This is the second part of our series on Godly Play. You can find the first part on its philosophy here. Thank you to Jennifer Downey and Michelle Abernathy for being willing to share about this great program. One parent writes, “I love being part of a church that . . . seeks to invite everyone (including littles) to experience the wonder, gravity, intimacy, and community of the Gospel.”
What does the Godly Play program look like at our church?
Jenny: At some parishes, the Godly Play program happens while parents are in the main worship service. It may last for the duration of the whole service, or the children may be dismissed for Godly Play before the sermon and brought back for Communion. Our church, however, believes that Godly Play, while mirroring the liturgy, should not replace full participation in worship. We do the program from 9:00-9:45 as our Sunday School program, and then families go into the Holy Communion service all together. Their time in Godly Play prepares them for a sanctuary full of sacred symbols, and they are ready to actively engage and participate in the liturgy.
Another difference is that, while we follow the Godly Play model, we have found that this model allows us space to supplement creatively in different ways. For example, we often supplement with Young Children and Worship by Sonja Steward and Jerome Berryman, especially when telling stories from the life of Christ. Godly Play does not have as many stories from the life of Jesus as we believe is important for young children.
Godly Play does have some stories about the saints, but we have found them to be limited, and they are also told with two-dimensional materials, rather than the three-dimensional materials used for other historical stories. We have written several of our own saint stories, and made our own custom materials for them.
During our opening time we often start with a hymn or song that the children will hear during the service. During the feast, we often discuss things they will observe in the next hour during worship. Because our program comes before the service, we try to make as many connections to the gospel readings or the specific season as possible.
Michelle: Our church strays somewhat from the Godly Play guidelines in a few ways. We have several two-year olds in our Godly Play program, as we have found a number to be very responsive to the stories and work. Typically, Godly Play is for 3-7 year-olds. This does change the dynamic a bit, as some require more patience and guidance.
We tend to make a lot of our own materials. Occasionally, we will write our own scripts if we feel the original script is lacking, or we will combine it with a Young Children and Worship script.
Our room is not solely a children’s Sunday school room. It is multipurpose, accommodating multiple school classes throughout the week and occasionally used for church celebrations. All of our materials have to be closed up and put away after every use, so as teachers we have our very own “Getting Ready” each week.
What are some additional resources?