Laura White launched Godly Play for our children and young people in 2021
One of the greatest gifts of childhood is the ability to wonder. From the clouds that roll across the sky to the mechanics of a bicycle, children approach the world enthusiastically ready to learn. Unfortunately for some people, wonder begins to fade when they encounter routinized learning contexts. How might the church help people maintain and grow their sense of wonder as they learn about God? Godly Play is an approach to Christian education based around wonder. Each session begins with a story – but not a story read by a teacher or in a book. Instead, Godly Play stories use beautifully crafted materials – including wooden figures, sweeping sand “deserts,” and bead “pearls” – to draw children visually and sensorially into the narrative, which a storyteller recalls from memory. At the end of each story, children are invited to wonder with questions like, “I wonder what part of the story we could take out and still have all we need?” and “I wonder where you were in that story?” Sometimes children share their responses with the group, but always children are invited to reflect on the story by working with the materials or using art materials available. After a period of wondering using the materials, the children have a communal feast together, mirroring the routines they see in the service. By cultivating a sense of wonder, Godly Play not only builds familiarity with the core stories of our tradition, but also builds comfort with not knowing or understanding all the answers to Christianity’s big questions. Godly Play teaches, in fact, that there is curiosity, play, and community in revisiting the big questions, again and again, sometimes with new insights emerging. How might we all approach our journey with God with more wonder?