Godly Play is a Montessori-based curriculum for Christian Education, developed by the Rev. Jerome Berryman. The curriculum is radically different from traditional Sunday School lessons. Students gather on Sunday morning and sit in a circle on the floor with their teacher. A story about our faith is told using hands-on materials, after which the children are invited to ask questions and to ponder the stories meaning for their lives. The children then have the freedom to respond to the story on their own, through crafts, drawing, reviewing story materials, or playing. Each class is supervised by two trained adults: the storyteller (who presents the lesson) and the doorkeeper (who helps children get ready and helps them find what they need for response time).
A typical class flows like this:
Gathering Time: The students gather in a circle and can share about what has happened in their lives over the past week.
The Lesson: The storyteller presents a lesson from Scripture or the church’s tradition, using visual aids and materials.
Wondering: The storyteller then introduces reflection questions, such as “I wonder what part of this story was the most important?” or “I wonder what part of this story we could have left out and still had all the story we need?” The children are invited to give their own responses. Our doorkeeper sometimes makes notes about the profound things the children say when they participate in wondering, these insights are shared on the bulletin board in the parish hall and sometimes in the announcements upstairs.
The Liturgical Cycle: The storyteller also talks about the current season of the church year and the children help track where we are at in the year through a wall calendar. Each Sunday is color coded with the color of the day or season. The children also help the storyteller to change the classroom’s altar covering and the underlay for the nativity set, so that the colors match the colors being used upstairs in the church.
Response Time: The doorkeeper helps the children, one by one, to decide how they want to respond to the story and helps them to find the materials they need.
Cleaning Up: In the Godly Play model, children are encouraged to develop independence by cleaning up after themselves and putting materials away in their proper places. When it’s time to go back upstairs, the storyteller and doorkeeper distribute Parent Pages to each child. These handouts help parents to understand what the story of the day was about and give suggestions for how to review the material at home.
At St. Stephen’s we have two Sunday School classes using the Godly Play curriculum: “Godly Play” (for children Pre-K through 1st Grade) and “Godly Time” (for children 2nd grade through 5th grade). The classes take place during the first part of the 10:00 service, during the readings and sermon. Children are dropped off by parents at their classrooms before church starts and then the children and teachers rejoin the congregation during the announcements time.
Our classes and teaching teams are coordinated by Laura Verheijen and Ginny Umiker.