Godly Play is a way of presenting, and engaging with, Bible stories.
It's probably fair to say that it is used mostly with children, but is being increasingly used in a number of different settings; with adults and in care homes and prisons. It has even reportedly been used in hospitals, with miniature figures.
A Godly Play presentation differs from a traditional Bible presentation.
If the group is fortunate enough to have a fully equipped Godly Play classroom, the stories will all be stored in a particular order. The telling of the story begins with the words, "watch where I go for this story, then you will know where to find it." As well as stories from the Bible, there are also stories about the saints, a teaching on the church's year, and presentations for Lent, Advent, Pentecost, Baptism and others.
Godly Play need not take place inside a Godly Play classroom, or even a separate room. Chairs, curtains, blankets etc can all be arranged to form a sacred space.
Apart from the group, there are two other people involved in Godly Play; the Story teller, and the door keeper.
The doorkeeper welcomes the group - let's say, children - as they come into the room, and asks if they are ready. They will be asked to remove their shoes, if possible, before entering.
This is important.
The child is entering a Godly space, and needs to be ready to hear, and receive, the story.
Each Godly Play story is told to the individual; it is for them and they matter. No question that is asked, answer that is offered or activity that is done afterwards, is wrong or insignificant - it's very much about how the story has spoken to the child individually and how they wish to respond to it.
God loves each child, or participant, individually; we all have different needs, different understanding and may respond in different ways.
So welcoming a child personally; as well as calming them down and allowing them to prepare, may help them to feel that they, personally, matter to God.
The doorkeeper may also help to maintain the circle - in that any disruptive child might be asked to sit with the doorkeeper, on one side. They may also help in serving the feast.
The Storyteller will present the GP story that has been chosen for that day. These stories can be found in the GP books. They have been written a number of times over the years and the words have been carefully chosen.
There are a number of recurring words and phrases throughout the stories, for example "There was a man who said such wonderful things and did such amazing things ........". Phrases like this tie the stories together, and encourage the participant to wonder and work it out for themselves. Introducing a Godly Play session by saying "This is a Bible story; Jesus said ....." may not have the same effect, and may discourage non believers from listening further.
The Godly Play Storyteller will usually have attended a 3 day training course. These are held throughout the year in various parts of the country. See the resources page for details.
When telling the story, the storyteller's attention is focused on the materials, not on making eye contact with the group. This is to encourage concentration on the story rather than on the surroundings.
The Storyteller is also responsible for maintaining the circle; asking "are we all ready?" before beginning the story, and maybe "we all need to be ready/I don't think all of us are ready", if any children start fidgeting or get distracted during the telling of the story.
A Godly Play session.
Ideally, this begins outside the classroom, or entrance to the sacred space, with the doorkeeper welcoming each child/participant by name and asking if they are ready to go inside and hear the story for that day.
Once inside, there should be cushions/chairs placed in a circle and each participant invited to sit down. When they have done so, the storyteller will begin with a welcome and brief explanation of the session, and then tell the story.
After the story there is a time for wondering, introduced with the words, "I wonder .....". This is to invite the participants to reflect on and ask questions about the story.
Next, comes the response time. Each participant may respond to the story in a way that is right for them; it may involve various art materials, it may involve sitting in silence, re-reading the story in a Bible or playing with the GP materials for that, or any other, story.
Following the response time, comes the feast. This could be anything, depending on when and when the session is taking place and what is available. Often it may involve grapes, cheese, biscuits or other small snack items - and juice/water. During this time, the storyteller may ask about various activities that are taking place that week, the child's holiday or anything appropriate for the season of the year. The session may, or may not, end with a prayer, and farewell.