Godly Play is a program of Christian spiritual formation that teaches children how to use the Christian language — parable, sacred story, liturgical action and silence — to become more aware of the mystery of God’s presence in their lives.
When Christian language is learned through the Godly Play approach, it is a means to know God and to make meaning of our lives. This approach is quite different from the traditional model in which the teacher tells the children what they need to know. Each of the stories of God’s people is told in a way that connects with the child’s own experience and relationship with God.
Godly Play respects the innate spirituality of children and encourages curiosity and imagination in experiencing the mystery and joy of God.
The goal of Godly Play is to show how to be open to the Creator, the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit all at once and all the time in every place.
The classroom is sacred space.
The room is a threshold that serves a similar purpose to the narthex (entrance) in the sanctuary, letting us know that we are entering into sacred space. The order of worship in Godly Play is intentional:
- We are called by name: Greeting and formation of the circle
- Circle of the Church Year
- Offering and prayer
- The Word via story
- Response to the Word
- Creative work time
- Prayer and feast
The “center” of the room is the focal table, where we see the cross and the Holy Family. It is framed by the two “I am” statements of Jesus: “I am the Good Shepherd” and “I am the Light.” The story shelves are organized by language: sacred stories from the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, liturgical stories (such as Advent and Baptism), and parables. There are other shelves with arts and crafts materials and a work area for the responsive time.
Our assumptions about children in Godly Play
In Godly Play, our work with children is grounded in the following assumptions made about children’s spirituality:
- A child’s sense of the sacred is innate.
- A child has a profound, intuitive knowledge of God.
- A child needs adults to model how we use religious language to make meaning and help find direction in life.
- A child needs adults to assist them in drawing out his or her own truth.
- A child needs adults to witness their growing faith within a caring community.
How will I know if my child is learning anything?
One of the most important things we teach in Godly Play is how Christian people work together in community. This is hard to measure. Keep in mind that children will not always be able to tell you what they learned because what they learned was how to learn about the powerful language of the Christian people. Often, parents find their children begin to re-tell Bible stories and wonder aloud about the meaning of these stories.
What are on the shelves in the classroom?
These objects are the lesson materials that make the images of religious language come alive. In Godly Play the storyteller sites in the circle with the children on the floor literally surrounded by the religious language system of the Christian tradition. The materials help us tell the story of the day and are placed in the middle of the circle, symbolizing the fact that God is present and accessible to all, children and adults alike. The circle also helps us emphasize many aspects of being together in a Christian community.