How to plan a Successful Live Nativity Scene
Nativity scenes are a meaningful way to celebrate Christmas, enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Bringing a nativity scene to life with real people in a realistic setting takes the experience to another level. A Live Nativity can have a significant impact on believers and non-believers alike.
If you've been considering staging a Live Nativity, you may be wondering how to get started. You might have put off the decision, thinking it's too time-consuming or expensive. However, with proper planning and organization, a Live Nativity can be one of your church's or group's most rewarding outreach events.
BEGIN PLANNING EARLY
Contact Chamberlin Pony Rides as soon as you have a potential date, as prime weekend dates sell out early in November. The best time to start preparations is late summer or early fall.
Chamberlin offers 2 packages: Complete Nativity and Deluxe Nativity, both described on our website here: https://chamberlinponyrides.com/nativity
Please note, we include 2 attendants (animal handlers) dressed as shepherds and a few straw bales for decoration, but we do not include additional props such as the Baby Jesus and manger scene.
Choose the location for your event and set the date(s). The front lawn of your church is a possibility, and the weekend or weekends preceding Christmas are good possibilities.
Plan an organizational meeting for volunteers. Offer a personal invitation to people of all ages who you think would like to be involved and/or would be perfect for certain slots. The more people involved, the better (and the less work you have to do). This meeting will serve as a brainstorming session in which you decide if you want to just have a simple stable or if you want to present different stages of the Holy Family’s journey the night Christ was born.
CONSIDER KEY PARTICIPANTS
Your Chamberlin event will include 2 Chamberlin employees dressed in shepherd costumes. You will need to look for actors for other roles such as Mary, Joseph, Angel, Additional Shepherds, Wise Men, Innkeeper, etc. Your package does not include props, so you will need to find a realistic baby doll for Baby Jesus, or consider involving a new mother with her baby.
The costume coordinator finds, makes, and purchases the costumes and costume pieces needed for all characters in the Live Nativity.
Greeters are needed to welcome guests and explain any rules or wait times to visit the various aspects of your live nativity.
Musicians and/or singers are required to entertain guests before or after they visit the Live Nativity.
A refreshment coordinator manages donations and sets up some light food and beverages for guests. Hot chocolate, coffee, water, and cookies are all you need if you want to keep things simple.
A publicist is responsible for coordinating information and photos to local media outlets and social media sites. Chamberlin has many Live Nativity photos you are welcome to use. Additional pictures can be found on our Facebook page.
When inviting people to the initial volunteer meeting, emphasize that many positions are open and that attending the meeting is not a commitment to working at the event. During the meeting, create a format that allows everyone to share their experiences with other Live Nativities, including both successful and challenging aspects. Allocate time for idea sharing and take notes of all contributions.
While the characters and the story should remain faithful to the Bible, your Live Nativity can feel fresh and exciting for both participants and guests. Consider ways to take your guests on a journey through Ancient Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth. For example, you might want to include a census taker or a Roman soldier.
Include a prayer at this important meeting and be enthusiastic about the impact the Live Nativity can have on the community.
AFTER THE MEETING
Follow up by contacting individuals to take on the different key roles. When you make those "casting calls," invite them to your next meeting, which can double as the first rehearsal for the event.
If your actors will be speaking, use this next meeting as the time to give them their scripts and to read through it together. Be prepared to provide tips on learning lines, projecting your voice, and dealing with a live audience.
Make your expectations clear for the Live Nativity. Discuss costuming and what it means to stay in character. Costumes need not be fancy, but they should be as in keeping with New Testament times as possible.
Consider designating one or two volunteers to coordinate costumes and head coverings for your participants. Don't forget about shoes. A pair of modern shoes peeking out beneath a robe can ruin the entire effect.
Emphasize that your group is presenting "the story of stories" and that it is an amazing responsibility. For instance, if Mary or the innkeeper pulls out a smartphone where guests can see it, it can ruin the feel of a carefully planned historic event.
Discuss the specifics of animal care to ensure the safety and security of your animals and guests during the Live Nativity. Don't forget about food and water for the animals, as well as the clean-up chores that come along with livestock..
Planning an outdoor live nativity in winter can be challenging due to unpredictable weather. Here's how to keep guests and actors comfortable:
- Provide umbrellas for guests
- Use wood chips for potentially muddy areas
- Have portable heaters or fire pits near actors' stations
- Anchor down or cover scenery items prone to blowing away or getting wet
After the second meeting, schedule at least one dress rehearsal to stage and time the entire event. Ask participants to have their lines and costumes ready in advance.
Assign someone to capture photographs and videos of the rehearsal for publicity purposes. These materials can also promote the event on your website and social media next year.
Additional Details to Consider:
- Use signs to announce the event
- Distribute small printed invitations to your congregation for community members
- Provide bales of hay for seating
- Offer holiday tracts and information about Christmas services to guests
- Arrange reserved parking for guests and provide volunteer parking attendant
Throughout the planning process, make thorough notes. These will capture moments of clarity, both positive and challenging, and serve as a valuable reference during debriefings with your team.
Keep Focus on Christ:
No matter the challenges, maintain focus on the purpose of the event. With prayer and a positive attitude, most things will go right. Encourage participants to save items for future use and hold a debriefing meeting after the event.
Schedule a meeting before the holidays end to gather feedback and share positive comments from guests. Encourage team members to consider specific suggestions and thoughts before the meeting. Express gratitude to all involved and begin and end the meeting with a prayer for the event’s accomplishments.