An idea for building fellowship using fun, intentionally…
At His Feet and in the Footlights
Being “shy” as a child, I purposed, while at university, to STOP being scared of speaking in front of people or expressing my abilities where they could be used or welcomed. There is nothing wrong, I said to myself, with not WANTING to speak in front of others or being in the spotlight, but there IS something most unpleasant about being AFRAID to do something you WANT to be able to do or feel you NEED to be doing!
My father wisely suggested I take a Public Speaking course (for a grade?? Are you crazy?? ) I couldn’t do that, but I did put myself, purposely, into situations where I would have to speak. As I pursued this, I noticed that the more confident I became speaking in front of others, the more confident I became sharing my faith. Wow. I hadn’t fully realized what was going on. Fear of speaking is stifling. The fear clouds your mind to what your heart and brain have to offer. Fear feeds the lie that we have nothing to say. Nothing to say?? As believers, we have EVERYTHING to say!
When I became a Shabbat school teacher, I recognized that same fear in our students. As I set about to quench that fear, I discovered that the drama productions which I used as the vehicle, not only helped fight that fear, but they produced unexpected additional benefits which I will share with you here.
If your congregation regularly produces dramatic presentations, you are bringing more to your brothers and sisters than you may realize. If such presentations are not so much a part of your worship life, perhaps you could consider them and bring “home grown” theater to yours for Purim and/or Hanukkah or even as a “special segment” monthly in your Shabbat Service.
Here are a few more reasons WHY and some ideas as to HOW to do this:
1. Fun! We are joy-filled simply because God is with us and our Messiah has come! And…doing things that make us smile (and laugh robustly) while also being honoring and respectful, bring the whole being He created in us into our worship…the reverent and the joyful. And joy brings us together and helps open our hearts!
2. Witness. Being comfortable on stage is partly a function of personality and primarily a function of PRACTICE! Very few of us will be called TO the stage as adults, but we are ALL called to be a light! How much easier will it be for our congregation’s children (and adults!) to comfortably be a light to others if they have become comfortable sharing, speaking, and responding well on a stage?
3. Fellowship. Working together builds fellowship/relationships. Drama activities are a way to bring both new and established members, and even visitors, together in an activity that many enjoy, but few have access to. Drama appeals to all age levels (especially teens and 20’s/30’s) and give all age levels a “reason” and an opportunity to work together regardless of their position or tenure in the congregation. It mixes young with old, familiar with unfamiliar, professional with amateur in a fun, non-judgmental activity where people can “do” what they enjoy doing…acting, singing, managing, building, assembling, sewing…each production can be based upon the skill sets available.
1. Find a ”Producer” or administrative-type leader. This leader doesn’t have to be a theater professional (actually, NO ONE in this ministry does!). They need to be able to keep their eye on the specific purpose of this project/ministry. (Perhaps the primary purpose is Fellowship, knowing that all or our actions are always to be in Witness). This is an event to bring congregants together, create a platform to connect with new members and to bring teens and young adults into peer relationships with older congregants. This individual needs to be able to organize people and details. This person may or may not be your Director as well…it doesn’t matter.
2. Find a Director. Your Director will be someone who likes to assemble teams to get the job done and has an eye for the audience and a heart for the cast and crew. We want to do the very best work we can AND we want everyone to be able to successfully contribute and ENJOY the process. (Hollywood doesn’t have THAT requirement! But, then, they do pay their cast and crew…we pay in fun and purpose!)
3. Find a subject to present. You may have someone who LIKES to write plays or skits…look around! There should be a lesson, but this is not a substitute for the Rabbi’s message. Don’t focus on heavy teaching. This is fun. We are building relationships so we can share and learn and support one another in the congregation. Perhaps a presentation is thought-provoking, perhaps reflective, perhaps self-deprecating…it can be poignant or funny…or both! Or you can find a pre-written skit and adapt it to your needs. Perhaps team up with another congregation in another city to trade scripts and/or props. If not, there are scripts available in libraries and on-line.
4. Adapt. Let anyone who wants to join in participate! Make script accommodations for all who want to act…put them in roles that will make their talents shine (whether they are classic talents or humble ones). Work to produce excellent work but remember, no one is getting paid and we have a “friendly” audience. The goal is building relationships.
5. Think out of the box. Cultivate the talent you have in house. You may be surprised what an accountant by day enjoyed as a hobby as a college student! Or what a gift a grocery clerk has for making people laugh. Or how talented a pest control technician is with graphics and computer sound tracks. Or what an office worker can do with a background in ballet and a dream during Yom HaShoah.
6. Gather your own costumes. Use what you have…the more colorful and fun, the better. Inexpensive wigs are fun and help actors get into their characters. (If you keep them in individual bags so they don’t get tangled, they can last a very long time!) Choose one apparel item to proclaim that character’s role then be creative with what you/they have in their closet. (Remember, this is not Hollywood…this is fun!) If you have someone who enjoys sewing, let them make specific items you can use over and over again. If you don’t, people have amazing things in their closets!
7. Think way out of the box. Don’t limit yourself to Bible times or locations to tell a Biblical story or to illustrate a Biblical principal. Pick a time period (1920’s? 1960’s?) and/or a world region (Scandinavia? American South?) and tell the story from THAT vantage point. It will be memorable, fun, and reminds us that His word is true for ALL times and places.
8. Don’t expect your cast to memorize many lines. Some people can and will memorize lines…let others have clever ways to hide them…perhaps projected onto a back wall…on a fake menu…on a hand mirror they keep looking int, etc. Cast people in roles with lines that will make them enjoy their contribution! (And remember, you want to do your best AND you have a friendly, eager audience!)
9. Use music if you can. Individually mic those with stronger voices who can lead the other singers or sing over pre-recorded music. Use Messianic music or re-write the lyrics to popular songs to tell the story. (Choose songs the majority of your congregation will recognize.)
10. Maximize your internal audience. Give younger children an “act” of their own that tells part of the story. Ask the Shabbat school teachers to manage that portion separately from the Director…perhaps a song or a song with actions or short dialog with a song. Children in a production will “bring” their parents and their extended family…and it builds generational connections for those not actively involved in teaching. Give them some element of a costume or head gear that is fun/cute…a little face painting goes a long way (even if it is just a black nose for a sheep and cotton balls glued to a head band).
11. Invite, invite, invite! Consider starting with a small production during Shabbat service and invite friends and family…as you grow, or for Purim and/or Hanukkah celebrations, think bigger and invite more broadly. This serves as a “comfortable” way for someone new to visit your congregation with a member-friend and it helps convey who we are to our community of friends who may be seeking Him in a different context.
12. Realize there is a learning curve. The process, though, IS this ministry! And there is more talent among you than you imagined. (Well, of course! Look at our Inspiration!)
Have fun! Shalom!