Originally created 12/21/96

Hard-hitting dramas becoming more common in youth services



The scene: The school lunchroom.

The dilemma: Two girls - one who lied on a test and another who just bought some drugs - go to a Christian friend for help.

The girl, Evans High School freshman Laurie Jones, prays for wisdom from God, battling demons who come up to her and try to keep her from witnessing to her schoolmates.

Lauri was just acting in a skit during a Wednesday night youth service at New Hope Church of God. But that situation is not uncommon for teens, she said, and after the skit, several of the teens told her it made them think about their relationship with God.

Effective, hard-hitting drama in youth services is becoming more common in the area and nationally in the past few years.

Teen actors who write their own skits are seen more frequently in larger youth groups at charismatic churches such as New Hope, Maranatha Christian Center, Westside Christian Church and Church of the Harvest than more traditional Baptist and Episcopal churches.

"They ask for it. They want to be part of it. It's fun and also practical enough where it makes a difference," said Mike Klaus, youth minister at Westside Christian Church, which was used drama in its youth services for two years.

"Next to worship, it's right up there. Drama hits them where they live and makes them ask questions," he said.

It's not just intense drama that's finding a place in youth groups. Teen leaders in the youth group at St. Marys on the Hill Catholic Church hope to start Sunday Night Live, their own version of Saturday Night Live, in January.

"We're just trying to get more attendance up at our youth ministry meetings," said Christine Kareis, a sophomore at Lakeside High School who is part of the youth group, which averages 15 members. "It's a fun way to get together, and if other people heard about it, they wouldn't feel uncomfortable coming (to youth group)."

A group at Aldersgate United Methodist plans to start in the next year a contemporary worship service incorporating drama every other week. The contemporary worship would be held in the fellowship hall sometime between the regular Sunday services.

"We're the TV generation. We like to see and not just hear something spoken. We know that's what reaches the generation of younger folks," said John Kenney, director of youth and young adult ministries at Aldersgate.

Ron Thom, youth pastor at Fleming Christian Church, whose youth group performs a skit once every three months, said presenting message in a humorous way is one form of getting the point of Christianity across.

"Since the mid-80s, we would do a skit occasionally but they wouldn't use them that often," he said. "In the 90s, people started using this way to express the message."

Original skits are approved by the youth pastor and director, and other youth groups uses professional resources. The Willow Creek Association, affiliated with Willow Creek Community Church, a "megachurch" in South Barrington, Ill., is one of the leading creators of Christian drama sketches.

"I do see the impact of drama," said Deanna Armentrout, who heads the children's and youth drama ministry at Willow Creek, and creates skits produced by the association. "It pulls them to identify with a character to think, `That could be me."'

While they're thinking about their lives, the pastor follows with a short sermon spinning off from the skit's subject.

"Sometimes when we get a real good drama, we think it's going to minister to people, and it does," said Lauri, who's been part of New Hope's 15-year-old drama team for three years.

Their 14-member drama team performs at Wednesday night services. It is one of the oldest youth drama teams in Augusta. Most teen get involved in drama because it's a way to express themselves and to creatively portray their faith.

Laurie said the subjects of the skits connect with teens because they're about things most teens see or deal with daily.

Sex, drinking and violence are some of the issues the drama team Church of the Harvest's Power Surge Student Ministries has tackled in the past couple years as the youth group has grown to more than 100 people.

The group uses drama a couple times a month in its Sunday night youth services and in its monthly evangelism service, said youth pastor Bobby Smith.

By posing a question through drama, ministers like Mr. Smith are able to follow up with the spiritual principals to draw them to Christ.

"It's always purpose-driven. It's always to ask a question," said Mr. Smith.

In Power Surge's skit, How To Have Ultimate Sex, a couple is in bed on stage and getting ready to fool around. The girl is the aggressor and the drama ends as they're contemplating whether to have sex.

The skit ends with the question, Why shouldn't they have sex? Then, youth pastor Bobby Smith followed with the Top 10 Reasons Not to Have Sex.

