WHAT IS GODLY PLAY?
The result of a lifetime of research and practice by theologian, author and educator The Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman, the Godly Play® method is a curriculum of spiritual practice exploring the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. The Godly Play curriculum engages what is most exciting about religious education: God inviting us into—and pursuing us in the midst of—Scripture and spiritual experience. Godly Play practice teaches us to listen for God and to make authentic and creative responses to God’s call in our lives.
Godly Play is a creative, imaginative approach to Christian formation and spiritual guidance.
Godly Play has a Montessori foundation with 40+ years of research and practice.
Godly Play values process, openness, discovery, community and relationships.
Godly Play models the worship life, stories, symbols and rituals of Christian congregations.
Godly Play allows practitioners to make relevant and personal theological meaning.
Godly Play nurtures participants to larger dimensions of belief and faith through wondering and play.
STARTING A GODLY PLAY PROGRAM
Starting or re-starting a Godly Play program is a ministry that will change the way you and your parish view and interact with children . . . and likely each other. It is an amazing spiritual journey requiring time, energy, patience, and love.
As Founder Jerome Berryman is famous for saying: “The only thing left to do is begin!”
- Start with the pedagogical and theological understanding of What Is Godly Play.
- Watch Founder Jerome Berryman’s Introduction to the Godly Play Foundation YouTube channel.
- Then watch some of the Foundation’s YouTube story videos to get a sense of the lesson portion of a Godly Play session.
- Read Teaching Godly Play: How to Mentor the Spiritual Development of Children by Jerome W. Berryman.
For a successful Godly Play program, you will want to have everything in place before the initial launch. This takes some time. From research to support to funding to training to building your Godly Play space, four months to a year is not an unusual amount of time to set up a fully functional program.
The most effective way to bring Godly Play to your church is to do your research, learn some stories, and then take them to every meeting and event possible! As you do this work, it is important to explain that the story you are about totell is just one piece of the overall Godly Play session. But hopefully it will be intriguing enough that you gain support for your new program. You can also print the What Is Godly Play handout and bring it to your church’s governing body to give them a sense of what your goals.
Fundraising may be an integral part of starting or re-starting your Godly Play program. The right tools—beautiful materials, a sacred environment, trained teachers—give a program the right start and set it up for success.
- Ask members of the congregation to purchase specific stories, and then frame a donor list detailing who purchased each story to hang just outside the Godly Play room.
- Ask parish-wide for donations of baskets and small boxes.
- Ask artists and wood-workers in your congregation to work on some of the materials or to build shelves.
- Ask local a local carpet store if they would be willing to donate low-pile samples for work rugs.
- Ask members of the congregation to host Trainers or donate food for a training—perhaps three families bring salads, three families bring dessert, two families make a soup, and then you are only left with providing a main entree for dinner.
- Seek Synod, Diocesan or other governing body support. These groups often have lending libraries of materials or have funding available for training scholarships or underwriting.
Program longevity corresponds directly to number of well-trained Godly Play leaders. Because Godly Play is a dynamic, spiritual practice, training is essential to every Godly Play program.
We recommend that all adults in the Godly Play room attend Core Godly Play training before beginning to teach Godly Play. Core training equips Storytellers and Doorpersons with the skills and processes to lead Godly Play sessions with children.
Administrators such as clergy and Christian Ed Directors will also benefit from attending Core training, especially when setting up a Godly Play room. Core training highlights the main theology of Godly Play, which allows administrators creating the Godly Play environment to maintain theological integrity when working through hurdles such as the constraints of the physical space or the timing of Godly Play sessions in the worship schedule.
An investment in trained adults leads to an energy and enthusiasm that can result in more successful fundraising . . . and ultimately a thriving program led by adults who understand the work of mentoring children’s spirituality and its importance in the church and the world.
Please visit our Training webpage for more information on U.S. training and connection to your local international Godly Play association.
SPACE – Ideally you will start with a clean room with blank walls, however, it may take some work to clear a space to build the sacred space of the Godly Play environment. Remove chalkboards and bulletin boards, clean the carpets or buff the floors, take down busy artwork or wall decorations.
For an inspiration, check out the PowerPoint of Godly Play Spaces at All Saints’ Episcopal in Fort Worth, TX!
SHELVING – Beautiful shelving that is low enough to make materials accessible and wide enough to accommodate materials is key to building your Godly Play room.
Shelves may be built of wood or with boards and glass or bricks, or they may be purchased through Montessori vendors or even Ikea—the Kallax series with two cubes can work well, although as your room becomes more complete, you might want to add an additional shelf either above or below.
MATERIALS – Beautiful, high-quality materials become the unspoken message of respect, care and love of the Godly Play room. High-quality materials also have a long life, and many classrooms still use materials purchased 20 years ago.
We highly recommend our Godly Play Resources materials and do-it-yourself kits. Revenue from our Resources division directly supports the Godly Play Foundation in its mission to grow Godly Play practice worldwide. A full list of authorized materials vendors is available here.
ART SUPPLIES – High-end, well-working, accessible art response materials tell children their work valued, both in process and the final product. Art may reach new heights using professional art supplies, and it is not fair to children to frustrate their creative process with glue that does not come out or hard-to-open containers.