Why Godly Play Is So Worth What You Pay For It

It’s been five years now since my colleague and I spent a chunk of our professional capital (and a fair amount of the church’s money) on Godly Play, the Montessori-esque program of Biblical and liturgical education for children that uses hand-crafted materials made in Kansas and that requires the complete re-purposing of an entire room of the church and a demanding routine of teacher training.

It was so worth it.

Seriously, all of the fretting over how to pay for it and how to train teachers for it seems silly after all this time of routinely using it. Because now we have a network of people in our church who know it and can tell most of the stories. We have at least two generations of preschool students and a whole elementary school cycle of Sunday school kids who have been shaped by the Great Family and The Good Shepherd.

Godly Play story vocabulary has invaded my preaching. Godly Play teaching techniques have informed my youth ministry.

Seriously, it has got to be one of the most valuable church resources out there. It is so much better than almost everything else you could use to teach the Bible to children. So much better.

Twice during VBS this week I pinch hit Godly Play stories for the activities provided by our curriculum. Rather than teach about the cross by making young children write down a sin, then giving a bloody rendition of the crucifixion before instructing them to place their sins at the foot of the cross, I decided to tell the Mystery of Easter. Then I told the Good Shepherd and World Communion story to explore how it is that Jesus is with us (“He is in the bread. He is in the cup”) rather than have kids make imaginary drawings of Heaven.

So. Much. Better.

I adapted them pretty heavily. But I’ve told them a bunch, so I found that quite easy.

It was a bit of a risk five years ago to propose taking over an entire room and committing so much of our Christian Education budget for one year to Godly Play materials and training. Without a doubt, though, it is the best risk I’ve taken in ministry.

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