Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Exploring Play

At the Godly Play European Trainers' Conference, some of the UK trainers let me know about a free on-line course from the University of Sheffield called "Exploring Play: The Role of Play in Everyday Life". 

In Godly Play circles, we spend a lot of time talking about exactly what play is and why it is important. There are philosophers, most notably Johann Huizinga of the Netherlands, who have argued that the ability to play is what sets human beings apart from all other forms of life. Indeed, we begin to play as infants and continue to do so in one form or another for the rest of our lives. And "play" looks different for each person.

One of my first assignments in the class was to define "play". I wrote that play is something that we do voluntarily and enjoy. We'll see if the professors there and my virtual "classmates" agree. 

Although the course started yesterday, I was still able to sign up today. So if any of you are interested in joining in as well, click here to do so.

How would you define "play"?


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Godly Play European Trainers' Conference

After a rather long blogging hiatus . . .  I'm back! We spent part of our summer holidays in the U.S. visiting family and friends, attended a conference in the Czech Republic, and then started back to work.  I have taken on a new position as the children's minister for a larger church in the area, that our church plant partners with, in order to help them slowly implement Godly Play. (More on that project later!) All of these things have been a great adventure, but haven't left much time for blogging.: )

I have also just returned from the Godly Play European Trainers' Conference in Ely, England. What an inspiring time it was! Trainers from all over Europe (and one Australian!) came together to exchange ideas and discuss the progress and future of Godly Play on our continent.

European trainers wondering together about how to support Godly Play mentors
on their journey beyond Core Training that our countries offer. 

The theme of our time together was "The Spiritual Guidance of Children". Over the years, Jerome Berryman has gradually shifted the language of Godly Play from a type of religious education to the spiritual mentoring of children. While the idea of spiritual guidance has always been intuitively present, the new language, especially in Volume 8, brings this idea to the forefront.


One of our workshops focused on the newer Volume 8body of stories. Here are three different versions of the materials from "Knowing Jesus in a New Way" by Godly Play Resources, Godly Play Finland, and Peter Privett of GP UK.
Our speaker was a Jesuit nun named Gemma Simmonds who you can read about here and here. (If you ever have the chance to hear her, I'd highly recommend it! And you might recognize her voice if you watch the BBC.) Although Gemma doesn't explicitly work with children, she spoke to us about how to give spiritual guidance and reminded us that we as mentors need spiritual guidance as well. 

The conference took place in the small village of Ely, which has a massive gothic cathedral right in the middle of it! We spent a lot of time exploring this beautiful place of worship.

The Ely Cathedral


This is a piece of modern art entitled "Way to the Cross". As one nears the cross, the path becomes lighter. The distance is also exactly the same as one would walk inside the prayer labyrinth below. 
This is one of the few medieval prayer labyrinths left in Europe. It was
a beautiful experience to pray with it in the mornings.
Heidi, one of my colleagues from Germany, and I on top of the cathedral's Octagon Tower.
A view from on top of the Octagon Tower. 
What would a trip to England be without a spot of tea?
With Rachel, another of our trainers in Germany.
I'm so thankful to have been with such inspiring people who are passionate about children in such a beautiful place!


Monday, June 30, 2014

YCW: John's Vision of a new Heaven, a new Earth, and a new Jerusalem

This is the companion story to "John, Follower of Jesus, Teaches throughout the World". You can read about the first story here and as well as view the story materials, which are exactly the same for the companion story. 

Both of these stories are about John the Apostle and his exile on the isle of Patmos. They are almost identical, except that each one deals with a different passage that John wrote from the book of Revelation.

The stories come from Young Children & Worship, another Montessori-inspired curriculum whose creator, Sonja Stewart, drew heavily upon the work of Godly Play creator, Jerome Berryman. One plus of YWC is that it has some interesting New Testament stories not contained in the Godly Play curriculum. A big minus, however, is that the stories can be too simple for children over 7 years of age. 

Last year, when I told Part 1, the children complained that it was too short and a little boring. This time I carefully thought through how to elaborate to make it more interesting for older children.  I started by explaining more about the geography and pointed that the part of the earth we were looking at is now modern-day Turkey and the Middle East. I also explained that Patmos had been enlarged so that we could see it better, and in reality it is quite tiny. 

I also added more historical details about the city of Ephesus, how it was a center of worship for the goddess Artemis, and how many people earned their living from selling articles related to worship her temple. This helped the children to grasp the larger picture of why John's teaching about Jesus might have made people angry enough to have him arrested and sent into exile. 

The story ends with the focus on a passage in Revelation about the new heaven and earth from Revelation 22 that John wrote to his friends in Ephesus while he was in exile. 

The underlay that depicts Asia Minor and the Mediterranean Sea is quite lovely, and the children were drawn to the geography during the Response Time. 

