Monday, February 3, 2014

"The Great Pearl" with Seniors Part 2

On Sunday, I co-led a worship service at one of our local retirement centers that we visit with Serve the City and our after-school clubs. As the "sermon" I told the Godly Play story, the "Parable of the Great Pearl". About 25 seniors were in attendance. 

This was my second time to lead a worship service with these seniors, and it went much smoother this time. For one thing, the seniors knew a wee bit more of what to expect. And we learned some things from our last experience that helped us this time around.

When working with a larger group of seniors, poor eyesight and hearing are often an issue. To help with the former problem, we enlarged the materials to make them better seen. (You can read about how I made the materials for the story here.) Last time, we told the story on a table of normal height rather than on the floor. However, this also proved too difficult for the seniors to see well. This time, we stacked two layers of folded tables on top of one another to make an in-between height, which you can see in the picture below. 

This made a huge difference, and the seniors were much more engaged during the story than lat time around.

To help with impaired hearing, I use a microphone to tell the stories. Last time, I had a wireless lapel mic. However, when I packed it this time to take with me to the retirement home, I neglected to check and make sure a battery was in the lapel set. With no battery and no way to get one on a Sunday morning, I ended up using a handheld mic and putting it down when I needed to move the figures. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it slowed down the action even more for the seniors, so that they could follow along even more. 

Another interesting situation arose beforehand, when a staff member and I realized that the pearls would not be seen against a white tablecloth. The same staff member had the idea to cut out some circles out of brown felt to put underneath the pearls to make them stand out. Problem solved. 

At least two of the seniors participated in the Wondering at the beginning of the parable when I asked what the brown felt pieces (that represent the houses) could be. One lady said, "A picture frame," and another said, "An open door."

This time around, to give the seniors a chance to gather their thoughts, we had the pianist play an instrumental piece between the Parable and the Wondering. The ergotherapist and I had agreed beforehand to allow more time between the questions to see if it helped the residents to thin more about the story. This, however, seemed to irritate and confuse the residents. One elderly lady graciously suggested that I should give them something to read so that she could give an expected answer. I gently told her that there was no expectation for anyone to answer out loud and that the questions were simply meant to help us ponder the story more and grower closer to God. After that, the others seemed to relax more. 

Afterwards, the ergotherapist and I decided to start trying the Godly Play stories with a smaller group once a month. Making the enlarged materials for the worship services is quite a lot of work and I realistically can't do it more than 4 times a year. But with a smaller group, we could sit around a table and I could use the smaller materials. 

We'll definitely give it a try, and I'll bring my daughter along as well! 


  1. I so appreciate your sharing what worked and what didn't, and your trial and error in problem-solving! Thanks for your humility and honesty!

    1. Thanks, Storyteller! I honestly hope that others can take these experiences and ideas and improve on them in future work with seniors.

  2. It's really interesting to read how it goes with the Seniors. Do they react at all to the story being intended for kids? Or do they not know?

  3. Hi Ticia, Part of the beauty of Godly Play is that it is effective with adults as well. I've told stories in a number of settings with adults including church home groups and at a cafe for women involved in prostitution, and if the story is told with a few adjustments, most people don't realize that it is a kids' curriculum.