The old joke says “How do you eat an elephant?” Of course, the answer is one bite at a time. For children’s pastors, that’s much the same way to plan a Christmas program. Christmas programs are massive undertakings that are better digested one bite at a time.
The first thing you should do is divide the program up in sections. Find workers to take on each of these sections. You don’t have to use people who normally work in children’s ministry. For instance, the person in charge of costumes doesn’t have to be called to minister to children, but she does have to know how to sew. Find somebody who can take care of each area.
Here’s some ways you might divide up your program into bite size pieces.
Choir Director: The choir director teaches the children the songs. You might contact your music director for an idea of who to use.
Drama Director: The drama director is in charge of teaching the children the speaking parts.
Media Technician: Don’t wait until the last minute to find someone to do the sound, power point, sound effects, and lighting. Have someone from the sound and media department of your church be in charge of this.
Costumes: Choose someone to make, buy, or design costumes for your play. Make sure this person knows exactly what you’re looking for.
Set Design: Look for a creative person who knows how to draw. This person will be in charge of the set design and decorations.
Props: Find a person whose only job is to find the props needed for the play and have them ready for rehearsals and performances. This will take a big load off of you.
Party: If you have a dress rehearsal party or cast party, assign someone else to make the plans and provide the refreshments.
Backstage Director: This person will be in charge of finding people to help the children in their costumes, get them where they need to be when they need to be there, feeding lines to children from the side stage, and keeping the children occupied while they are waiting for the program to begin. You could have more than one person in charge of these different areas.
Stage Director: The stage director is in charge of deciding where the children will stand while they’re doing their parts, where the choir will stand, and where and when everyone will come in. This person will also work with the media director to make sure the children have the right microphones at the right time.
For a Christmas program succeed, it needs to be a team effort.
One important aspect of planning an effective Children’s Ministry Christmas Program is having a good rehearsal schedule. A good rehearsal schedule won’t tire the kids and parents but will have enough practices to make sure the children are comfortable with their parts.
Weekly Practices: These practices are for every child in the program. They should start no later than the beginning of October. Some churches start practices in September. During most of the practices, the choir director should teach the songs everyone sings. If there are any lines that everyone shouts out, the drama director should teach these. The last four to six weekly practices should run through the entire program so the children have a feel for what to expect and when they sing each song. Depending on what’s best for your church, you could have these practices during Children’s Church, midweek class, after church or one evening a week. These practices should be an hour long.
Soloist Practices: Every child who sings a solo or duet should get together at least two or three times with someone who knows music (doesn’t have to be the choir director, but it can) to go over his or her solo. These practices don’t have to be long. They can be for fifteen minutes before or after church.
Drama Practices: These practices are for children who have speaking parts in the program. The children should have a deadline when they have their parts memorized. After they’ve memorized their parts, they should practice at least once a week. The practices should only last a half hour to an hour. If they’re any longer, the children will become bored.
Dress Rehearsal: There should be two dress rehearsals, one a week before the program, and one the day before. The rehearsal on the day before should be mandatory for everyone and should include scenery and props. It is important to have sound and light technicians at these practices.
Cast Party: The final countdown for the Christmas program has begun. How will you get the parents to bring the children to the final dress rehearsal? Have a party for the children after dress rehearsal. You could take them skating, sled riding, or Christmas Caroling. Have pizza or Christmas cookies and hot chocolate for snacks. Remind the parents and children that only those attending dress rehearsal can go to the party. Children are as stressed as children’s workers during rehearsals. A party will allow the children to let out some of that stress before the play. It will also give them the opportunity to bond with their Christian friends.
Written Schedule: Make sure each parent gets a copy of the schedule of practices in writing. You also might want to send home reminders or call the parents to remind them of special practices and dress rehearsals. Let each parent know what you expect from them. Also, if you have a date children need to learn their parts by, let the parents know this. Be flexible, but have guidelines in place for missed practices. The more you communicate with the parents, the easier it will be to get the children to practices.
Rehearsal Supplies: Each parent (not child) should receive supplies to help the child practice at home including a script, songs, CD or DVD with the play, and costume and prop requirements. The sooner the parent receives these supplies the better.
Organization is the key to an effective Children’s Ministry Christmas Program.