Some Thoughts About Christmas Productions

A friend sent me this question, which she received from her father:

I just found out that our church is charging for tickets to our Christmas event…music, drama etc. They want members to buy tickets to hand out for the event. I notice that lots of churches are doing this now. There’s a church in Florida that spends over a million dollars on their Christmas presentation, and charges up to $35 for their big Broadway production. What’s your take on this?…I have a dilemma…Do I continue to work on the music (a lot of it being secular Christmas songs) for the upcoming Christmas extravaganza and feel uncomfortable, or bail out and let the ministers of the church know why I don’t want to be a part of a ministry that charges for ministry outreach events?

The question about charging money for a Christmas event leads to a deeper question. Are there any biblical guidelines for a church putting on a production at Christmas or some other time of year?

What’s Good About Productions
Church productions can serve numerous good purposes. Those involved can grow in their musical, artistic, acting, and technical skills. Participants can experience the joy of working on a project together. Meaningful fellowship can take place before, during, and after rehearsals. People can use their gifts to serve. Non-Christians can hear the gospel presented in a relatively non-threatening environment. And a godly desire to steward our gifts faithfully and with excellence will often result in productions that are impressive, even to non-Christians.

Excellence Has Limits
But artistic/technical excellence in the church has its limits, due to limited resources, the realities of “volunteerism,” and the nature of the gospel we proclaim. Certainly we should strive to do our best, and “being Christian” is no excuse for sloth, apathy, or carelessness. Let me be clear: we should strive for excellence for the glory of God. But competing with the world’s production standards should never be our ultimate goal. The world will almost always “out-WOW” the church in terms of production quality.

More importantly, our talent and expertise are not what we rely on to draw people to Christ. It’s the gospel, proclaimed and demonstrated through a group of ordinary believers who have an extraordinary Savior. It’s our humility, joy, servanthood, power, integrity, and love, all produced by our relationship with a risen Savior. As Paul put it, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:2-5). Ultimately, we don’t want anyone’s faith resting in the power of our performance or the creativity of our stage designs, but in the power of the gospel.

The Church As Production Company
The New Testament gives no indication that the church is responsible to put on lavish productions for the purpose of evangelism or edification. That’s because the church isn’t a production company. Performances, plays, and productions, despite the evident fruit at times, were never meant to be the main instrument of evangelism for the church. The main instrument is a body of believers who have been redeemed through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, and who have now been called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). How do they do that? Primarily by preaching the gospel, by doing good, and by keeping their “conduct honorable, so that others may see their good deeds and glorify God when Christ returns” (Heb. 13:16; 1 Pet. 2:12). In other words, it’s more a matter of faithful living than lavish productions.

Fruitful or Faithful?
So when I hear of a church that spends a gazillion dollars on a Christmas presentation, with much of it being secular songs, it raises some questions. In our effort to be fruitful, rather than faithful, are we becoming so much like the world that people can’t tell the difference? I don’t presume to know what’s in anyone’s heart, but I know that investing that much money in a musical extravaganza eats up huge amounts of time, energy, and resources. Is this the best or primary way to proclaim the gospel and build the church? No. Some churches might see these as pre-evangelism events, to get people in the door so they can be invited to something where the gospel is presented more clearly. That’s certainly plausible, but we always have to evaluate their effectiveness and unintended consequences.

Should the Church Charge Money?
And as for charging money? It’s not necessarily wrong to charge money for a church event. I’d encourage someone to ask their pastor to explain their thinking before assuming the leaders are caving into the world’s value system. It might result in a profitable conversation that helps define the real issues.

But charging money for a production does limit your audience to those who can afford it, and can be misunderstood by your community (those Christians…always asking for money). When an all-church event is held as an outreach to the community, it seems that offering it for free is one way to clearly communicate that we are God’s ambassadors of blessing to a world that is lost and dead in sin.

And the best thing we have to offer them is not just a good production, but the Good News.

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9 Responses to Some Thoughts About Christmas Productions

  1. JonJon October 31, 2008 at 12:11 PM #

    I personally prefer church productions where there are tickets for sale, Being a member of a large church in Seattle, I have noticed that the “professional” tone of events put on by churches have had a greater effect then the ones that are free…

    Concerts: most bands that are on tour, that play in the christian circuit will need a stipend of some kind, it IS there ministry and they need to eat :)

    events: like holidays (christmas, etc) the “bigger” productions where you can tell people have invested MANY MANY hours of there own personal time and talents, tend to have a better care abou them when there are ticket sales, also it shows attendance (better for tracking who actually shows up) it also shows the attendee that there was care taken in the preperation for the event, for example, I know that if i go to a venue and its a broadway style show, that the tickets were 40-60 dollars and there is a dress code, its going to be a great show…

    if i go to a community theater and the tickets are free-10 dollars and its GA, the quality of the show is going to be in question (I have been a part of both, and there are other factors involved, admittedly sometimes the big show is not as good as the little one, but for the most part, there is a higher ammount of quality control.

    Now, the question of community service DOES and most certainly SHOULD come up, Its a tough issue, depending on the church, and the budget, i think it is acceptable to “up the caliber” of your performance, simply so when new people come in, they are not turned away by, terrible sound, awfull choreography, cheesy music and hidous costumes, there is nothing worse then feeling like you are watching grown ups in a childrens musical, I have seen it, it does not make me want to come to the church.

    there is a respect that has to be shown to the audience (free or not) and to the content, and I feel when there are professionals present, that respect is greater.

    just my thoughts, i had an early morning, I MIGHT have rambled a bit there.