Power Surge uses not only drama, but video and secular and Christian music to draw in teens. It's a way of showing teens that church and Christ doesn't have to be a distant part of their lives.

"MTV is putting billions of dollars into the same stuff. The church is just catching on," he said.

David Sanders, youth director at Westminster Presbyterian Church, is one of many pastors who hasn't incorporated drama into his youth service yet.

"I think it's an effective method. I would be careful how I did it," said Mr. Sanders, whose youth group averages 50 in attendance. "The churches in the PCA, for the most part, are traditional and seem to be more comfortable with an organized structure of worship."

At Maranatha Christian Center's weekly youth service, more than 150 teens watch their peers and local college students portray The Ruffles, a family still stuck in the 70s.

The weekly sitcom is written by youth pastor Mark Henes and the drama team director. They and the kids helped decorate the stage in ugly shag carpet and ratty sofas and easy chairs that are dull green, yellow and orange. A lava lamp rests on the table.

The Ruffles is a family of five, most of whom aren't saved. Every week, they encounter new problems, such as interracial dating, one daughter's involvement in New Age, the dad's obsession with alcohol or another daughter's boyfriend overdosing on drugs.

Mr. Henes said several kids renewed their commitment to Christ after the scene about a drug overdose.

"We have seen the effect of it. In Who's the Dead Guy? (the title for the skit when the boyfriend overdosed), people were bawling," said Josh Keck, 17, who plays the Ruffles' feminine-acting neighbor Fraunk. "We do reach people, we do touch people."

Christmas music and drama

With music and drama, several area churches are bringing the story of Christ's birth to life. Here is a partial list of some area musicals and dramas:

  • LIVE NATIVITY SCENE:
  • 6-8 tonight; Cokesbury United Methodist Church.

  • CHRISTMAS JOURNEY DRIVE THRU: 7-9 tonight; Open Door Baptist Church.
  • LIVE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY: Drive-through Christmas scene; 7-9 tonight; Open Door Baptist Church.
  • THE GLORY AND MAJESTY OF CHRISTMAS: 7 tonight and 6 p.m. Sunday; Midland Valley First Church of the Nazarene, Clearwater.
  • THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER: 7 tonight and Sunday; Hillcrest Baptist Church.
  • THE FIRST LIGHT: Christmas Cantata; 7 tonight and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday; Harlem United Methodist Church.
  • BETHLEHEM'S LIGHT: Living Christmas Tree; 6 tonight and Sunday night; Langley Pentecostal Holiness Church, Langley.
  • HIS NAME IS JESUS: 7 p.m. Sunday; South Aiken Church of God, Aiken.
  • AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS: 11 a.m. Sunday; Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist Church.
  • CHRISTMAS CANTATA: Forever Christmas; 6 p.m. Sunday; Providence Baptist Church.
  • CHRISTMAS PROGRAM: 7 p.m. Sunday; Brown Grove Baptist
  • Church.

  • CHRISTMAS PROGRAM: 6 p.m. Sunday; Hazel Grove Baptist Church.
  • CHRISTMAS PROGRAM: 11 a.m. Sunday; New Creation Missionary Baptist Church.
  • CHRISTMAS PROGRAM: 2 p.m. Sunday; Summerville Baptist
  • Church.

  • CHRISTMAS CANTATA: 6:30 p.m. Sunday; Windsor Heights Baptist Church.
  • CHRISTMAS PROGRAM AND DINNER: 6 p.m. Sunday; Galilee Missionary Baptist Church.
  • CAROLS AND LULLABIES: Christmas in the Southwest performed by Covenant Sanctuary Choir; 3 p.m. Sunday; Covenant Presbyterian Church.
  • CHRISTMAS PROGRAM: 5 p.m. Sunday; Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Edgefield, S.C.
  • THE GIFT GOES ON: 7 p.m. Sunday; Cliffwood Presbyterian Church; reception after the program.
  • CHRISTMAS CAROLING: 6:30 p.m. Monday; Advent Lutheran
  • Church.

  • SERVICE OF NINE LESSONS AND CAROLS: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church.