Welcome to Godly Play
Godly Play offers a creative, child-honoring way of entering into and experiencing biblical stories and saints stories. In Godly Play we play with the language of God and God’s People: our sacred stories, parables, liturgical actions and silence. Through this powerful language, our wondering, and the community of players gathered together, we hear the deepest invitation of all: an invitation to come and play with God.
What Happens in a Godly Play Session?
At the Threshold
A door person waits by the door to the Godly Play classroom, warmly welcoming children as they arrive. The door person says, “I’m so glad you’re here. Are you ready to join the circle?” The Godly Play circle is built slowly and lovingly, to welcome each child, one at a time. When children arrive, they wait just outside the door while the door person speaks to them softly and gets them ready to join the circle.
Building the Circle
Children make their way into the room and sit in a circle around the Storyteller. The storyteller talks quietly and easily with the children, building a community where each and every participant is warmly welcomed. The storyteller says, “We need to get ready for the story.” The storyteller shows how by sitting quietly, legs crossed, hands at the ankles. Conversation yields to silence. The storyteller smiles and says, “Watch where I get the story.”
Presenting the Lesson
The storyteller goes to get the materials for the day’s presentation, a box, a basket or a tray. The storyteller brings these materials to the circle. Slowly, deliberately, the storyteller brings out the figures and objects, gently moving and arranging them as they tell the story. The children’s eyes focus where the storyteller’s eyes and hands focus, on the small wooden figures, painted plaques or beautifully finished props moving through the lesson. The story continues, moves forward…and concludes.
The storyteller sits back, inviting the children into a conversation: “I wonder,” the storyteller says. “I wonder what part of the story you like best?” There may be silence for a moment and then the children answer. The storyteller affirms each answer. “I wonder what part is most important?” Children name different parts. Every serious struggle to answer is affirmed, “I wonder where you are in the story or what part of the story is about you?” “I wonder if there is any part of the story we could leave out and still have all the story we need?”
The storyteller listens respectfully to every answer, repeating it, never calling one response good or another wrong. It is the child’s effort to speak theologically in a seriously playful way that is being supported. It is interesting to note, the methods used in Godly Play meets the needs of different learning styles and types of intelligence: it is hands-on for tactile learners, engaging for auditory and visual learners, invites response from emotionally intelligent children, and provides both safety and freedom for children of all learning styles to respond.
The wondering sinks into silence. The children watch as the storyteller puts away the lesson. The storyteller invites the children to think about what work they would like to do in response to the lesson, as they continue to wonder. The children have been involved in the story and the wondering. Now that absorbed mindfully continues as they, one by one, name what response they choose to make. Some play mindfully with the materials from the presentation or from another story presentation. Others want to paint. Still others work with crayons or clay. Others build with Magnatiles or blocks. Deeply engaged, they work at their responses. The storyteller signals that it is time for the children to put away their work. They may choose to take their work home, or to decorate the room with it in the specially designated place, or just keep it in the classroom. The important message is that it is their work, to do with as they wish.
Godly Play leaders maintain a journal of the day, taking note of who is present in the classroom and if there are any remarkable moments (such as a child sharing a particularly-compelling wondering, distractions and disruptions, what response materials or stories are popular).
Selection of Crucifer
There’s also a list of children who serve as Crucifer. Leaders consult the list to see which child(ren) haven’t carried the cross recently and invite a child who hasn’t had the opportunity in a while. Sometimes, a child asks to carry the cross, and these requests are usually entertained. When multiple children are eligible, the Storyteller or Doorperson invites one of the children based on their behavior. They try to call attention with this invitation to a child who has been away and needs to be welcomed back, who has had behavior issues but shown growth from week to week, modeled good Godly Play behavior for a new classmate or visitor, been a helper to a classmate, etc. Children young enough to need an adult to stay with them in Godly Play are usually not asked to carry the cross.
Transition into Holy Communion
The children typically receive a 2-minute warning prior to having to clean up and then are prompted to begin cleaning up. They are encouraged to help other participants with their clean up should they be done before the other children. This helps increase the sense of community within the Godly Play classroom. Once the children leave the classroom and are standing at the double doors waiting to enter into the sanctuary, the children are reminded how to enter the sanctuary. A Godly Play leader reminds the children that it is important that they walk, not run, when they enter the sanctuary and that it is important that they are nice and quiet because people could be praying and it is important for us to be respectful of that. The children then join their families in the pews so that they can receive communion with their families. The child that was the cross bearer for that week, sets the children’s cross into the stand and then joins their family like the other children.