By Laura and Robert Keeley
Ah, the Christmas program. The annual event guaranteed to make parents beam with pride, kids do the unpredictable, and Children’s Ministry Directors break out in a cold sweat!
If you’re in that director’s chair this year, expect the unexpected! And read on to find some great tips to make this year’s program both a joy to watch and a joy to plan.
Know Your Audience
Before you begin planning and rehearsing, take a good look at the congregation and community you are a part of.
Does your church have certain Christmas program traditions (each child always receives a box of candy or an orange)? Certain time constraints? Certain expectations (it must always take place on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning)? Make sure you honor them.
Also remember that the Christmas program is, by its very nature, intergenerational. The children should enjoy participating in it. But adults should enjoy watching it too. It should deliver a message that children and adults both will find appealing and understandable.
Make Your Program Kid-Friendly
Look for a program that’s easy to produce and fun for kids to participate in. Some of the following guidelines may help you make your choice.
- Make sure children’s parts are written in short sentences with very few long speeches.
- Let kids read the script during the presentation instead of memorizing it. Print the script in large print and put it on music stands. Remember to lower the stands so the audience can still see some faces!
- Spend a few minutes showing the children how to speak into a microphone.
Use Your Program to Build Community
The annual program is an event that the whole church community—families with children, singles, older adults—can be involved in.
- Your congregation is full of gifted people—both children and adults—who’d love to be involved, in non-acting roles, in the program. They can make backdrops, prepare programs, greet the audience, make treats, play instruments, prepare costumes, babysit. . . well, you get the idea!
- Consider using a few well-prepared adults in support roles for children. That’s one way of making things run smoothly without multiple rehearsals.
- Use casting to build community rather than elevate a select few children. Eliminate the need for tryouts by giving every child in a grade level a part. Feel free to adjust the script to meet the needs of your group.
Most important, enjoy yourself! What we remember best about planning and preparing for these programs is the many different faces of the children God has blessed our program with and the joy we have getting to know each of them.
The Keeleys are codirectors of children’s ministries at Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. They are also the authors of the Quick & Easy Christmas Program series, available from Faith Alive Christian Resources.