A friend of mine is a very busy, active childrens' pastor as well as being a school teacher in a fairly large school. This time of year is a bit of a nightmare for her as she regularly seems to find herself in charge of her school Winter Programme extravaganza performance as well as her expected attempt to keep Sunday School kids and their volunteer parents involved and attending regular weekend practises for the equally extravagant church Christmas pageant.
This year it proved to be such a daunting prospect that she employed her creativity to come up with a different plan for her church family. It has been working very well for her and for her church congregation, Sunday School students and parents.
This year she decided that instead of a long and involved, one night only pageant, she would take this season of Advent, this time built into the church year for the purpose of preparing for the celebration of Christmas, and utilize each Sunday to feature a special song, reading, skit or other performance by the kids, leading up to to Christmas Eve.
Each child gets a chance to participate in a special presentation for each the 4 Sundays of Advent, most of them only responsible for one or two of the Sunday performances that all happen as part of the regularly scheduled morning service, each one knows well in advance what they are going to be responsible for and the parents only have to be available to assist in practising at home the week prior as they are able. There is no big finale concert for overly busy working parents to add into their all ready overflowing schedules, no extra huge concert performance for kids all ready overly hyped about Christmas events to add into their stress levels, no worries that at the last second the entire pageant will crash and burn because too many of the kids couldn't cope with the excitement and are too ill to even attend, let alone participate.
My friend's pastor was not at first convinced it was such a great idea, but she won him over and he agreed to try it. Now he is completely convinced! The kids have been able to handle the performances and done exceptionally well this year because there has been no huge build up, very little stress about audience expectations over a large scale production, no chasing down of parents who have to bail, kids in hand, right before the usual extravaganza for reasons they hadn't known about when they agreed to help out in the first place.
For my friend and her church family this has worked exceedingly well. The congregation and families still enjoy the treat of seeing the younger set putting on special tributes for the Christmas season, the kids still get to show off their skills, but the stress and hype levels come way down and eliminate one less "Special Evening Winter/Christmas Programme" performance at a time of year that is all ready busy enough for everyone.
I wish we had been doing such things when my son was young!!!