When a youth pastor from Oregon called my church to ask, "We're ready to start using drama with our youth group, can you help us?" "No,'' I had to say honestly, "we're planning on working with them next." Drama at our church started with the worship services, then moved to puppetry and skits for the kids and then on to drama in the youth programs.
My Oregon friend worked the opposite way with drama, starting with the kids, moving to the youth, and finally the worship service. I was pretty impressed with this tack; by involving the kids, they were developing a ministry with a large pool of actors to draw from and generations of team members.
When asked why drama is a good connection point with the next generation, Rob Clyde, once a leader for Generational Ministries at Northland Community Church in Florida, just laughed, "Because it's cool!" Each week he looks for ways to engage the very visual minds of today's youth. "Students respect film and video as a medium, and theater is part of that same genre. Using drama to speak a message of truth makes a connection more than words alone."
So, how do you jump into the swirling waters of youth ministry with drama? Here are a few ways you can dip your toe in and test the temperature:
HAVE SOME FUN
Have the adults offer to do a sketch for the youth group. Pick one that pokes a little fun at yourselves. Laugh about adult stereotypes or how you see yourself, and they will receive drama from you.
FIND AN ALLY
Is there someone in the youth group who is part of their high school Thespian Troupe or was in the school play? Enlist her help to start a youth team. Ask her to perform a monologue and afterwards invite other students to join a youth drama team. Finding a student leader you can mentor will encourage more participation. It will make your job easier too - a student leader can help you understand what themes and what type of humor will appeal to the group.
BE A MENTOR
Allow the students to rehearse together, socialize together and form a small group. Offer ideas for scripts, then have a student leader choose the sketch. Give some preliminary blocking and character notes, then let them work on it themselves with you coming to the dress rehearsal. Give your notes to the student director and let her give them to the cast. By involving her in the process, you will build a team whose talents are being fully explored. In this digital, cellular, internet, fast food world, drama is a great way to connect with our kids. They have grown up with visual images as a primary means of communication and doing drama for them and with them will engage them in the message of the Gospel in an exciting way.