The desert is a dangerous place. People don’t go there unless they have to. In Godly Play practice, we need to go there often, and we need to take the circle of children with us. In addition to the beautiful hand-crafted desert boxes made by the artisans of Godly Play Resources, desert bags offer us another route into the desert.
Desert bags are more portable than the boxes. They occupy less space in the room, and are more affordable. Some people make their own, but now you can purchase one from Godly Play Resources.
Many Trainers ask which type of desert they should recommend. Is there a theological or pedagogical reason why one might be better than the other?
In practice, some experienced storytellers say that using the Desert Bag enhances a story. Untying a string and revealing the whole desert adds another layer of wonder to the story. On a practical level, it is a little easier for those listening to see the action. Even the clear sides of a plexi-glass desert box can detract from the action, particularly if the circle is large.
The desert bag offers a flexibility that may be necessary for churches using shared space or for those who do Godly Play in small spaces. It is also an affordable way for churches starting a new Godly Play program to start telling desert stories. The difficulty is that the desert bag is not easily moved around, especially by young children. This means they cannot work with it as independently as they might with a desert box on wheels.
In short, the desert box is often a better choice for the children pedagogically, because they can work with it on their own. However, the bag may be preferable for small spaces or tight budgets, and almost certainly for mobile programs.