Did you know we have a routine in Godly Play? By routine, I mean a schedule that we repeat each week. And we do!
Routines are helpful to children (and adults!) for numerous reasons. Routines help us feel safe. They help us know what to expect AND they also allow us to anticipate what will happen next. As contrary as it sounds, a routine can actually help kids make changes… which is good because if life is anything, it is one big constant change!
Since children are growing quickly and learning consistently, AND since we value creating a space in which children can feel free to engage God through Scripture without fear of asking a wrong question or not knowing an answer, we use a routine.
Godly Play has even created one for us to utilize. It’s based on a worship service order! Below you will find the order of Godly Play at our church.
Kids line up outside the door of their classroom. The storyteller is already inside, ready to welcome kids into the room. The doorkeeper stands at the door and asks each child, “Are you ready for Godly Play?”. If the child is, he will walk in, get a mat and join the circle. If she is not, or isn’t sure, she can go to the back of the line to take a few breaths or have a few extra seconds to ready herself. This is similar to what we do in our adult service when we sit in silence before we begin to ready ourselves to receive God’s Word.
Acknowledging God’s Presence
The storyteller greets each child as they come to the circle. Sometimes the storyteller has to help the kids find seats that will be less distracting (wink, wink), but often they are just able to smile and remind each child how happy we are to see them there. Once everyone is seated, the storyteller will ask if everyone is ready. He/she will then get up to light candles on a holder that looks like the three-pronged candle stand we use in the adult worship service. The storyteller will say something like this, “God is everywhere! He is even here with us now. Sometimes we need something to help us remember that, so we light candles. We have three candles on one candle holder because our God is three-in-one. That really is something to wonder about! Let’s name the three persons of God.” The storyteller and the children will together say, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit” as the storyteller lights the candles. They remain lit through the entire Godly Play session.
Next up is the story! Children remain in the circle and watch the storyteller bring a story set to the middle of the circle. The storyteller then tells the story while they kids listen.
This is the time in which the storyteller and children utilize “wondering questions”. These are questions aimed at getting children to reflect and think about the story they just heard. These encourage children to share their pondering and often lead to more questions and new observations.
Often parents share that they overhear their child saying, “I wonder” more when they begin Godly Play! Asking “why?” is where the work of theology begins… and children are often the best in our church at asking “why”! They are starting a (hopefully lifelong) process of exploring Scripture and seeking God and His Word with their questions.
Respond with Work
This is a time of response. In lieu of a specific craft or worksheet, children are invited to choose a way to respond to the story and integrate the Scripture with their own experiences. Children integrate knowledge through play. It’s their way of understanding the world. One way to think of this is like adults give an offering in grateful response to what God has given to us. Children respond with play and creativity.
Some children choose a story set to play with. They will play quietly, loudly, or even tell another child the story using the set. Some children choose the desert box. (The desert box is a popular one as it is full of things to wonder over! A lot of important things happened in the desert…)
Children also integrate through creativity. Using different craft supplies, children are allowed to continue exploring their thoughts and reactions to the story and wondering questions.
Some children select some art supplies to draw a picture from the story, or create a “people of God” figure. We want children to come “as they are”, which means we want them to engage the story “where they are”…not having to have things figured out already, but as learners. Perhaps one child is considering the sheep who the Good Shepherd rescued, so he draws a picture of a lost sheep. Another child might have heard the same story, but thought about the sheep following the Good Shepherd’s voice and made several play-doh figures in a line.
Often storytellers will encourage the kids as they pick their work to remember the story as they work. There are occasions when a child draws something like batman or themselves at an event. Sometimes that means they were a little checked out that night (happens to adults, too!). Most of the time, however, I would wager they are learning and expressing concepts the best way they know how. I remember babysitting some siblings who drew a picture of heaven with an icing river and trees made of candy. It looked more like Wonka’s chocolate factory to me, but to them, it was the way they knew how to convey joy, delight and fulfillment…which are things we will encounter in the new heavens and new earth. This blogger explains work/response time well.
Prayer and Feast
After work, children will put away their supplies and story sets and come back to the story circle. We will feast together on goldfish and water and pray together. Typically, we use either the Lord’s Prayer, the doxology, or the “God Our Father” song.
This is often the time when storytellers and doorkeepers get to talk to the kids, who share prayer requests or highlights/lowlights from their week. We move the arrow on our church calendar as well.
Our children at RMC come back downstairs for the actual feast — communion. We don’t teach that our feast is communion, but we do hope that children make a connection between sharing food and being together with other believers.
The storyteller and doorkeeper help the kids throw away their trash, put up their carpet squares and get back in line to join the service downstairs. As the kids line up and leave, the storyteller dismisses children with a blessing. It’s not formal, it’s actually often just a “I’m so glad you came!” or “I love how you wondered today!” the idea is to help children remember their presence is valued. This church and these stories are for them as much as they are for adults.
Once the kids are lined up, they walk back to the service to be with their families for Communion and then for the Benediction.