Rodney Dangerfield said it best, and he said it often.
“I don’t get no respect!”
A lady in Maine told me this week, “It seems like I am always fighting a battle, not just for an opportunity to contribute dramatically, but the content and wording of my scripts seems to be constantly in question. I can’t help wondering why my material has to pass inspection by at least three staff people before I get a green light, yet the people in music ministry are simply instructed to come up with something related to the theme of the sermon message. It seems like there is a double standard.”
Fact is she is not alone. I think it is fair to say that most drama leaders in the church may at times feel like unappreciated second-class citizens in ministry.
What is the reason for this?
In my 25+ years in ministry, and prior to that in business, when I came up against a roadblock I made it a practice to first look at what I am doing that could be the cause of the problem. While it is easier on the ego to assume that the problem lies with “them” the fact is it may be something I have done, or have not done. And starting with “me” rather than “them” can get to results far faster and with less gnashing of teeth.
Though I love the Christian artistic community and am proud to be a part, my experience shows that we have a habit of believing that we are somehow “different” from other ministries. I remember hearing one Christian dramatist say Christian dramatists can not be held to the same rules as other ministries since, as he put it, Christian dramatists are the social consciousness of the church.” Therefore, in this person’s opinion, Christian drama may use language, content and illustrations which would never be permitted in any other form of ministry.
I can’t remember hearing about dramatists being voted into that position and furthermore I would never think of being in a position where I wasn’t answerable to someone.
If we want equality in ministry we need to have equality in all areas. Some dramatists feel there is nothing wrong with profanity, or worse, in the performance. What gives drama that right when it isn’t likely to be seen in music or any other ministry?
We need to be sensitive to the feelings of the congregation. I am not at all saying that you stay away from the tough issues, but an issue can be handled effectively without being offensive. This is particularly true in the first years of your ministry, but we need always to be cognizant of the fact that this is “their” church.
It is essential that you always have the pastor aware of what you are doing, he/she should never be treated to a “surprise”. This is why I never have performed a drama unless the pastor has read and approved the script in advance. Admittedly therein lies a problem. Unfortunately some pastors tend to be a bit tardy in reading over the script and getting back with comments or approval. That is why conditions are needed whereby the pastor agrees to get back to you within “X” days.
One final comment, we need to understand that drama need not be an essential part of church ministry, it is kind of an optional add-on. While it can add greatly to the overall ministry of the church, if drama is not offered the church will survive. The same can not be said of other ministries such as music and Sunday School. We don’t like to admit this but it is, and always will be, true. We need to operate the drama ministry with that firmly in mind.
Establishing a good relationship and guidelines with your pastor, setting guidelines on yourself, and establishing a person of authority over you can definitely earn you more “respect.”