A New Way to Play

A New Way to Play – Bringing Godly Play to SPL Kids

It is hard to believe that it was only six months ago that I started taking small steps into bringing Godly Play to SPL Kids.

At first, it was so overwhelming. From my last four years of research in the best approach to the spiritual formation to children, I knew I had found what I had been looking for when I read Teaching Godly Play by Jerome W. Berryman this past summer.

God had been laying the foundation throughout the previous four years. It started when a friend from SPL who works in the Montessori schools here in Decatur offered to give me a tour of a Montessori school. My heart was instantly drawn to this discovery-based approach to teaching children and I was curious how we could integrate some of the principles into our Children’s Ministry.

I did some searching via Google and discovered that a few Montessori methods for children’s spiritual formation do indeed exist, but my heart sank and my stomach turned to knots when I saw the amount of work it would take to bring such a program to our congregation. I was new to both children’s ministry and to SPL at the time, and it seemed more than I was capable of accomplishing, so I set it aside and pressed on in another direction.

Some time later, a staff person at church approached me to tell me about one of these Montessori children’s programs that her children had experienced growing up. Her face beamed as she talked about the program, and I once again got on the computer to look at the program.

Same response. It was more than I could do.

Last summer, I was given the assignment of reading 1,800 pages on a topic of my choosing related to spiritual formation. I decided to read about children’s spiritual formation. I started with a book that contrasted four approaches to formation for children from the perspective of four different people who use that approach in their ministry. One of those approaches repeatedly mentioned two Montessori children’s formation programs. I immediately connected with the approach and a longing burned deeper in my heart to bring such beauty and depth to our children here through SPL Kids.

I was still overwhelmed. My stomach still turned to knots and it still felt impossible. Through all my hundreds of pages of reading, I kept considering reading the Godly Play book. I finally decided to purchase and read the book. I wasn’t even a few pages into the book and I was hooked – still scared, but hooked.

As I was reading, I came to the simple and profound realization that there was only one way this program would ever work – one small step at a time.

I’m not a huge fan of moving slowly, but looking at the whole of the program was too much for me to handle, so I knew I had to break it down into the tiniest of steps.

Step One: Finish the Book
Easy.

Step Two: Attend a training
Not so easy. The only training scheduled in the Midwest was just weeks away at that time. It seemed impossible to pull together all the details to get me to the training, but God made a way.

Step Three: Introduce the Program
This step was not so tiny. This involved:
• Pulling together a vivid presentation for the staff
• Creating and sharing a PowerPoint presentation for our SPL Kids Team
• Demonstrating a Godly Play children’s message in three worship services (I was terrified)
• Sharing Godly Play demonstrations with interested members of the congregation
• Introducing the stories to the children

Step Four: Schedule Godly Play Trainers to come to SPL
I can’t believe it, but our training is able to happen February 28-March 3, 2019!

Step Five: Get over $5,000 worth of training materials donated (materials we will continue to use in the rooms).
Done – thanks to the overwhelming generosity of our congregation!

Step Six: Get Shelving for Two Rooms
Done – thanks to the hard work of our Maintenance director, Mick.

Step Seven: Offer a Godly Play Class
Bethany Force and I have been doing a complete Godly Play class for children ages 5-years old to 1st grade on Wednesday evenings during the Winter session of F3: Family-Faith-Formation.

It is hard for me to believe we have come so far so fast. My motto through it all has been “anything worth doing is worth doing…slowly.” God moves at His pace, not mine.

The work I have done with the materials, the training, and with the children has already begun doing a deep work within me spiritually, and I am filled with excitement as I reflect on this journey.

As I set up our first Godly Play room for our F3 class, I cried. I felt God’s presence in the room and knew His hand had been with us and would continue with us. I was grateful for the love and support of this congregation. The support from the SPL Kids Team has been a gift of grace. I know for some of the team, change is hard, but even in their questions and wonderings, doubts and struggles about this change, I have felt their love and support which makes so much of a difference to me.

We will roll out the program slowly. We will start with the 1st-4th grade SPL Kids classes full time and the 3 years-Kindergarten group part-time. We will slowly add materials to the rooms, and slowly add two more rooms as resources and trained team members allow.

Are you interested in being involved? Here are some ways you can help:
• Hand Make Materials: If you are gifted in wood working, there are materials for the rooms that can be hand-made. Hand-made materials at an extra depth of dimension to a Godly Play room.
• Purchase Materials: We will need more Godly Play materials in the coming years, and we will rely on your help to fill these rooms with beautiful, touchable materials for the children.
• Learn About Godly Play: Reading this post is a start. You can also join me for a Godly Play class or demo class.
• Join the Team: Sign up to become a stoyryteller or door person (we have one storyteller opening and 3 openings for a door person)
• Provide Support: Don’t want to be out in front? We could always use help behind the scenes to prepare the rooms for classes from week to week.

There is just so much more about this program to say than can fit into this space, but I would love to sit down with anyone who wants to learn more. Please contact me any time at jennifer@spldecatur.org or at 217-423-6955 to learn more about any of these opportunities.

Jennifer Power is the Director of Children’s Ministry and the SPL Kids programs at SPL. SPL Kids classes are available on Sunday morning at 9:15am, and Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm during F3: Family-Faith-Formation sessions (seasonal). SPL Kids: Worship takes place during the Saturday 6:00pm and Sunday 10:30am services for children age 3 years – 4th Grade.

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