Introduction: “Make Disciples of All”
Opening with two short stories that give us a glimpse into the minds of seekers entering the church for the first time, this chapter explains the basic premise of the book: The best way to reach seekers is to present Biblical truths in a way that is both relevant and relatable to them. One of the most effective ways to do this is through theater.
When a lost person watches a service for the first time, hitting them with Bible quotes or focusing on some distant time in history that they feel has nothing to do with them may not be the best approach. We want them to be able to relate to our message, understand how it pertains to them and can make a positive change in their life.
Theater is a user-friendly, effective way to introduce people to the subject of the day, ease their mind, and engage their hearts.
Chapter 2: The Ten Commandments of Church Theater
There are ten rules to presenting church drama… unfortunately nobody seems to know what they are! So, instead, this section explores a variety of ways a church can choose to touch lives through theater.
GI JOE OR CENTURIONS? – This chapter discusses the merits of modern settings VS period plays. There are great advantages to doing contemporary scenes that our audience can relate to as opposed to biblical costume dramas.
LESSON UP! – Should drama in church only be used to introduce a subject, leaving the pastor to teach, or can the drama itself contain a lesson? Using examples of two scripts, The Easter Bunny Learns About Jesus and The X-Files, Rory shows how direct teaching can be seamlessly integrated into the dramatic experience.
THE COVENANT OF THE ARC – The importance of a character arc within a dramatic lesson to show a person’s change of heart or attitude.
IT’S A SET UP! – How dramas that ask hard questions but provide no answer or closure can be an effective way to introduce a difficult subject.
CHURCH? FUN? AW, COME ON! – Once in a great while a drama that neither teaches nor paves the way for a subject is appealing. These “special occasion” dramas are written just for fun, with no message whatsoever! Why in the world would we do such a thing in church?
AND NOW, A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR – Those pesky announcements! Sure, business is business, but they sure do break up the flow of Sunday services. But what if people started looking forward to them? This chapter teaches the art of integrating live or video commercials into a service to promote various church activities in an entertaining way.
SERIAL KILLERS – The advantages and difficulties of presenting a serial drama that unfolds over several weeks in a sermon series.
Chapter 3: Variety Is The Spice Of Life
One of the great attributes of drama is that it comes in many forms. Here are many different styles that can be used in your services, appealing to a wide variety of taste.
ALLEGORIES – Teach as Jesus did! Create characters and events that represent other people and things, symbolically expressing a deeper meaning. This technique also allows us to present difficult and sensitive subjects on stage without offending our congregations.
THE CLASSICS “RE-IMAGINED” – How to modernize parables and other biblical tales to take place in contemporary times without changing the meaning or lesson.
HEEEERE’S JESUS! – The effectiveness of having characters directly discuss religious subjects, thereby letting your audience know that they aren’t the only people with questions and providing ways for them to answer questions from others.
ONE VOICE IN THE DARKNESS – A discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of working alone on stage and how monologues don’t necessarily need to be presented by a single actor.
REALITY SHOWS – The importance of making a clear distinction between fictional dramas and real testimonies.
STAND-UP COMEDY ROUTINES – How to use the techniques of stand-up comedians to write funny scripts; and where to find tons of material.
HALLELUJAH HOLLYWOOD! – The use of parodies of Hollywood movies to make a point that people can relax with, enjoy, and relate to.
Chapter 4: It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
CRAZY CHARACTERS – The joy of over-the-top characters that your congregation will love, remember, and want to see again and again. The advantage of featuring recurring, relatable characters.
BLOW THEM AWAY! – How to create outlandish, high-concept scripts that will stay in people’s memories for years.
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! BUZZ MOMENTS – How to create moments in your service that people will talk to their friends about therefore generate outside interest in your church. Also a discussion on the folly of trying to outdo yourself week after week.
PRESENTED IN 3-D! – Adding another level of dimension is always exciting – in this case Interactive Participation in the service. Get your congregation out of their seats and involved in the lesson with hands-on participation! And don’t forget to make your entire environment immersive, not just on-stage, but in the lobby and outside as well.
GIFTS AND GIVEAWAYS – Effective techniques of giving your congregation souvenirs that will remind them on a daily basis of the lessons taught.
Chapter 5: Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!
THINGS TO AVOID – The importance of being sensitive to the tastes of your congregation and staying within their boundaries; including a useful list of things to avoid in church.
Chapter 6: Basic Training
This section of the book deals with many of the basics:
• How long a drama should last
• How to schedule and lead rehearsals
• Basic staging skills
• Utilizing dance
• Props – the joy and value of eye-catching set pieces
• Costuming – simple tips and what to avoid
• The Big Picture – Making your entire service work together for the utmost effectiveness
• Enhancing your dramas with music
• Dancing before the Lord
• Communion Meditations – tying them into the drama
• The Pastor/Drama Relationship – the importance of the pastor using the drama as a reference point in his message
• After the Service – Your relationship with your congregation doesn’t stop when you step off the stage
Chapter 7: The Write Stuff
A tutorial on how to write original, customized scripts that specifically fulfills your church’s needs. It takes the reader, step-by-step through the process, including:
• Connecting with God through prayer before starting
• Brainstorming with a team
• The advantages an actor has as a writer
• The art of naming characters
• Why and how to give your work meaningful titles
• How to actually be grateful for criticism
• An effective technique for writing Group or Shuffled Monologues
• The importance of sharing the script with elders and staff for approval before presenting it on stage.
This section also includes a special gift to the reader: a list of original ideas that he or she is welcome to develop into scripts.
To conclude, Rory gives an impassioned pitch on the value of excellence.
Chapter 8: It’ll Take More Than Seven Days!
This is a guide on how to create a Drama Ministry. It will equip the reader with ways to successfully champion the idea of drama in church to traditional pastors, elders, and congregations – includes resources to help them present their case. It also includes information on how to build a team and maintain it as a healthy, happy, fulfilled group of volunteers.
Chapter 9: Dramatic Results
A wonderful, heartwarming, true story about how drama ministry completely changed the life of one family.
Afterward: The Greatest Job in Show Biz!
Rory explains why he believes that changing lives by presenting God’s word to the world is more important than writing or acting in the biggest Hollywood blockbuster.