By Ann McBroom
Is your church struggling with issues of how it should change and grow? Three churches argue their strengths and weaknesses. We put this play on to trigger discussion, not to suggest answers. Christina represents my own church - we are not aspiring to mega-growth, but also do not want to die. We are a Disciples of Christ Church and this is reflected in some of the dialog; but I am happy for people to adapt the script freely to serve their own needs.
Production note: In our production, The Churches were played by Sunday School members aged 9-11. We constructed three churches using refrigerator packing boxes, and the children were inside. On cue, they stepped onto chairs, and were visible over the roofs of their churches. They had great fun decorating the boxes and choosing what to wear!
Megan - The Mega Church
Christina - The Christian Church
Mortisia - The dying church
Introducer: Welcome to <your town>. An ordinary sort of a town. There are many fine old churches here. Some are over a hundred years old. I would like to go to church sometimes. But how can you find out what they are like? At least when you buy a new car, you can do some research, and know what to expect.
(Figures appear above the churches)
Churches Together: We can help
Introducer: Who are you?
Churches Together: We are the churches of <your town>..
Megan: My name is Megan.
Christina: My name is Christina.
Mortisia: My name is Mortisia Churches Together: We can tell you all about the churches here.
Megan: Mine is the biggest. We have thousands of members. And we are growing and growing and growing. Poor Mortisia, she is a dying church.
Mortisia: I wouldn't say dying. We have been losing members for years. But the few we have are very loyal.
Megan: But you haven't attracted a single new member for years. That is what I call dying. Now my church is growing and growing and growing.
Christina: My church has gained some new members, but..
Megan: But not enough. Neither of you seems to understand. Get up to date. Advertise!
Mortisia (angry): A church shouldn't have to advertise. If people want a church, they only have to look in the telephone book.
Megan: That's not how advertising works. Get real! You don't think the makers of Cheerios say, "If people want cereal, they know which shelf in WalMart to look on!" Of course not! They want people to look for Cheerios. People who used to buy Raisin Bran. People who used to be happy with a piece of toast. Advertising makes people want what they never wanted before.
Christina: For me, going to church is a personal choice. I don't want people misled by slick advertising. But I would like them to know there is a Christian Church in Virginia Falls. And that we are always happy to welcome new people.
Megan: We spend thousands of dollars each year on advertising. And all I can tell you is that we are growing and growing and growing.
Mortisia (angry): Numbers isn't everything. It's what people get out of going to church that is important. One of the reasons your church is so big is that you welcome anybody.
Megan: Woops darling! - Judge not that ye be not judged! My church believes that people should feel good about themselves. Who wants to go to a church that makes them feel guilty?
Christina: The Disciples believe that people will want to lead a good life once they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Mortisia: May be. But people need to be told what they are doing wrong. That is the role of the Minister. Our Minister does not expect to be popular.
Megan: Well he certainly is NOT. Look at the figures. Who is growing? And who is dying? And then ask yourselves - what are people looking for?
Christina: We are a friendly church. And we care for one another.
Megan: Retro, darling! Some people are attracted to mega-churches like mine because they do NOT want to get involved. They have enough demands already. People can hide in a congregation of thousands.
Christina: Well my members sure can't hide. We may not see one another very often. But we are happy to see one another on Sunday.
Megan: Some people want that. And it's not a bad angle.
Christina: Its not an advertising angle. It is who we are. The Disciples are a community.
Megan: I'm only trying to help. My church has different packages for different people. Some people want mega-involvement, and some want none. We try and satisfy everyone. And that is why we grow. The Reverend Mr. R. wants to build a drive-in for people who don't want to come into the building. For people who want to meet people, we have everything. We have a big coffee shop. A fitness center. Breakfast most days. Films every Saturday. Clubs for all ages. This winter, we are opening an indoor swimming pool.
Christina: But how can you justify spending all that money? We are struggling to support charities in Virginia and overseas.
Megan: It is not spending, darling. It is investment. The money is trivial compared with increasing our financial base.
Mortisia (angry): It is wrong! We did not even heat our church last winter. It was heat the church or support our overseas missions.
Megan: Now I bet that really brought in the crowds!
Christina: Truth to tell, we probably aren't expecting crowds. Growth for us means serving the community better. We worry that there are people out there who do not know about the Disciples church. Who would enjoy being members. And, yes, we do need more members to remain viable.
Megan: Why not go one step further and say you want to grow and grow and grow like me.
Christina: We don't want to lose our community. We want to know one another.
Mortisia (angry): What is all this about community? Church is about learning what is right and what is wrong. It isn't a social event. My church has not changed for a hundred years. And we are very proud of that. My great great grandfather could walk into church today, and not notice any difference.
Megan: That's right - he wouldn't expect central heating. And he certainly would not expect to enjoy himself!
Mortisia (angry) : Enjoy himself! People don't go to church to enjoy themselves!
Megan: Well the people in your church certainly don't!
Christina: That's not fair. People in Mortisia's church are very conservative. They like the service to be how it has been for hundreds of years.
