- We want to start a drama group in our church, and I'm in charge. Where can I find help?
- Our pastor will be preaching on forgiveness. Where can I find a sketch that will be appropriate for the service?
- We want to do an outreach evening for our community. What drama could we perform that would be fun and yet meaningful?
Over and over we receive questions like these in our theater office. They come from congregations who are interested in incorporating drama in worship, and over the last ten years their number has mushroomed.
For the beginner, the path to building a viable drama ministry is often beset with difficulties—not the least of which is locating resources and training aids. Even for the veteran drama group, finding resource material is often a struggle.
Well, there is good news! Help and resources are becoming more abundant and accessible. Several publishers and groups are now specifically addressing the church drama market. Many others have materials available, if you know how and where to look.
But the process is not simple, nor is the acquisition of desired scripts a surefire thing. You will do a lot of reading, and, unfortunately, spend some money on scripts you will not use. There seems to be no shortcut to the time-consuming, sometimes costly research necessary, unless your church is blessed with excellent writers who consistently produce quality scripts that fit your situation and purpose.
Providing guidance through the resources jungle is somewhat difficult, because needs and artistic expectations vary widely from individual to individual and from group to group. And quality varies greatly, even in works from a particular publisher or resource. Explanations in catalogs, although helpful, give little indication of actual style or quality. You will learn to trust certain writers or sources, but this simply takes experience. So if the source is new to you, try a limited order just to get a feel for what they have to offer. A few of the publishers distribute their publications through bookstores, and you have the opportunity to peruse the works briefly, at least.
The list on these pages should give you a place to start locating sketches and training materials, or provide new possibilities for your ongoing search. (By the way, even church drama has artistic protections! Clarify royalty and permission requirements; they are unique to each provider.)
(Listed in Suggested Contact Order)
Lillenas Drama Co., PO Box 419527, Kansas City, MO 64141; (816) 931-1900. Orders: (800) 877-0700; fax (800) 849-9827.
One of the largest and busiest publishers of church drama resources with an extensive collection of dramas suited to a variety of applications— including worship, youth, family, and outreach. Numerous sketch collections, one-acts, and some full-length works are complemented by an array of program builders, how-to books, and technical aids. Distributed through religious bookstores. Each February, Lillenas hosts a major church drama conference.
Willow Creek Community Church materials, distributed through Zondervan DirectSource, PO Box 668, Holmes, PA 19043-9631; (800) 876-7335.
Certainly the leader in making popular the pre-sermon sketch, Willow Creek makes available their original scripts (average six minutes). These sketches by various writers are often open-ended and are intended to raise questions and issues that will be addressed by the pastor. Over 350 sketches are indexed by topic; catalog updated annually. Available by volume or singly. Videos of selected sketches, along with instructions to actors and directors, are also available. Scripts are $15.00 each, which grants the purchasing organization performance permission. Churches that become members of the Willow Creek Association receive discounts on product purchases.
Baptist Sunday School Board, 127 Ninth Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37202-0113; (800) 458-2772.
Offers numerous drama, puppetry, and clowning scripts, skits, and how-to books. Also offers the National Drama Seivice, a quarterly periodical providing articles, information, and scripts for worship, education, missions/evangelism, and fellowship. Cost is $25. Sponsors drama conferences annually.
Baker's Plays, Inc., 100 Chauncy Street, Boston, MA 02111-1783; (617)482-1280.
Major source of general plays—one of the largest distributors of full-length plays and one-acts. Write for "Catalogue of Religious Plays," which lists primarily one-acts and collections of shorter pieces. Royalty required. How-to books are also available.
Alexandria House, 3310 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203; (800) 546-2539 ext. 117.
Distributors for sketches from Coral Key Publications and Sightlines Scripts.
Word Drama Resources, PO Box 2518, Waco, TX 76702-9977; (800) 933-9673 ext. 2037.
The Drama in Worship series provides slice-of-life sketches. The Living Word series features sketches based on biblical events or characters. Seekers is geared toward the unchurched.
Chapel of the Air, PO Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60989; (800) 827-2682.
Although their sketches are published as part of a complete Bible study series and are currently only available by purchasing a $40 leader's manual, the group is considering accommodating drama-only purchases.
Baker Book House, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516; (800) 877-2665; fax (616) 676-9573.
Some monologues and short plays and contemporary-issue sketches in a seeker-sensitive format. Audiotapes accompany some scripts.
Meriwether Publishing Ltd., PO Box 7710-T9, Colorado Springs, CO 80933; (800) 93PLAYS; fax (719) 594-9916.
Meriwether publishes a few books relating to church drama and also handles the Contemporary Drama Service collection. Write for "Christian Drama Resources" catalog.
Christ Community Church, 37W100 Bolcum Rd., St. Charles, IL 60175; (708) 513-7500.
Another church making available its sketches. Over 100 listed in catalog, with short synopsis of each. (No index, however.)
Communication Resources, 4150 Belden Village St. #400, Canton, OH 44718; (800) 992-2144.
In addition to a regular series of sketch collections for the church, they offer a newsletter containing articles on all aspects of production and writing. Also carries Cross Point Scripts.
