It is hard not to imagine striped shirts, berets and white face paint when thinking of mimes. The farces put on by mimes, such as being caught in an invisible box, can be fascinating when done well — and a local ministry has used that style of drama to tell a much more important story.
Drama Ministry, stylized DRAMAministry, was started in 2001 by Tim King, then in his late teens. Now King is one of the organization’s directors of ministries, and he also serves as the pastor of Christ House Church in Ephrata. He knew from his time growing up in the Lancaster area that there are not enough places for kids and teens on fire for the Lord to go and find true discipleship. “There was a group of us youth, at the time, hungry to grow spiritually,” he said, describing his earlier days in an interview with The Lancaster Patriot. “And the setting — there just wasn’t a lot of places for kids who were serious. I remember going to different youth ministries, and the focus was kind of bare minimum. You know, if you showed up at all, they were thrilled, because attendance was a big ask. And for those of us that were trying to take their faith seriously, it was sort of like, ‘Yeah, OK. And then what?'”
He saw a number of his friends go through a brief season of striving for more, but with everything pushing against it, they fell away from the desire to take their faith seriously. That was not something he would settle for, even as a teen. When a traveling Christian drama group engaging in mime came to his area, he found that it was full of mature Christian youth who were engaging in deep, meaningful Bible studies. He jumped at the chance to take part in those studies — and if miming was a prerequisite to join the group and get real accountability and discipleship, then it was worth the effort to learn.
During the time he spent studying mime and performing with the group across the Midwest, he discovered just how powerful wordless drama can be. When he returned home, he decided to start his own group with his friends — even though he was still only 17 — because he wanted to continue street outreach and other performances for the public and to offer discipleship for group members. His experiences led to him attending Lancaster Bible College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, and he went on to plant two churches, including Christ House Church, which meets in the basement of Grace Evangelical Congregational Church on Terrace Avenue in Ephrata. But even after all these years, he has never given up sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through drama.
Local Christian youth gather to learn miming and mime routines with Drama Ministry and to partner with churches during spring and fall seasons to evangelize to the broader community. “Externally it’s a gospel resource for churches, and internally it’s a discipleship team,” King said, since along with drama presentations the participants are taught Bible study methods and how to lead studies, and they have accountability partners who encourage their spiritual growth. There are currently two teams for teenagers and one team for kids 8 to 12 years old, but some people who joined as youth are now in their twenties and still serving. Older members are welcome to join — the only requirement is commitment. Oftentimes, kids have more open schedules than adults and can practice every week and do multiple outreaches. If adults can find the time, they are welcome to participate.
Although miming might seem like an odd tool for preaching the gospel, that is because few people are aware of how engaging the art form of mime can be. Using human gestures and actions and sometimes music as well to tell gospel-themed stories allows performances to reach across language and cultural barriers. “When I first met a group doing this, I think I had no idea what to expect,” King admitted. “I was very struck by just how powerfully it conveyed the gospel. I think we’re a very visual culture. And so it’s a language that our culture engages.” He has seen that play out during the ministry’s outreaches, such as one instance when the team was performing on a boardwalk. “Some teenagers came by, saw us doing our mime routine. They laughed and kept walking,” he recalled, “and then not even five minutes later, they came back. They were just too curious. And then they stood there for over a half hour watching a gospel presentation. I was able to come over and chat with them and hand them some gospel literature.”
Miming is good at drawing a crowd, too. “When you’ve got someone who’s fully trained up, we can go out there and take a corner and really create a scene,” King said. Although they do not wear paint or costumes in more personal settings where it could create a barrier for discussions, like at a youth center, there are public events where King and the others put on the iconic face paint and gloves and do improv miming. The novelty of such a sight can stop traffic and draw in a crowd before the core presentation turns the miming techniques into something much more meaningful.
Even after 21 years in this ministry, King says that he can still watch routines and be deeply struck by how clearly the art can convey the gospel and how well it engages the viewer in the gospel’s themes. Through this art and through the work done by the ministry, many kids have taken ownership of their faith and really grown — which has meant that some churches invite the kids to their youth groups just to hang out, since the kids’ passion, lives and character raise the standard for other teenagers and show how young people can achieve so much more than mere attendance at church.
The importance that Drama Ministry places on the spiritual wellbeing of its members means that the teams only perform a few times on a Sunday per season, since the performers need to be plugged into their own churches too. However, the group is ready to do events and outreaches on other days with churches in the area. Driving three hours to reach a venue is not unheard of, either — it just takes a bit more coordination than closer locations like Woodcrest Retreat in Ephrata. Drama Ministry has also traveled throughout the U.S., to nearby states like Ohio and distant ones like California and Florida, to perform and to help churches and ministries set up similar teams. Outreaches and partner ministries have been set up internationally as well. “For a while, we had a sister team in Scotland that we planted,” King said, “and we still have sister teams in Bogota, Colombia, and we’ve done some training in Nepal and Grenada in the Caribbean.”
Since mime is so portable — there are few props, and mobile sound systems are easy enough to acquire — the ministry can perform in all sorts of locations, like parking lots, campgrounds and city parks. The performances that Drama Ministry puts on are also scalable, with gospel presentations fitting a 10-minute slot as easily as a 45-minute slot.
The performances are free. While donations are welcome, the Drama Ministry members fundraise to offset costs so they can give the gospel away for free, since the redemption of Christ is a free gift for all. That is also why King is happy to share the knowledge and format of his ministry with others, holding workshops and starting teams with other churches.
For those interested in learning more, whether a church looking to partner with the ministry or an individual looking to get involved, call 717-723-8336, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Drama Ministry’s website at dramateam.org. Drama Ministry performances can be found on YouTube by searching “DRAMA Ministry,” but seeing a performance live is what King recommends. Kids who might want to join should arrange to see a team perform and meet with one of the directors. Upcoming performances can be found on the “calendar” page on the ministry’s website, but emailing the ministry is the best way to get the most up-to-date details.