How to do Godly Play: where to find the stories and other things …

All the Godly Play stories are found in the eight volumes of The Complete Guide to Godly Play. Five books have stories and three  offer really useful information about background, theory and adaptions.

Volumes 2, 3 and 4  provide essential material for the ‘core stories’, using Godly Play for about three years, using a spiral curriculum approach.

All the books are by Jerome Berryman and  available in good Christian bookshops, direct from Norwich Books and Music or through Amazon.

The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volume 1

This provides orientation to the Godly Play approach, with detailed information on creating a special space for children and techniques for presenting each lesson.

The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volume 2 contains story scripts and instructions. This includes many Old Testament Sacred Stories about the People of God.

The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volume 3 contains story scripts for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany and Baptism and the Parables.

The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volume 4 (orange) includes Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Holy Communion and the Early Church.

Volume 5 (turquoise) has useful tips about Godly Play in different contexts. It does not contain any story scripts.

Volume 6  (pink) has ‘going further’ stories for experienced Godly Play groups, exploring individual Bible characters.

Volume 7 (red) has ‘going further’ stories for experienced Godly Play groups, exploring the lives of twelve saints and our own vocation.

Volume 8 (blue) includes additional New Testament material and an overview of the whole curriculum.

Teaching Godly Play: How to mentor the spiritual development of children provides detailed practical advice about the adult roles in Godly Play.

Godly Play Materials: An overview by Jerome Berryman (slightly adapted for the UK context)

One of the many misunderstandings about Godly Play is that it costs a lot of money.  What it does cost is a lot of time, awareness, consistency, an appreciation for the method, and the time it  takes to become fluent in the presentations. That is all very difficult to be sure, but it is not pounds and pence.

What about the materials?  Aren’t they important?  They are very important but not absolutely necessary.  There is a lot of Godly Play in Africa.  They make their materials out of what they have or just put down something in the circle for the children to focus on and let their imaginations do the rest.  Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world and there is a lot of Godly Play there.  They make their own materials but mostly they just gather and tell the stories with reverence and wonder.  They are closer to an oral storytelling tradition than we are, but the point is that Godly Play is much more than the materials.  What do you really need, then?

To begin, it is important to have a copy of the second edition of Teaching Godly Play, How to Mentor the Spiritual Development of Children (2009) so you can master the method.  While this is going on you will also need to begin learning the presentations in The Complete Guide to Godly Play Volumes 2, 3 and 4.  If you have no materials, use your hands as if you did have them.  If you can “see” the materials with your imagination, sometimes the children can too.  At least, that has been my experience when I have worked or practised without materials.

In your monthly teachers’ meetings practise the stories and the method with each other and “talk children.”  The description of the method in Teaching Godly Play will help you find a good balance between firm clarity and openness within constructive limits for working with children.   You will also begin to see how the deep structure of a Godly Play class reinforces and evokes the way most Christians worship.  You will also want to refresh your Godly Play room, even if  there are no materials there.  It communicates a lot about how you welcome children.  It is also important to keep learning and to support each other as you move forward.  You might want to call your monthly teachers’ meetings “play practice”.  This is fun, deep fun, like children enjoy when they play seriously.

There will come a time, however, when you begin to buy/commission the beautiful materials designed for Godly Play.  When that time comes, remember that most of the materials will last for over 30 years.  I just retired a set of parable boxes from the model classroom at St. Gabriel’s in Denver to  the archives of the Center for the Theology of Childhood.  Thea and I used them for over 35  years.  They were still fine.  The “retirement” was mostly for sentimental reasons.

So please divide the start-up cost for each resource by 30 (years) to get the annual cost. You will also find  that many people will happily donate money for materials and local carpenters will love  making them as a ministry.

Download pictures from the website of one of the suppliers, enlarge and display them to create a Godly Play fair to raise a little money each year.  Imagine what it would be like to have your own children use the same materials you did when you were a child!  Godly Play is for the long term.  It is not the “latest thing”.

There are also other ways to cut the costs that have just become available once again.  Godly Play can now provide you with the unpainted materials, copies of the artwork, and the  do-it-yourself kits.  If you have any questions about the materials, please contact any of our accredited trainers in the UK for the latest advice and to  help you find a way to make this work for the children in your church or school.

Jerome W. Berryman
Center for the Theology of Childhood
Denver, Colorado