Michelle Brown confessed that ‘Godly Play wasn’t even on the radar’ when expecting her first child, although she had been telling stories for a few years. She became more intentional, however, with Godly Play when her second child arrived, having seen how it was impacting her son. A local ‘Play and Pray with your Toddler’ group used some Godly Play stories and sensory prayer stations. It also included regular walks which, she says, ‘meant that whenever I’d go for a walk with Ben and he’d pick up a million rocks and find shells everywhere, and my pockets would be just full of nature, I could start to pause to appreciate why he was doing that, and think about childhood spirituality. [This] opened my eyes to how to observe God in the world with your young one and how they can show you what you’re missing.’ She then began to pay more attention to her children and their toys, many of which were Godly Play materials.
Both children have heard Michelle practise lots of stories, and later they joined her in the circle she leads at church. Her training prompted her to try to approach life with her children in a slower and more intentional manner. She points out, ‘Whatever it is they need in that time, we’ll do’. Allowing herself to be led by the children and noticing their needs is key to supporting them. She reflects on the benefits that she appreciates: ‘I really think it reminds me of all that I’ve forgotten as an adult. It brings me back to my childhood, that magical time for us when we could connect with nature and God.’ Stopping and noticing also has helped Michelle to pause and give thanks through her day, and she says, ‘The kids are really good at reminding us of what’s important. Sometimes as an adult I don’t hear God’s voice, I’m too busy. They bring me back to God. They’re training me.’
Like all parents who have their children with them in Sunday school, there are moments of frustration, but Michelle lets her training in childhood spirituality remind her that every response is valued and valid. She said ‘[my] son was throwing paper aeroplanes and I was like ‘huh?’ And then when we left church he said, ‘I like to fly this and think about the story.’ He named the plane his ‘Jesus Jet’. Her son often seeks an explanation for something by asking Michelle to ‘just tell it in a Godly Play way.’ (If there’s anyone out there who could give Michelle the book of Revelation in a Godly Play way, do get in touch!)
During the period of lockdown due to the Covid pandemic, Michelle has been delivering all of her Godly Play over Zoom from home. Her children have watched her at work more than ever before and she’s wondered how much they have really taken in of the stories, feeling less able to give them her full attention. But their wondering is revealed in their play later. She looks forward to returning to church and the store of Godly Play stories known to her daughter as ‘my stories, my library’ and is grateful that the children have Godly Play as a language they are growing up with.