Christmas pageants are not my thing. I’ll just say that at the beginning. When I was at Asbury, I purposely stayed away from having any involvement, whatsoever, with the Christmas pageant. When I started at First Presbyterian last year, someone was already in charge of the pageant, and so I just showed up to help corral children. And this year, I was not that excited about trying to find a pageant to do…until I read Theresa Cho’s blog post entitled “No Stress, No Fuss Christmas Pageant.” In her post, she shared about a super easy way to put on a Christmas pageant (which she actually adapted from Carolyn Peters, a DCE in at Grace Presbyterian Church in Beaver Damn, Wisconsin), and I wanted to give it a try.
Let me share with you the highlights after we attempted this for the first time:
- Parents appreciated not having one more thing to drag their kids to during Advent.
- Kids didn’t have to memorize parts, learn songs or do anything other than show up.
- Adults of all ages from our congregation participated…and some of them really got into it.
- I grabbed a couple middle school guys who are talented musicians and we led most of the music in the pageant.
- People’s comments after church consisted of things like “I think this was the best Christmas pageant I’ve ever seen here” to “That was so amazing how everyone could take part in it” to “This was so much fun – and put together so well” (I don’t think they knew we hadn’t rehearsed).
- Kids had fun. We had children, that for a variety of reasons wouldn’t have signed up to be in a pageant or wouldn’t have been able to sit through rehearsals, having the chance to really embrace this pageant and participate in it fully.
So, this is how we did it (and how you can too).
As Theresa mentioned in her post, you really just need someone who can coordinate the costumes. I have a dream volunteer who is amazing and super organized and was ready, willing and able to take on organizing the costumes, handling props and editing the script. She had them all organized by “scene” in the narthex and had some folks in the back with her to help her do some quick costume changes for the kids.
The pageant essentially consists of “scenes” in which children and folks from the church can dress up to play the parts (Marys, Josephs, wise people, shepherds, animals, etc) that are being talked about in each scene. We had some of our children actually read the parts in the scenes, but you could also just have one narrator as well. The nice thing about something like this is that you can do it so many different ways. And, as many people remarked last Sunday, you could do the same thing next year, and it would feel different because you’d have different people playing all the parts.
We also just recently had a new audio/visual system installed in our church’s sanctuary, so we took full advantage of that and made some “backdrops” with artwork found online that could add to the scenes and props, but not require hours and hours of building and/or painting a set.
I’ve put together a zipped file that includes our version of the script and the PowerPoint we used, and you can download it here.
I get that some churches really love their Christmas pageants. And maybe you have a big drama ministry or very large children and youth choirs. But that’s not most Presbyterian churches. And this is a pageant that can be just as meaningful, if not more, for all the participants and the congregation, and you can really do it with little-to-no stress or fuss. And that makes it that much more enjoyable for everyone involved: you, volunteers, parents and children.
After doing a pageant like this, I can’t imagine doing one any other way…at least not in the context where I’m at now, where we don’t have a large number of children. And for me, the person who really doesn’t care for Christmas pageants, I can empower some amazing volunteers, communicate a little with the parents, and get a chance to see the children and adults in our congregation come up with a pretty damn good Christmas pageant.
Why make something more elaborate and stressful than it needs to be during this season, anyway? This Christmas pageant allows children to tell the story of Christmas, sing a little, and get a chance to enact the story along with other members of the congregation. And that sounds pretty good to me.