Sunday, 31 July 2016

Roots and Godly Play?

As a children's work leader, I've been grateful for the Roots magazines and web resources to help plan sessions based on the lectionary readings. 

Our group, which has quite a large age range from 3-11, had been getting on nicely with Roots, as long as we split into two groups for the story: littler ones hearing a very pared down "mini story" and older children listening to the Bible extract as printed in Roots. 

Then, in June, MummyB went on a Godly Play course and learned how to tell the Good Samaritan story. She was even given the gold box containing all the story props as part of the course fee. 

When I spotted that the lectionary reading for 10th July was the Good Samaritan, I invited her to come along and see how our group would respond to the story told in this way.  


After we had heard the story and wondered about aspects of the hurt man's experience, I realised that even the younger children had managed to keep concentrating on the story. The usual distractions that often occur ("do you mean strength like Captain Barnacles?" "Captain Barnacles has polar bear strength"!!) were absent. The presence of the props on the piece of fabric seemed to make the story more alive. To respond to the story, some of the children chose to stay and play with the story set, retelling parts of it to each other, while other children had a go at some different crafts.

Until that morning, I will admit to having been rather sceptical of Godly Play, with its prescriptive rules about having a dedicated room and needing to buy *all* the story sets before starting, as well as the teaching style of not making eye contact with the children, and following the Godly Play year rather than the lectionary. The logistics of our church buildings mean that a dedicated Godly Play room is not possible, however much we might want one (we only have our Young Church room for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning because it is let out for other groups during the week); we feel strongly that it is valuable for the children and adults to follow the lectionary together in their different sessions so that families all have the same story to discuss when they meet up after the service.

But there was something absolutely magical about the children's reaction to the (familiar) story of the Good Samaritan: their eyes were focused on the people as they moved along the mat; they asked questions about the story that hadn't occurred to them before; their responses, whether through play or craft, made me feel as though this way of telling and playing is ideal for our mixed age group.

So, in the weeks since, I have made my own Mary and Martha story bag using air dry clay for the props and wooden figures from eBay for the people; I've searched on Pinterest for Godly Play Lord's Prayers ... and ended up devising my own way of doing it; and this week, I've built flat barns from lollipop sticks and made a flat farmer figure, along with his carrots, corn and cabbages, for the Parable of the Rich Farmer. The lovely Becky Ramsey kindly sent me a script for Mary and Martha; I've written the Lord's Prayer and Rich Farmer scripts myself.

It occurred to me that other young church leaders might also be using Godly Play in a non-Godly Play setting, and that this might be a good space for me to share what I'm learning as I go.

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