Imagine 20 Primary School-aged children meeting during church. Your first thought might well be noise and chaos!
But once a month, the children gather for something quite different. There’s stillness and silence, there’s calm reflection and craft. It’s called Godly Play.
Invented in the US, Godly Play is a way of doing ‘Sunday School’. It’s less about teaching information, and more about the children themselves experiencing God through the ancient stories of the Bible.
Sat in a circle the children gather to watch a story-teller slowly retell a story from memory. Old Testament stories often involve wooden 3D figures, and a sand box – a little bit of the desert that surrounds Israel. Jesus’ parables are told with a golden box containing coloured felt and 2D paper cut-out figures.
There’s no hurry in telling the story. The story-teller’s slow enjoyment of the story rubs off on the children. After the story is finished, the teller asks the children to ‘Wonder’. ‘What’s your favourite part of the story?’ ‘Can we miss parts out?’ ‘Who are you most like in the story?’
After the children have explored their own responses the circle breaks up for craft. Godly Play sometimes ends with the children sharing a juice drink and a biscuit. Again this is done slowly, like Holy Communion.
This is the aim of Godly Play: to be less like a lesson, and more like Church for children. It’s great fun for adults, too.