Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ten Best Ways to Live

When I ask my son where he feels closest to God, he always answers in the forest or somewhere in nature.  Following his cue, on a recent family trip to the forest, I took along materials for one of my favorite Godly Play stories, "The Ten Best Ways to Live". As you may have guessed, this story is about the Ten Commandments given to Moses in Exodus. The title here says so much: we tend to think of commandments in our modern language as being something harshly restrictive, but these commandments  are meant to show us how to live life to the fullest.

I brought along a portable desert sack that is smaller than the one I use in church and knew where I could get some sand in the forest. Then, I took 7 small wooden figures, a rock for Mount Sinai, and the heart-shaped box that holds the commandments. 

In case you have never seen the box that holds the commandments, it looks like this:

There is a strong non-verbal message going on in this story that is communicated through this box.  The heart shape communicates the motivation behind the commandments themselves: not a divine Kill-joy who tries to control everything, but a wise Father who loves us enough to give some healthy advice and boundaries. 

There are two versions of this story, an abridged version for small children and a longer version for older ones.  The last time my kids heard the abridged version because we were with younger children, so I chose to tell them the longer version this time. My favorite part of the longer version is where Moses asks to see God's face and God explains that no man can see God's face and live.  Instead, God places Moses between two rocks and allows him to see God from behind.  The GP storyteller then makes the statement that seeing God face to face is too much for us.  But if we see him from behind, we can then follow Him all the days of our lives.

The heart in the foreground has the two greatest commandments
that Jesus said summed up the 10 Commandments:
Love God, Love people, and a reminder that God loves us.
The Ten Commandments themselves are on the other plates to the left.

During the wondering phase, my son found the most important and best thing to be how Moses always put God first.  Both children were pretty aghast that the children of Israel would worship a golden calf, which led to a discussion about what kinds of things people today worship. The only single commandment that either child seemed to mention or identify with was the first one, probably because we have been learning the commandments together. That's one of the great things about "Wondering" in Godly Play: you can focus on the things that speak to you at that particular point in time and then find something new at a later date.  In that respect, GP is a lot like Lectio Divina.

We have been learning one commandment a week during our family time before the kids go to bed each night.  I have been using a kid-friendly version of the Ten Commandments that you can find here.  I let the kids make up hand motions to go with each commandment and this has been effective in helping them to remember.

Do you have any interesting ways to teach children about the Ten Commandments?


  1. Hi Sheila,

    Sorry if this comment shows up twice. I wrote it but then it didn't appear after I posted it.

    I loved your 10 Commandments presentation, especially the fact that you did it in nature! I wasn't familiar with this Godly Play presentation but think it is a wonderful way to present the 10 commandments as loving guidelines from Our Heavenly Father. Pinned it to my Pinterest board for future reference.

    Thank you for sharing it!

    Cheryl Basile

  2. Thanks, Cheryl, for the feedback! I am honored to be on your Pinterest board. FYI: My friend, Storyteller, at Wonderful in an Easter Kind of Way, is trying to set up a group board for Godly Play and Catechesis blog friends to use. If you are interested check out this post: http://easterkind.blogspot.com/2011/09/group-bulletin-board.html

  3. What a wonderful way of sharing the ten commandments, I have been a Sunday School teacher for many years, and love it when I come across great new ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Sheila, Just getting caught up on my google reader and read this post! You sure have some lucky children - what a wonderful experience! I'm inspired by you!

  5. I love that you did your presentation outdoors, Sheila ... what a wonderful touch! I featured your Godly play posts and a photo from this post at http://livingmontessorinow.com/2011/09/27/creative-godly-play-at-home-old-testament/

  6. thank you! this was the first helpful, concrete-enough idea to teach about the ten commandments! I will pin this and find some figures and make the heart-box commandments. God bless you!

    1. Hi Alina, You're welcome! I would highly recommend getting Jerome Berryman's Book: The Complete Guide to teaching Godly Play: Lessons for Fall. This book has the complete text to the story I told and shows the movements with the figures. Also, specific Wondering questions are included. The book can be ordered through Amazon. Thanks for stopping by!