Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Elements of a Godly Play Session

You may be wondering why you haven't yet heard anything about the Godly Play Trainers' Training that I attended in Holland. The truth is that as soon as I returned home, I was hit with the news about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and it didn't seem appropriate to be rejoicing about something when there was so much pain elsewhere in the world. Also, my daughter's 7th birthday was on the same day that I returned, and then we jumped straight into the last week of Advent and Christmas. So it's only now that I have begun to reflect on all that I learned and experienced in Holland. 

What a wonderful and overwhelming experience it was! Though I am now officially a Godly Play Trainer, I know that this is a role that I will have to grow into over time.

I'd like to begin by giving you some bite-size chunks of what we learned rather than overwhelming you with long posts. 

One significant thing that Rebecca and Peter, our trainers, brought out in the beginning was the need to train people to do all the elements of a Godly Play session and not just focus on the story. I must admit that when I thought about training others myself, most often my thoughts were about the story or the response time. But all of the elements are important. 

Here is a visual aid that Rebecca shared to help us see the whole picture:

(Idea courtesy of Alison Seaman, Godly Play Trainer, UK)
The six groups of objects in the picture above represent:

1. The ThresholdThis is a literal and metaphorical one. It refers to how the children (or whatever age the Godly Play participants may be) enter the room. Children, in particular, need to a chance to start getting ready before they enter the room. They also need to feel welcomed and know that this is a safe place to express their thoughts. Here, the Co-Teacher can make all the difference. 

2. Building the circle - After the Co-Teacher welcomes each child and he/she crosses the threshold one-by-one, the child selects a place in the circle and the Storyteller greets him/her as well. It is a basic human instinct to want to belong to and feel comfortable in a group, and here the Storyteller can playfully help in this process. 

3. The Story - A story is shared from one of three genres: Sacred Stories, Parables and Liturgical stories. There is one more genre called the "genre of silence". You can read more about these genres here and here.

4. The Wondering - In this part, the group responds to the story they have just heard, both in verbal and non-verbal ways. You can read more about Wondering here

5. The Creative Response - Here the children respond individually, but not necessarily to the story they have just heard, but to any story or any other thoughts they may have. You can read more about this here

6. The Feast - This part is about community. It is also an indirect preparation for taking communion. 

There are, of course, times when we have to leave out one element or another. For example, sometimes we don't have enough time for the response time, and sometimes we may even leave out the story. But knowing that all of these elements work together and working to make them better makes our Godly Play times much more effective. 

Elements like crossing the threshold and building the circle are never left out. And they become even more important if you are doing Godly Play in a more informal setting such as your home, because the children often have a greater need to get ready.  

I'll be back in the next couple of days with more to share!


  1. Very interesting! I am new to godly play, and I am looking forward to hearing more! :)

  2. Thanks for sharing. I added your blog to my Google Reader so not to miss future posts. I like the thought you mentioned in this post about the classroom threshold. Young children do need time to enter the room and feel welcome. I feel it is important to greet them and ask open ended questions about their 'likes' and events of the weekend/previous night.

    1. Thank you, Brenna, for reading alongI I saw that you are a preschool teacher. I look forward to checking out your blog as well.