  2. greg October 31, 2008 at 1:21 PM #

    Kind of off topic, but these two sentences caught my mind:

    The world will almost always “out-WOW” the church in terms of production quality.

    So when I hear of a church that spends a gazillion dollars on a Christmas presentation, with much of it being secular songs, it raises some questions.

    The church where I lead worship is in Orlando, FL and one of the biggest problems that seem to plague Orlando in general is the Disney mindset: the slick production for slick production’s sake and big overblown shallowness (and dare I say cheeseball?). I have a problem with that for two reasons: 1- as a musician/artist seeking to have an art form speak at deep levels and 2- as a pastor, wanting to see the Word affect people’s lives. It seems hard to me to be satisfied on either of those levels with many productions in Orlando, and that also seems to be kind of what you’re describing with this production.

  3. Weston October 31, 2008 at 9:57 PM #

    Excellent! As a production guy, I think there is something to be said for serving God with our technical excellence; but that shouldn’t be the focus. As to charging money and selling tickets, churches need to make sure that they don’t let things get too out of hand. I would think, if the church leadership wanted to give back using an end of year surplus for the community, go for it! But it would seem that church division and competition most often drive us apart with large productions when God’s heart is that we would come together. …even if it means that you don’t hire me! :-)

  4. Jerry Bradley November 1, 2008 at 4:38 PM #

    Here was my pastor’s response to the same situation:

    1. Sometime people think you get what you pay for so some churches have
    experienced higher attendance by unchurched people when you charge
    (local church, name deleted) because of perceived quality. So I wonder if we might reach
    more people by charging. We may should charge more to communicate value.

    2. A ticket with a price is an easy invitation and reason to invite and
    then can be a blessing when you buy a ticket for a person and often a
    person is more likely to attend with ticket in hand than a free event

    3. It does provide some income to defray costs, but that is incidental.

  5. Bob Kauflin November 1, 2008 at 5:01 PM #


    Please thank your pastor for his thoughts. They’re helpful, and another way to look at the situation. I especially like the part about buying the ticket for the person you invite. They think the production is better because it costs something and now they’re getting in for free!

  6. John Carlson November 1, 2008 at 5:08 PM #

    Man, this is an excellent post Bob, as usual. Something I’ve struggled with being a part of a church that did very big and very meaningful/biblical productions (however without the use of lots of secular songs – i.e. not your typical big S. Baptist Christmas Gala that so many seem to do – live animals, flying angels, ice skating singing senior pastors (and their singing wife) in the beginning secular half (yes, I’ve seen that.) and also being in a church that use to do big productions but is now struggling with “what’s the purpose” and what do we do at all? (especially when the congregation and leadership has come to expect “something”, etc.) But in any case, great balanced words to at least pose the question. So many churches I feel go through all the motions year after year and I fear fail to ask “why are we doing this, what’s the point, what’s the cost/benefit, etc.” One of the coolest things I saw here locally was a local start up church who didn’t have the money or resources to do a big production, and didn’t really want to anyway – but instead organized an effort during Nov/December within the body to raise money to by new bicycles for every kid in one elementary school in a more impoverished area of town here. That was very cool.

    With regards to tickets – in the churches I have been a part of, where the Christmas production has been a big deal and used as an outreach event, tickets have been sold at minimal cost ($5-$6) not only to try and recoup some cost, but also because people generally would value receiving a ticket that had a “price/value” attached to it, rather than a “free” ticket etc.

    Also the church I was at that puts all it’s effort into Christmas eve services (that happen over several days leading up to Christmas eve and on Christmas eve) has a ticket lottery system for the purpose of even distribution service and seating wise, but the tickets are free. It’s just merely to keep attendance even so everyone doesn’t all show up at one service and cause overcrowding (after this had happened with much dire consequence years ago.) This is a HUGE mega church however so more the exception rather than the rule of course.

    Anyway – great and timely post.

    – J

  7. matt macdonald November 3, 2008 at 12:40 PM #


    Had an interesting experience today. Sat down to re-read the book in a Starbucks. Opened to chapter 3, “Let’s say you and I run into each other at a Starbucks.” Had to laugh. Bless you as you continue to minister in ways that you may never know.


  8. Caleb Kolstad November 4, 2008 at 11:18 AM #

    Thanks so much for this article.

    Pastor Caleb

  9. Lillian Hutchins March 27, 2009 at 9:52 AM #

    Your posting outlines many of the issues that churches struggle with, when doing productions.

    It is hard to find the balance between ministry and outreach. We don’t charge (Toronto, Canada) because many people in our surrounding demographics are low-income earners. We also believe that our church members should consider this ministry. We don’t have curtain calls or special considerations given, only a bulletin with the names of the cast members.

    What we do do, is give people the opportunity to donate after each performance to help fray the costs of the production. We almost recoup most of our expenses.

    However, there is pressure to ‘out-do’ ourselves every year and that is difficult to keep this in perspective. But as one person commented, it does give members who are artsy an outlet for ministry.

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