Planning a Christmas play takes a lot of work and commitment but even the best-laid plans are subject to change when kids get involved. How many times have you held a month of rehearsals (or more) only to have five new kids show up the week before the big event? It has happened to me more than once. The worst-case scenario is assigning lines to a core group then having absent spaces at the play’s premiere. (Been there too!) Sending a frightened, unprepared child out on stage seems a bit mean.
I gave up the complicated Christmas plays with the expensive backdrops and choreographed dances. (I do tend to do things big.) Experience has taught me a few things about Christmas plays. Number one: keep it simple! (This is lesson two through ten, too.) Stick with what you know and most of all have fun.
Lead the angels. Invest in a few inexpensive instruments like bells, tambourines or drums and lead an angel band. It’s easy for kids to tap and jingle along to recorded songs. It doesn’t take a lot of practice and parents don’t mind if kids are off beat. Another idea that I’ve used is an angel choir. Make garland halos and let children hold battery-operated candles while they sing, “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Host a Christmas variety show. Instead of planning a play, offer 2 to 3 minutes spots in a Christmas variety show. Of course, you’ll have to review the acts before Christmas, just in case a mini-Elvis impersonator needs some instruction. (Yes, this happened to me.) Create an itinerary and use slide shows and adult performers to fill in blanks.
Narrate the Nativity Story. When in doubt, stick to the gospel of Matthew or Luke. Narrate the nativity story or assign someone the narration part. Kids can act out the parts without learning any lines.
Rely on teens to help you. Never underestimate the power of a teen’s influence over a child. I have found that kids sometimes resist getting on stage; teens can really help a child overcome a case of nerves.
Follow Charlie Brown’s example. Charles Schultz left the world a wonderful gift. A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the most viewed Christmas programs still to this day. Download the soundtrack and select a few songs from the CD to act out. Charlie Brown delivers the gospel message in a fun, special way.