When I first read Jerome Berryman’s introduction to Godly Play (Godly Play: Einführung in die Theorie und Praxis), I was particularly intrigued by a chapter in which he described using Godly Play outside of the walls of the church. Among the places that Berryman experimented was in hospitals with children, teenagers and patients with eating disorders. Because our church plant was at that time (and still is) in the beginning stages, being a children’s pastor was/is not a full-time job for me. So I began to think about how I could also use Godly Play in public places.
Two opportunities immediately presented themselves and I will describe the first one in this post. My son attends a public school in our neighborhood that is heavily dependent on parental involvement, because it has only been been open for three years. We parents help with all sorts of things from organizational duties to offering after-school activities. In Berlin, religion is an elective offered in school from the first grade on. I developed a friendship with our religion teacher and we began to think about what we could offer children who were not able to attend religion class on a regular basis, but nevertheless were curious about the Christian faith. Since Easter was coming up, the religion teacher suggested that I offer an after-school activity called “Why we Celebrate Easter” in the 4 weeks leading up to Easter. Our principal gave us permission and I started to work.
It was a challenging, but wonderful experience. Eighteen children signed up. Because they were unfamiliar with the quiet, meditative nature of Godly Play, it was challenging to get them all to listen the first week. Also, the school was too short on child-care workers to loan me a staff member to help. One should probably never try to do Godly Play with 18 children alone, but sometime you gotta do, what you gotta do . . . Slowly, they grew accustomed to it and most of the children found that they needed this quiet time in their week. (There was much sadness when the club came to an end and the children would ask me for weeks later when Easter club was going to start again!)
For our creative phase, we built an Easter Garden together. The children and I developed ideas together of sculptures we could add each week as a response to the stories. The garden was displayed in the school cafeteria and I learned from the teachers that many children would gather around it each day looking to see what we had added.
Here are a couple of photos of me telling the stories to the children:
After the story, we worked on our sculptures for the garden:
It was fascinating to observe the children's ideas. These two girls ended up painting the crosses a bright yellow, something that I would not have thought of and which made the piece beautiful.
And the garden:
The angels proclaiming Jesus's resurrection are adorable!
This was created after the story of the Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I love how the sheep have such big smiles!
I am about to begin an Advent Club in two weeks, so I will keep you posted on how it goes and what we do this time!