The order of Godly Play on Sunday mornings can change a little from time to time, but usually we follow the same routine. Routines help children feel comfortable, give them the ability to prepare their minds and spirits for what is coming, and mirror the predictable routine of a regular Sunday morning worhsip service. Here is a rough outline of what a typical Sunday at Godly Play will look like.
Making a Joyful Noise/Sharing Joys and Concerns. We begin our Sunday school hour along with the preschool children. All children meet in the upstairs hallway. We sing a song or two with Sunny and then invite the children to share any joys and concerns they might have. After a few minutes the storyteller exits to prepare for the day's story and at a designated time the preschool children head to their class and the 4 year olds through 5th graders head to the Godly Play room with an adult guide.
Getting Ready and Building the Circle. Because it is so important for children to have time to get ready to enter the story before it is told, we have set a routine that allows them time to "get their wiggles out" through singing and sharing and then also allows them time to calm down and prepare to enter the Godly Play classroom. One of our Sunday School teachers will act as a guide each week and sit at the door to greet each child by name and ask them if they are ready to join the circle. Once they are ready the guide will ask them to enter the circle where they will find the storyteller already seated on the floor preparing to tell the story. The storyteller will whisper a short personal hello and ask the child to have a seat in a particular spot in the circle. We take these few minutes to calmly center our bodies and minds and prepare to hear the day's story.
Entering the Story. Next comes the telling of the story. The story and our wondering talk afterward are the center of our Godly Play experience. Each week we will enter into one of the sacred stories of the Old Testament, engage with a parable, or participate in a liturgical action lesson. The storyteller will keep her eyes on the materials rather than the children - to invite their eyes to follow hers and to stress that it is the story, not the storyteller that we are to focus on.
Wondering. After the story, the storyteller will sit back for a moment to enjoy the story and then begin presenting a series of statements that always begin with the phrase, "I wonder...." These statements give the children the opportunity to explore the story further, to investigate what it might mean to them, to ponder different ideas the story awakens in them. These questions invite children to think about where they see themselves in the story, to wonder if there are any parts of the story which we could leave out and still have everything we need, to consider which part of the story was most important, or to ask what something in a parable might "really be." The storyteller does not interpret or judge any answers but merely acknowledges them. Jerome Berryman writes in How to Lead Godly Play Lessons, (p.56), "As Godly Play teachers our job is to support the process of wondering, not to approve or disapprove of specific answers. The children's wondering emerges out of their own lives, their relationship with God and their participation in the lesson. Let God be there. Allow this powerful language to do its work. Trust the searching of the children to find what they need with God and the scriptures."
Responding Creatively. Following our time of wonder, children are invited to create a response to the story or the themes that come up in our wondering. Students are free to choose what form this interaction between story and creativity might take. This can be done in pairs, individually, and may even occasionally be a group effort. Art and building materials (papers, colored pencils, oil pastels, paint, modeling clay, etc) are made available as are a variety of work spaces (small tables in several heights and sizes, rugs, cushions,etc.) The storyteller or guide usually gives a few ideas or prompts - especially if there are children struggling to choose a response. Children may also use the story materials that the storyteller used to retell or expand upon a story that has been presented.
Restoring the Classroom. Storyteller, Guide and children share in the stewardship of the classroom. All work together to restore the room to the state in which it began. Low shelving with safe cleaning materials are accessible to the children and all work together to prepare the room for our feast. There is also an area of the room where children can store "works in progress" to continue working on in following weeks as well as an area for them to place items they will be taking home with them after the feast. As the storyteller returns to the circle to help rebuild it with the children, the guide and a few children prepare materials for our feast.
Prayers and Feasting. Each Sunday we prepare juice and some type of "bread" (usually a cracker or cookie of some kind) to be shared in our closing circle. After the room is restored and everyone is again "ready" in the circle we each share silently or spoken aloud a short prayer as we pass a candle around the circle. Then we join together in sharing our feast and visiting as we wait for the arrival of parents. The Guide returns to her chair at the door in preparation for greeting parents and dismissing the children.
Saying Goodbye. Once the Guide has seen that a parent is there to pick up their child, she will ask the child to say goodbye to the storyteller. The storyteller will offer an individual word of parting and thank the child for coming. Children then join their parents at the door. At 10:40 anyone left in the circle will be lead to the nursery and can be picked up there before worship.