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Some Ideas to Have Children “Up Front” in Your Congregation’s Worship Services Part III – Drama in the Chancel

A Little Drama Goes a Long Way

The word drama comes from the Greek word dran that means to “do or act.” We often speak about the act of worship because worship is something we do to give praise, thanks, and adoration to our loving God who has acted on our behalf. Our Lord, Jesus, saved us through His saving acts of birth, death, and resurrection. Christ’s story has been referred to as the “greatest story ever told,” and we have seen many dramatic retellings of the salvation story in movies, plays, and musicals.[1]

 Many Christian congregations call on children of all ages to act out what is sometimes called a “Christmas program.” That is a misnomer. The retelling of the Christmas story is not a program, it is a worship service led by children! The children led Christmas service is one of the few times that children have the opportunity to lead the congregation in worship in many churches, but it shouldn’t be the only time.

 Children are capable of dramatic leadership in worship anytime during the church year, and here is one suggestion for them to speak and act “up front” in worship services. Have the children act out Bible stories with the simplest form of drama – the echo pantomime. For this example, I’ve selected the story of the boy Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:40-52). Here’s how it’s done:

  • Look in the hymnal to find a Gospel reading for a particular Sunday that tells a Bible story. Look online at the LC-MS web site (https://www.lcms.org/worship/lectionary-series) for the 2021-2022 Church Year Calendar (Series C) Luke 2:40–52 – Second Sunday after Christmas – or go to the front of the Lutheran Service Book, page xviii, Christmas 2 Gospel reading.
  • Click on https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A40-52&version=ESV and look up the passage. Then highlight and copy the passage and put it into a WORD document to write the script.
  • Read the story and then retell it in a simplified script made up of short phrases so young children can understand and participate in the words and actions.
  • To do the echo pantomime, you, or better yet an older grade school or high school student, say the phrases while doing simple pantomime gestures that accompany the words. The congregation stands (as they are able) and repeats (echoes) both the words and actions of the leader.
  • Select a group of children to help show and tell the story. They stand on either side of the leader (storyteller) and echo his/her words and gestures. The leader should stand on a box so he/she can be easily seen by the congregation. Children should stand on a step that leads up to the altar area if permissible.
  • Rehearse the echo pantomime during Sunday school or school class time so that everyone knows how to repeat the words and gestures.
  • Below is a script that you can feel free to copy and use. Modify it as you like or have children write their own version.
  • Before the start of the echo pantomime, the storyteller explains exactly what will happen.
  • A copy of the script is attached here
  • A video is attached here

 Echo pantomimes are little dramas that can go a long way to helping children and adults remember the Bible stories and help to put children in leadership roles during a worship service. They are also great for teaching Sunday school lessons and, with a little guidance, children can write and perform them to each other and to their parents, friends, and congregation members. Start preparing one now that you can use in the very near future. I think you’ll find that just about everyone in the congregation will remember the story because they were active participants as they listened, repeated, and pantomimed the Good News together.

The unfolding of Your [glorious] words give light; Their unfolding gives understanding to the simple (childlike).

Psalm 119:130 (AMP)

Next time…More ways for children to present the scriptures in worship services…

[1] See: The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, The Passion of the Christ, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Son of God, Quo Vadis, The Robe, The Oberammergau Passion Play (performed nearly every 10 years since 1633 – next performed May-Oct., 2022), Jesus Christ, Superstar, etc.


Dr. Jeffrey E. Burkart, former Associate Dean of the College of Vocation and Ministry and Coordinator of Lutheran Teacher Education, now serves in retirement as Emeritus Professor of Education and Artist in Residence at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. He is a nationally known teacher, author, speaker, dramatist, poet and musician. Dr. Burkart has over 200 publications including 12 books, numerous professional journal articles, book reviews, chancel dramas, Christian musicals, hymns, poems, CD recordings, films and videos.

Before coming to Concordia, St. Paul, he taught in LC-MS elementary, junior high, and secondary schools in Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. He and his wife, Martha, have three grown sons (Jonathan, David and Andrew) who all are proud graduates of King of Kings Lutheran School and Concordia Academy, Roseville, MN.

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