I first heard about Godly Play years ago but had no cause or curiosity to follow it up. However, I recently developed both and also opportunity in the form of a course being run 20 minutes from where I live, AND childcare!
I found the core training inspiring, challenging and refreshing, and I intend to follow it up in various ways, but first, here’s my review of the course:
Title: Godly Play core training (I did mine non-residential as I had small children to get home to each evening)A
Author: The material is By Jerome Berryman and the course is run by UK trainers
Useful for: Anyone interested in nurturing children’s spirituality, especially if you’re keen on the idea that children have an innate sense of God or the spiritual and wish to provide them with a structure and language to develop and express their faith and respond to God in their own way and at their own pace.
1 the scripts – at first I was seriously dubious about learning scripts off by heart to tell a Bible story, but I think they are incredibly well crafted, with lots of thought being given to the words used in order to make them inclusive, accessible, educational as well as thought-provoking. They obviously have their own theology woven into them, but also allow space for people to think for themselves.
2 the I wonder questions. These are almost the opposite of the script. Having presented the story very carefully and deliberately, the children are given time to respond either silently or out loud to a series of ‘I wonder’ questions, starting with an easy: ‘I wonder which part of this story you liked best’ and moving towards more complex and personal questions such as: ‘I wonder where you are in this story?’ These give lots of room for children to develop their own ideas about God rather than telling them what they should think. This could be very uncomfortable for some adults, but could also be rather wonderful!
3 the summary of HUGE sections of Bible story in the sacred stories. For example, one presentation, about 10 minutes, summarises the whole of the exile and return!
Worst bits for me:
1 the scripts! I was terrified of having to learn a script off by heart, as we all had to learn one to present to the group. This was, however, bizarrely loads easier than I could ever have imagined, and everyone did really well at it having practised with a group for an hour.
2 parables: the way parables are approached in Godly Play is very playful and fun. However, this uses a lot more skill in gauging where the group are and helping them activate their imaginations to help them start getting inside the parable in new ways. I guess this wasn’t the worst bit, but rather a very challenging part of the course, developing ad lib skills in a new way.
3 the artwork. Godly Play provides a CD with lots of artwork which users can print off and mount on wood. I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of the style, but this isn’t a disaster as other styles are available as well as being able to produce my own (!!!).
RRP: £295 for a 3 day accredited course – sounds like a lot to invest but not a lot for what you get!
I came away intent to use my newfound experience as soon as possible, and so did the Holy Family (nativity) story with my 2-year-old daughter with a new Play Mobil nativity set and found even at 2 she was caught up in the story and found it easy to play with the wondering questions and enjoy playing with the nativity set afterwards. I’ve also found her talking about the story in other contexts during the week so I am keen to develop using Godly Play principles and presentations in our home context.
I also plan to use this story in a two-hour session I’m doing at her nursery next month, and also maybe with my small group.
Have you used Godly Play style things at home? If so, how has it worked for you?
You can find out more about Godly Play here