Godly Play is a spiral curriculum that acknowledges that the connection to God is within all of us. Learning the language of our shared ancestors through sacred story, parables, liturgical actions, and silence enables us to express that deep connection. Dr. Jerome Berryman had the brilliance to create a curriculum based on Maria Montessori’s educational and spiritual research that allows the student to grow exponentially and endlessly on their religious journey.
Godly Play: A More Authentic VBS For Our Context
For many Vacation Bible School (or as we call it Summer Session) participants, this is the only week they will spend at our church and for some the only week they will spend in a church that year or their whole lives. Godly Play engages the participants in a process that is internalized and can be applied weeks or years later.
The concepts that you are within the story, your opinion is important, we are a part of the Great Family and the prophets are a part of us, and that there are not always easy answers – if the answer comes at all – lead participants to stop, watch and pay attention to how they connect to the sacred stories or what the parable might really be about or how liturgical traditions honor our shared history. You cannot get any of that from a boxed curriculum. Prepared box curriculum sets are fun. They are easy, eye-catching, and hammer home a Biblical message. Most churches begin with that sort of program and have a great time. For us, it felt inauthentic after a while.
During the program year we shared a journey of discovery, we wondered and wandered on our individual paths as we came close to God through individual response and group questioning. Then summer came and there was a lot of flash and programing that advocated a right and a wrong answer, a prescribed way to have a relationship with Jesus, and that we needed to teach kids to be close to God. We knew we wanted a different path, so I began to create Godly Play Summer Session curriculums beginning with the Advent/Christmas stories.
Themes & Stories
There are six full volumes of Godly Play stories which can be used in endless combinations to bring together a week of immersive Christian formation programing. Here are a few combinations we have tried. Find more ideas and purchase materials here.
Creation: The Creation Story from Volume 2.
The Golden Boxes: The Six Guiding Parables and Parable of the Deep Well from Volume 3 and the Greatest Parable from Volume 8. We used the Parable of the Deep Well and the Greatest Parable for our middle schoolers.
When the Saints’ Go Marching In: Introduction to the Communion of Saints and additional saint stories from Volume 7.
Living in a Fragile World: This is a Godly Play set of 5 lessons found in Living in a Fragile World: A Spiritual Exploration of Conservation and Citizenship Using the Methods of Godly Play by Peter Privett. It is about stewardship of the Earth and each other. It is phenomenal, although may need to have a few tweaks if used after the pandemic. I bought the book on ebay.
Now Go In Peace: How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world? Jesus and the Twelve, the Pentecost story, and the Good Shepherd and World Communion from Volume 4 as well as Knowing Jesus in a New Way from Volume 8 and Introduction to the Communion of Saints from Volume 7.
Including All Ages
Although Godly Play is usually used in churches for elementary education, it is a curriculum that builds outward in an ever expanding spiral (think Fibonacci). Our program year utilizes Godly Play through high school and adult study/enrichment.
During our first Summer Session we realized that the adults and young adults were also wanting to wonder about the stories with their peers, how their lives intertwined with sacred stories. Mothers feeling like Sarah, or Hagar; teens relating to Jonah’s rebellion; fathers wondering if being a good neighbor is the same or different for himself vs. his children in the Good Samaritan. It was important to encourage the wondering of the helpers during the week, not only for their own happiness and growth, but the best way for children to learn that a relationship with God is a lifelong journey is to see teens and adults taking the time to wander that journey. Summer Session allowed that amazing opportunity!
Below you’ll find a sample daily schedule. Click here for an excel document that you can edit which includes four tabs – two sample daily schedules (one for a VBS with three rotation groups and one for a VBS with five rotation groups) and two sample weekly schedules.
|12:00 – 12:20||closing||closing||closing||closing|
|12:20 – 1:00||lunch||lunch||lunch||lunch|