Continental Ministries (Jeremiah People), PO Box 23160, Ventura, CA 93002.
Several collections of scripts are available from this national touring company.
Covenant Players, PO Box 2900, Oxnard, CA 93034; (805) 486-7155.
This drama group, which tours internationally, offers some of its original sketches.
Creative Christian Media Service, 7220 Avenida Encinas, Suite 135, Carlsbad, CA 92009; (800) 575-CCMS; fax (619) 431-9878.
Over 300 sketches that have been used by a drama team are available. Most are slice-of-life. Indexed on "Topic Search Sheet." Drama consulting services and assistance in locating scripts for specific needs are offered.
Cross Point Scripts, 1586 Wiltshire Road, Akron, OH 44313; (800) 98DRAMA.
Very similar to Willow Creek, with a wide range of resources. They also publish a monthly magazine with dramas, clip art, and music and sermon text suggestions; very helpful and complete.
Friends of the Groom, 909 Center St., Milford, OH 45150; (513) 831-2859; e-mail: email@example.com
One-act plays, a couple of full-length works, a few collections, storytelling scripts, and some audiotapes are available. All are production-tested by Friends of the Groom.
Hope Center Covenant Church, 2275 Morella Ave., Pleasant Hills, CA 94523; (510) 685-4673.
Hope Church has incorporated sketches in their services for seventeen years. Cataloged by topic and Scripture, the scripts are available singly or through a subscription service.
House of Prayer Ministries, 2428 Florian Ct., Decatur, IL 62526; (217) 428-7077.
This group has published five sketch books, a book with five Christmas plays, and a drama handbook. The sketch collections sell for $10.
Johnson, Paul and Nicole, 254 Glenstone Circle, Brentwood, TN 37027-3917; (615) 377-0093.
The Johnsons, a professional touring drama team, offer two-person sketches they have created. The scripts usually deal with contemporaiy issues, often in a humorous manner.
Lamb's Players, PO Box 182229, Coronado, CA 92178; (800) 832-5262.
A long-standing Christian professional theater company offers a collection of sketches and a practical guide, Developing a Church Drama Group.
Lampost Theater Co., 422 Heritage Rd., Cedar Falls, IA 50613; (319) 277-8034.
This touring group has published several of its production-tested sketches. Their newest publication is a combination script/production-helps effort, with an emphasis on mime ministry.
Oak Hills Community Church, 1100 Blue Ravine Rd., Folsom, CA 95630; (916) 983-0181.
New source for scripts written for the seeker-sensitive congregation.
Plastow Publications, now distributed by PraiseGathering Music Group, PO Box 715, Alexandria, IN 46001; (800) 888-1330.
Has a series of twenty-seven sketch collections of slice-of-life scripts, indexed by topic and Scripture verse. The majority of sketches are 3-6 minutes. Some seasonal pieces are longer (one-act length).
Scription Drama Company, 11324 Flower St., Riverside, CA 92505; (909) 688-8564.
In a readers' theater format, Scription offers Scripture packets, interactive readings, and classic-style scripts.
Slice O' Life Resources, PO Box 1181, St. Louis, MO 63031; (800) 83SLICE.
Music/drama packets with suggestions ($19.95 each).
Youth Specialties, 1224 Greenfield Dr., El Cajon, CA 92021; (619) 440-2333.
Various sketches are included in youth program guidelines.
CITA, PO Box 26471, Greenville, SC 29616; phone & fax (803) 271-2116.
One final relevant resource is an international networking organization, CITA (Christians In Theatre Arts). Dedicated to assisting the communication and support of Christians working in all arenas of the dramatic arts—church, school, college, community and professional theater—CITA offers church dramatists the following:
- An extensive bibliography of resources, updated annually. The list itemizes entries for all genre of dramatic materials, published and unpublished, as well as a number of individual playwrights to contact.
- Software—Drama for the Church Sketch Directory, version 5.0 compiled by Kimberly Creasman.
- Available in either IBM (Windows or DOS) or Macintosh with HyperCard versions. This computer database lists over 1,000 sketches published by dozens of companies by title, author, topic and number in cast. This annotated sketch bibliography is designed to be a script-search tool and does not contain actual scripts.
- Networking contacts—find other Christians in your area who are involved in drama.
- Drama conferences sponsored by CITA on a regional, national, and international level and data on other numerous seminars and conferences held across the country.
- Newsletter and journal exploring theoretical and practical topics.
GUIDELINES FOR INTRODUCING DRAMA IN WORSHIP
- Look for dramas with parts for no more than two or three people. The more people involved the harder it is to find enough rehearsal time. We rarely use four or five people. It just takes too much time to be able to pull it off well.
- Look for dramas that only last three to five minutes. Few amateurs have the time to memorize and rehearse longer scripts.
- Get Scripture texts and sermon themes as far ahead as possible. Then look for dramas that essentially ask questions and raise issues that the Scripture and sermon will address. Treat the drama as a means to introduce issues, not provide answers. Let Scripture and sermon do that.
- Consider where in the service the drama fits best liturgically. Placement depends on the content and context. For example, we have used dramas as prelude, as a call to confession, or just before the sermon.
-Randy Umfleet, director of line arts for Sunshine Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.