By Justin Rossow
Just recently, I got to lead a Next Step Immersion Weekend at a congregation down in Texas (hit me up with a pm if you or your congregation may be interested in such a thing), and I was faced with a challenge. The content I wanted to cover immediately following lunch, in the middle of the day, with three hours of presenting down and three more hours to go, was mostly Bible study presentation.
Now, I love Bible study and I enjoy a good presentation, but I was imagining my poor hearers, after a long morning of engagement, bellies full of mostaccioli, trying to sit through any presentation like that. There’s a reason Jesus fed the five thousand after he taught the crowds, and not before.
So I wanted to cover some core content about moving from a defensive posture to a posture of discovery when it comes to people who are not like you, a teaching I ground in the story that surrounds the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. I’ve taught and written about those concepts before, but this is after lunch in the middle of a day-long workshop, and it doesn’t seem like straight up presentation mode is going to work out well…
What’s guy to do?
Well, my kids have all embraced theatre as a hobby, and I have my own background in scripts, theatre productions, acting, staging, and creative writing… So I decided to turn a teaching presentation about the story in John 4 into a dramatic presentation of the story in John 4.
Of course, I could have just dimmed the lights and shown a video of the scene, but watching a video in the dark is even lower on the Post-Lunch Audience Attention Scale than an in-depth Bible study. I wanted to get the people up and moving around … but we won’t have time to rehearse or memorize lines or create any kind of full-blown production…
So what’s a guy to do?
Readers Theatre is a kind of performance art that doesn’t require high production quality, or even much preparation. Get the script right, and a handful of energetic, good natured people should be able to pull it off without a lot of coaching. Of course, some kind of background in drama, or English, or public speaking is a plus; but a willingness to have fun and an ability to read out loud are really the only prerequisites.
So I reworked the teaching on John 4 and made it a Readers Theatre script. I watched for people during the first three hours of presenting who engaged readily, who didn’t seem shy, or who had a good sense of humor and liked to have fun. At a break, I even asked one or two people if they had any drama experience, and gave the Narrator roles to those who did. For the rest, I handed out scripts at lunch and told them to give their parts a quick look and be ready to go when we started the workshop again.
The inaugural performance of Look, Lift Up Your Eyes, and See! An Adaptation of the Other Story in John 4, for 8-12 Readers was a resounding success! That is to say, we had a couple of sticky wickets, but we got through to the end just fine, and no one fell asleep!
I made some slight modifications to the script based on comments from Conrad Gempf (London School of Theology) and Kate Rossow (Dexter High School Drama Club). I also tried to smooth out a couple of rough patches based on our first performance.
I share that updated script with you here:
Even if you aren’t much of a theatre geek, you might enjoy this retelling of the story. (You might even learn something if you aren’t careful!)
And if you have a group or congregation that does things like Bible studies or even worship services, feel free to give this a try and see if it works for you.
It’s OK if it doesn’t go off without a hitch. It’s even OK if not everyone thought it was great! Modeling an attitude of experimentation in discipleship helps send a message that we all are free to try something new in our journey of faith, and it’s not a big deal if this particular thing didn’t turn out the way you thought.
If you do try it, though, do me a favor: take a picture or two and let me know how it went! Along with Courage to Try and Freedom to Fail, we also embrace relational discipleship here at Next Step Press. We follow Jesus better when we follow him together!
Editor’s Note: Yes, those last few paragraphs count as a copyright release clause. As long as you aren’t charging money, you can use this script for public performance. Please include (c) 2022 Justin Rossow and Next Step Press, http://www.findmynextstep.org as part of your performance. And do send a picture and a note to Innovation@findmynextstep.org.