One child carefully copied the map and John's journey. Then, she fashioned a boat, John, and a ball and chain to represent his captivity out of modeling clay.



Another child re-created the entire map in miniature with modeling clay.


Sometimes, when our group is smaller, I also choose an activity during Response Time. (I find as a mentor that it is important to myself continue to wonder and create.) I chose to wonder about John's chains with modeling clay and how it would have felt to be in chains because of my faith. Then, I turned the links into a "prayer chain" and used it as a rosary of sorts to quietly pray as the children continued their work.



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Have Godly Play, Will Travel

Although most of the Godly Play training that I do is in Berlin, occasionally I get to travel to new places. Recently, I got to visit Brussels, Belgium when some friends and colleagues at an international church asked me to come and do an introductory Godly Play seminar. 

Since Godly Play is all about community and ecumenical connectedness, I immediately contacted my Godly Play colleagues in Belgium to see if they wanted to join in the fun. To my delight, Katie, a trainer in Flanders whom I knew from our Trainers' Training in Holland in 2012, agreed to come and co-lead the seminar with me. 

Our time together began on Friday evening where we wondered together about children - what we can learn from them, how they are perceived culturally, their history with the church and theologians, how to encourage their spirituality and cultivate faith, and what their role within the church could be today. Being an international church, the participants were from all over the world, so this added to the discussion.

Then, on Saturday, we got into the nuts and bolts of what Godly Play is and how to do it. In the picture below, the participants experienced a full Godly Play session with a Response Time. Katie, the Storyteller, sat near the story materials and observed. I was her Door Person (Co-Teacher) and assisted anyone who needed help. 



Katie and I told stories from the Sacred and Parable genres and then explained the theory and practicals of Godly Play. The participants will need further training at some point, should they decide to fully implement Godly Play, but our seminar was enough to get them started. 
This is Katie, my friend Kristyn who invited us to come, and me.

I also got to see a bit of Brussels! 


Kristyn and I in front of the Notre Dame du Sablon, a lovely Gothic structure. 

Doesn't this food look amazing? 

We had to see the famed statue of "Mannekin Pis", but my picture didn't turn out so well in front of the actual fountain. So I opted for this kitschy replica in front of a waffle shop. He's wearing Belgium's colors in the World Cup and holding a waffle. I have a bag of Neuhaus pralines in my hand, something that Belgium is well-known for. If you have never had real Belgian chocolate, you are missing out!
One thing I realized on this trip is how ignorant I am of Belgium's history and culture. Really, the only things I knew about Belgium were its location on the map and that French and Flemish are two official languages. It was nice on this trip to hear more about the country's history and its impact on Europe and the world. 

In talking to Katie, I learned that interestingly enough, there is no "Godly Play Belgium", so to speak, but rather "Godly Play Dutch" that includes the Flemish speakers in Belgium and the Dutch speakers in the Netherlands. As of yet, there are no French-speaking Godly Players in Belgium, and that is one reason that there is no "Godly Play Belgium".

Fortunately, I am not the only one who is not well-versed in Belgium's history. If you want a laugh, check out Jon Stewart's take on Belgium below.: )

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Behavioural Challenges in the GP classroom

(Or why we do the things we do.)

At a recent Godly Play training that I gave for two churches in our area, someone asked me if I ever encountered behavioural challenges in the classroom. The answer is a resounding yes!  Although the "getting ready" methodology of Godly Play greatly decreases the inclination towards unwanted behaviours, there are times when kids test the boundaries and act out.

To be quite honest, negative behaviour was something that I didn't deal very well with in the beginning of my career as a children's pastor. I relied on a system of rewards and punishments and didn't know how to help the children develop self-control. Godly Play and Montessori principles were a lifesaver, so much that I have incorporated them into my English classes at school, and not just at church.

Jerome Berryman has written a great deal about being firm, but gentle with children and giving clear boundaries in the classroom. Over the years, I have also found it helpful to discern a child's motivation as well. Here Montessorian Jane Nelson, who co-authored Positive Discipline in the Classroom, has mentored me from afar. She helped me to learn that there is usually a message behind frustrating behaviours. Because the child can't express his or her needs in words, the message comes out in their actions.

For example, a child who constantly disrupts the teacher or provokes other children may have a natural leadership gifting and may be crying out, "Please involve me!" A recent  example of this was a second grade boy in one of our after-school clubs. On one occasion during Response Time, he deliberately took a clay sculpture that another child was working on and poured glue in it. I gently but firmly told him that he had to wash the glue out, so that the other child could continue to work on his sculpture. Once the boy realized that I was not going to flip out over his behaviour, he complied and fixed the problem that he had created. 

After we discerned that this same boy's behaviour could be redirected in a positive way by letting him help, we came up with other creative ideas. One time, I asked him if he would like to pick some of the story materials and tell me a story. He then happily told me and another child the Parable of the Good Shepherd. At other times, we asked him to help with feast or quietly play the piano (there just happened to be one in the room we were using) to signal that it was time to clean up. 

