degree in Drama Ministry.
This difference can be seen in the Christian faith-based acting method (performing with the anointing of God) versus a standard acting method based on the teachings of Stanislavsky (performing with inspiration). The title of the book is ‘Onstage With God”
As the writer/director of drama at my church I found that when we got a media director with a passion for film, we started doing filmed skits, instead of live, which required much more preparation and time to edit- in turn drama became less frequent. Then the pastors got on a kick to film unscripted testimonies of real people and did a lot of that. Pastors are just as into the latest fad in communication as the culture is, especially since they’re trying so hard to be contemporary.
Also, I think most churches have pastors who don’t want to plan more than a week or two out to give a drama team time to prepare, which is hard. I’ve had pastors invite me to perform only to find out that they were unable to give me at least two weeks notice on the topic so I could write something and prepare.
Then a lot of what’s out there that’s prewritten really sucks. It’s corny or stiff and formal or the feel is very, “I’m a christian and you’re not, so let me explain this to you like you’re 5.” A lot is just poorly written since in the church we think if we’re “gifted” we don’t need to take it seriously and hone our skills to become better. Our standards are low.
We got a Christmas program package from Willow Creek that needed a total re-write because it was so depressing. I think drama has waned in the church because as culture has moved on the church has not kept up with something equally new and creative with it’s drama.