Saturday, November 15, 2014

Godly Play and "Church-out-of-a Box"

At the beginning of this school year, I was given a new position with a larger church in Berlin that is planting a new congregation in the area where I live. The new congregation has a weekly children's service as well as the original congregation, and I was asked to help both congregations implement Godly Play into their services. 

I was very excited about this new opportunity, because, for one thing, I needed a new challenge at this point in life and sensed that God had something new for me. Also, as a Godly Play Trainer, I consult other churches about how to implement GP, but I had never actually had the hands-on experience of doing it myself!  

The interesting thing about this church situation is that both congregations meet in theatres on Sunday rather than owning their own buildings. As a result, we do "church-out-of-a-box" each Sunday, where we literally set up the service, including the children's services, by unpacking boxes and rearranging furniture. (Nothing new to me, as you regular readers know from the after-school clubs.) Aside from the effort it takes to set-up each Sunday, the big drawback is that it makes it impossible to have a permanent Godly Play room. 

I have a team of 20 volunteers. They are gifted people who are 100% committed to the children. In many ways they are a dream team for me! I am also lucky to have a few people within the team who have professional experience with children. But here is the challenge: some of my teachers are open to Godly Play and others are skeptical that it can really work. I walk a tightrope at times of encouraging them to at least try GP, but also trying to value the way things have been done in the past. 

I've had a relationship with this church for years, so I had been in their children's services many times. One problem that I noticed from the get-go was that with different teachers on each week, there were no overarching rituals from Sunday to Sunday. Each children's service was very different from the week before, and the children never knew what to expect.  Consequently, there were a lot of behavioural issues among the children and some burned-out teachers. 

As a result, our first step in introducing GP has been to implement the structure and principles: getting ready, building the circle, the story, Wondering, response time, the feast and the blessing. So as not to manipulate or force people into something, we have given the teachers the freedom to either tell the story using whatever method or manner they choose. 

After 4 months, here is where we stand: it's been a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. We have good days and bad days. Some are becoming more open to GP, and others are really frustrated. 

I keep reminding everyone that most of the time God works in processes. He can do things overnight, but most often He chooses not to. The process of Godly Play is important, because it changes us, the children, and the parents. 

The parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven have become very important images for us: the Kingdom of God takes time to grow and become visible. It may be two years, before we see real change, and in our instant society where we want everything quickly, that can be frustrating. However, I think it will all be worth the wait. : )


  1. Congratulations on your new position. It is a joy to hear how many children will continue to be blessed with your wisdom. I love the "church out the box idea" there is nothing that can stop you! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Tearri, for your encouragement!

  3. Sheila, I've been looking forward to this news! In fact was thinking of you this morning)) I can relate to a lot from this post)) and was encouraged by the way you're dealing with them.

  4. Thanks, Asmic! I hope that the things I/we learn will help others in the future!