Another child may be sending the message through her actions that she is hurting and needs to have her feelings acknowledged. Yet another child may be exhibiting the urge to just give up and retreat from everyone. He may be saying, "I need you to look at my baby steps and get excited over them!"

It was a process for me to learn all of this (and I am still learning!), so don't get discouraged if you don't get it right the first time or if you make mistakes. Karen Tyler, who taught my on-line Montessori certification class, said that we all make mistakes once in a while and we just have to forgive ourselves and go on. It's part of the process of change. 

I highly recommend looking at Jane Nelson's website, Positive Discipline, where there are lots of helpful articles for every age group. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Frohes Pfingstfest / Happy Pentecost!

Happy Pentecost Sunday! 


Our church celebrated Pentecost together with a brunch and children's church. And today was the first time that I can remember in several years when I was not in our Godly Play time telling a story. The reason is because we have added another young woman, Jessica, to our teaching team! I am absolutely thrilled that she is beginning her own Godly Play journey.

We only get to use our red liturgical mat once a year, so that makes it extra special for the children, who immediately notice what day it is!

Jessica told the Godly Play story, Paul's Discovery, today. Similar in format to the the Faces of Easter and Advent, pictures of the life of Paul are laid out on a red underlay. 


Today's story, Paul's Discovery.
Jessica and Melinda told me a little about the interesting Wondering time afterwards. The children seemed to agree that the most important part of the story was Paul's dramatic encounter with Jesus in the bright light and his resulting blindness. Without that incident, "he wouldn't have written all those letters to the churches" that we have in the New Testament. 

When asked if there was a part of the story that made them think of something in their own lives, one child answered that something reminded them of Jessica and Melinda's lives.  The part where Paul leaves his parents and goes to live somewhere else made this child think of how it must have been when Jessica and Melinda moved out of the homes they grew up in and began to live separately from their parents. 

At the same time, the children were also troubled that there was no more mention of Paul's parents in the story. Truthfully, history does not tell us what happened to them after Paul went to study with Gamaliel. 

During Response Time, the children drew pictures. A couple of little girls were into drawing native Americans. In the Godly Play classroom, we welcome everything the children create, whether it has something to do with the story that have just heard or not. We want them to learn that they can share all of their lives with God, and that God is indeed interested in the things that interest them.



Because we celebrate the worldwide church's birthday on Pentecost, the children also decorated cupcakes during Response Time. They ate some of them during their feast and then presented the adults in the church with the rest. One of the children led the adults in singing a round of "Happy Birthday" to the church. (Even though we are a German-speaking church, everyone knows this song and many people in Berlin also sing it at birthdays.)



Here in Germany, Pentecost Monday is a national holiday, so I plan to sleep in tomorrow and enjoy the sunshine. Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

FrühlingsAG / Spring Godly Play Club - Week 3

Die letzte Woche der FrühlingsAG kam fast zu schnell! Als Anfangsritual entzündete ein Kind die Christuskerze an und ein anderes Kind stellte unsere "Kirchenuhr" ein (unten im Foto). The last week of our Spring Godly Play Club came all too soon! As always we began with our ritual of having a child light the Christ Candle and another set our "church clock" to the right color. 


Zunächst hörten wir die Geschicht, "Der Gute Hirten und die weltweite Communion". Diese einfach Geschichte kombiniert das Gleichnis vom Guten Hirten und dem Abendmahlsakrament. Next we heard the story of "The Good Shepherd and the World Communion". This simple story combines the imagery of Jesus as the Good Shepherd with the sacrament of communion.


Der Gute Hirte kennt jedes seiner Schafe mit Namen und zeigt ihnen den Weg. The Good Shepherd knows each of his sheep by name and leads them to green pastures and fresh water. 


Er lädt sie zu seinem Tisch mit Brot und Wein ein. Manchmal kommen Menschen von all der Welt zu diesem Tisch. Und die Kinder kommen natürlich auch! He also leads them to his table with bread and wine. Sometimes people from all over the world come to his table. And the children as welcome as well!


Die Kinder waren von dieser Geschichte ziemlich angetan und spielte eine lange Zeit in der Kreativphase mit dem Material. Ein paar Jungs nahmen auch das Gleichnis vom Guten Hirten und erzählten mir eine Geschichte. Wie schön das war ihre Geschichte hören zu dürfen! This particular story seemed to spark the imagination of the children during our Response Time, and they took turns playing with the materials. A couple of boys pulled out the parable box with the Parable of the Good Shepherd in it and asked to tell me a story. What a delight that was to hear their story!


Hier sieht man, was wir noch gemacht haben:
Here are some glimpses of the other things we did:





Vielen Dank fürs Mitlesen!
Thank you for following along! 

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, be sure to click on the links to catch up.