Godly Play is a Christian interpretation of the Montessori education method, and has been devised by professional teachers and educators. Godly Play as an education method is becoming more popular, and can be found in some schools, hospices, and therapy groups. At Wilson Memorial Church, we have adopted Godly Play as the primary method base for teaching in our Church School. To achieve this, we have invested in extensive training, with staff from our Church School attending residential and Discovery Day courses to ensure we have the very best skills and knowledge available to help the children of our Church School grow, develop, and learn through Godly Play.
Within the United Free Church of Scotland, Wilson Memorial Church is leading the way in Godly Play, and at the 2017 annual Dunblane event “Singing the Lord’s Song in a strange land”, our Church School leaders assisted with an official Godly Play Scotland full day session to introduce children to Godly Play.
Godly Play is a very different, but amazingly engaging, creative, and imaginative method for exploring our Christian faith and heritage. It is not about learning lessons, keeping children entertained, or telling children what they need to know. It’s about experiencing and exploring the sacred stories of God’s people, of knowing Jesus through his life and his parables, and understanding the way in which we approach God.
Godly Play features Bible Stories, and allows children to tell them for themselves using play materials. The materials are not just pictures in a book: for example, when telling a story set in the desert, real sand is used.
A key principle of this teaching method is for the classroom to become a child owned space during the lesson, during which, the sequence of events is modelled on what happens in a church service. Just as the congregation sit together surrounded by stained glass windows and plaques on the walls depicting Biblical stories and symbols, each child enters and joins a circle surrounded by all the materials used to tell all the different stories.
A storyteller fetches the materials to tell the story for that session. Just as the Bible passage is read in Church, so the Godly Play story is told almost to a script. After the story, comes “the wondering” where the children explore the story with carefully crafted questions to help them. In this way each child explores the story just as adults do when the preacher leads the congregation in exploration of the Bible through the sermon.
Godly Play is about young people discovering what they need from the Bible rather than adults telling them facts about the stories. It trusts God and young people. It makes Church School much easier for shy children and those with autism to learn and grow without stifling others. Godly Play has been carefully developed with a lot of psychology underpinning the way in which stories are told and even how the room is laid out.
Godly Play doesn’t force God on children, but rather lets them find God for themselves. It seeks to help children make sense of some seemingly strange things that people do in church, and opens up faith as a meaning filled adventure rather than a fact filled chore.
The Church School at Wilson Memorial, featuring Godly Play, takes place at 11:00am every Sunday during school term.