Megan: May be they do! But they are not typical. We have all sorts of services. Our aim is to satisfy everyone!
Mortisia (angry): All that dancing and singing! If you thought it would bring in the crowds - you would have elephants and trapeze artists!
Megan: What's wrong with that? If it gets people to come.
Christina: We want people to come too.
Megan: Then why not get rid of the communion. Why does it have to be a part of every service?
Christina: It is a defining part of being a Disciple. Jesus told us to take communion to remember his sacrifice. And we do. But that is all that is set about our service.
Mortisia: We have been using the same chants and responses for hundreds of years.
Megan: And where is it getting you?
Mortisia: What do you mean?
Megan: Let me put it simply. What is your business plan?
Mortisia (angry) : Business plan! We are a church not a business.
Megan: See if this helps. Of all the organizations in Virginia Falls, which would you most like to be like?
Mortisia: The law court. People who come to my church will be told what is right and what is wrong. And how to make amends.
Megan (looking at Christina): What about you?
Christina: I'd like my church to be like the County Library. There is information there. Help. Good advice. A pleasant atmosphere. And yes, some quiet fun. It is not intimidating. And children are very welcome. (to Megan) What about you?
Megan: Without doubt, WalMart. I want to keep growing and growing and growing. Whatever people want, I will provide it. Eventually, they won't need anything else in their lives except me. All their social and spiritual needs will be found inside my doors.
Mortisia: But what about everyone that must close so that you can keep growing?
Megan: It is the people who will decide. We are not forcing anyone out.
Christina: But don't you think it is possible to be too big?
Megan: Ridiculous! Build, build, build. Grow, grow, grow. People are attracted by success.
Christina: But isn't it possible to lose the personal touch?
Megan: Sure, but that is where organization comes in. We have flock leaders and social workers. We have heads for all the interest groups. You just need to be well organized. And to have the money to hire attractive people.
Christina: Most of the work in our church is done by volunteers.
Megan: Amateurs! And it probably shows! You need a leader like the Reverend Mr.R.
Mortisia: Who is he?
Christina: Isn't he your minister, Megan?
Megan: He isn't the minister, Christina. He IS our church.
Christina: I don't understand.
Megan: He started the church. He has shaped the church. He wrote the business plan. He IS the church.
Mortisia: I knew there was something very odd about your church. Our church has history. For hundreds of years, the central committee has been providing ministers. It oversees our church.
Christina: Our tradition is different. In our Church, the congregation hires and fires the minister. The congregation is responsible for meeting the running costs.
Megan: Well our church would cease to be if the Reverend Mr. R left.
Christina: I can't imagine that. What would happen to the building and the people?
Megan: There would be no point without the Reverend Mr. R.
Christina: Well my church is not like that. Some years, we were without a minister. But we still met every week.
Mortisia: How did you manage? We cannot have a service if there is no minister.
Christina: In the early days, the Christian Church did not have ministers. The members did everything. And still today, if need be, members will preach and serve communion.
Mortisia: That would never happen in my church.
Megan: And it certainly would not happen in mine. I hate amateurs!
Mortisia (turning to Megan) : For once I agree with Megan. Only a trained minister should give communion, preach and lead the prayers
Christina: Of course, we prefer having a trained minister. But we also place great emphasis on education. We want to be thoughtful and well-informed Christians.
Megan: It sounds a bit heavy to me. You can put a lot of people off coming to church by making it sound like taking a degree in theology.
Christina: That is not what I meant. Jesus's instructions were very simple. But they are also very difficult to follow. We need help to live the way that he wants us to.
Mortisia (to Christina): It is a matter of professionalism. It is a matter of keeping up standards. In my church, only members can take communion.
Christina: In my church, anyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior is welcome to take communion.
Mortisia: But how can you maintain standards that way?
Christina: We have standards. But we don't have dogma.
Megan: You two are always overcomplicating things.
Mortisia: I know where I stand. You need a minister to maintain standards.
Christina: That is not the spirit in my church.
Megan: What is the minister for?
Mortisia: To take care of the spiritual health of the existing members.
Christina: Not only the existing members. But also people in the community who could benefit from the minister's help.
Mortisia: THEY are not paying the minister's salary.
Christina: I know. But our church is there to serve the community.
Megan: You are half right, Christina. The church is a business. You don't need to worry about the people who are already members. You need to concentrate on people who might join. That is where your NEW MONEY will come from.
Christina: I cannot accept that. My church is a family. We care for one another. We want to grow to serve more people. But we will fail if we neglect our existing members.
Megan: Don't say I didn't warn you. You are too soft-hearted. It is a business. Grow or die.
Christina: NO! IT IS A WAY OF LIFE!
(The churches disappear)
Copyright Ann McBroom, alla rights reserved.
This script may be performed without royalty payment, provided no charge is made for entrance to the performance. In return, the author would like to be told of any performance. She may be contacted at: 99, Blackhawk Lane, Fort Valley, Virginia 22652, or email firstname.lastname@example.org