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Friday, September 22, 2006


Philosophy of Children's Worship Drama

My wife and I are the volunteer drama ministers at our church, First Baptist Church of Kerrville. This is part one of a series, Page to Stage, that will walk you through our process for bringing drama to life in our church.

Writing drama for church is tricky and backwards. It is an attempt to communicate a descriptive truth, rather than a prescriptive truth. However, the organizational process often includes sitting down the curriculum or sermon. Then asking, how can I illustrate this moral?

This is precisely the wrong way to write good descriptive truth. (Or good anything for that matter.)

You're probably wondering what I mean by descriptive truth. In "Behind the Lens", Hollywood director Scott Derrickson defines it well.

He writes,
"The church loves truth in its prescriptive form, truth that says, "Here's what's wrong, and here's how you fix it. Here's the diagnosis, and here's the cure." The truth of the artist, although far more often descriptive, is still truth. Church people are uncomfortable with too much descriptive truth. It's often ugly, confusing, disorienting, problematic, wild and sensual. But prescriptive and descriptive truth don't cancel each other out. They coexist. Films and screenplays can contain prescriptive truth, but unless they're also saturated with descriptive truth they won't work." (emphasis mine)
Sir Philip Sidney, a writer who inspired Shakespeare, made a similar claim four hundred years ago in his essay Defense of Poesy. He wrote that good writing should teach and delight. Sidney wasn't talking about Hollywood or Christian drama specifically, but his advice holds true for writing today.

So what does all this have to do with children's drama? Do we really need to consider our philosophical approach to art when we're just reenacting the story of Moses striking a rock at God's command?

Yes, yes, yes!

If any message deserves our utmost attention in the telling, it is the gospel message. If any audience deserves our most thoughtful philosophical approach, it's our children.

"Of course," someone might say, "Sidney and Derrickson are talking about art, not children's drama on Wednesday night."

Oooooh. I hate that. If you don't like watching cheesy, didactic propaganda, why do you think kids will? Kids especially know a good story when they hear one. Finding Nemo is a good story. Doogal is not.

As I write drama for our children's ministry I try to remember one thing: this is a chance to bring the gospel story to life. This is not about bringing sermon illustrations to life. This is not about creating an elaborate pneumonic for memorizing biblical details. Good drama is a chance for the body of Christ to make the Word become flesh again—through our own flesh and the visceral stories of descriptive truth that come from our flesh.

I promise to get practical in the next post.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
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