I’ve been using a form of Bible storytelling for children to connect with God called Godly Play. (And it’s now being increasingly used with the elderly in care homes as well as other disabled adults.) It is far more than just storytelling. The best part is, it ends with “I wonder … “.
The basis for all Godly Play logic lies in the idea children already have an innate spirituality abiding within them, and what they need lies in the language and structure with which to explore that. Godly Play finds its roots firmly in the theories Maria Montessori (Montessori schooling) put forward.
A full Godly Play session begins with each participant being welcomed at the door and invited to join the circle, while the storyteller sits as part of the circle. A second adult in the room acts as “doorkeeper” and deals with any children finding it difficult to sit still and concentrate during the story.
Next, the storyteller presents a Bible story (or story of the cycles/seasons of the church year) in a very simple style from a memorized script using small wooden figures or other props. The storyteller’s attention centers on the story and the figures rather than on the children, this is a time not just to wonder, but a time of wonder and awe, for both children and storyteller.
At the end of the story, the storyteller asks a series of wondering questions.
Therefore, they might say:
- “I wonder what part of this story you like the best?”
- “I wonder what is the most important part?”
- “I wonder what part is especially about you?”
- “I wonder what part of this story we could leave out and still have all the story we need?”
- Or other questions specific to particular stories.
There are no wrong answers to Godly Play wondering questions and every child’s contribution is acknowledged.
When the wondering time is over, the children choose to respond in any way they wish. There will usually be a wide variety of creative materials, and in almost all full Godly Play rooms, the children freely use the materials for any of the stories.
After some time is allowed for the children to respond creatively, they come back to the circle where they share a “small feast,” usually a cookie, drink and maybe a few grapes.
Rev. Dr. Jerome W. Berryman founded Godly Play, and Dr. Rebecca Nye introduced his work to the UK. She recently wrote:
But, what can we know of children’s spirituality? Perhaps playing a game of hide and seek is a good analogy here. What we are looking for is certainly already ‘there’ somewhere, but it can be hidden in so many places, peeping with curiosity at our incapacity to notice it. Then, at other times, it can come looking for us, bringing aspects of our own spirituality out of hiding too.” In short, it already abides within them, we don’t need to give them spirituality, we don’t need to teach them how to be spiritual people, we need to enable them to explore what is already there, the experience of God they already have, through giving them the structure and language to do that.”
I loved the concept of children bringing aspects of our own spirituality out of hiding, and I wonder how many of us experienced moments where that happened. Consequently, something a child has said or done, opening something up within our spirits either we did not know was there, or we had not been paying attention to?
I wonder if there is a child in your community who would enjoy Godly Play.
I wonder if there is a hidden child within you that would enjoy Godly Play.
I wonder what your response is to this article.
I wonder …
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