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What is Godly Play and how can churches and schools use it?

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Godly Play is an imaginative approach to spiritual nurture through the telling of biblical and liturgical stories, wondering, and play. It is a way of creating time and space for children to be, not just to do and is about process rather than product including the key elements of; space within a safe environment, process that values openness, questions and discovery, imagination for playful exploration and deepening spirituality, relationships between children and with adults, intimacy in valuing themselves and others and trust in the power of the story, allowing for individuals spirituality and vulnerability.

Godly Play has been used and promoted widely across the Diocese for more than a decade and for several years a group of keen facilitators offered training to school staff as well as churches. Following lockdown, it felt like an opportune moment to refocus on sharing Godly Play as a resource to enhance high-quality teaching of RE, critical reflection and worship.   So, in a joint piece of work, the Diocese of Norwich Education Team and Children, Youth and Families Team arranged to host a 3-day Core Training in Godly Play led by national Godly Play trainers Andrea Harrison and Eona Bell which was attended in May by eleven individuals from a mixture of school and church settings.

Trainees invited to participate represented a geographical spread across Norfolk as well as being strategic leaders well positioned to share their knowledge with other school staff, churches and community groups in the future and contribute to the existing network for Godly Play in Norfolk.

The Revd Mark Elvin, Bowthorpe Church, Norwich, had several reasons for undertaking the training.

“Firstly, the main reason for doing the training was that I have wanted to offer Godly Play to the local schools alongside my other schools work. Secondly, as the Chair of the Bowthorpe Community Trust (St. Michael’s Workshop) which makes Godly Play materials, I wanted a better understanding of how the products were used. Thirdly, I want to encourage the Godly Play storytellers at Bowthorpe Church, and if needed be able to offer this to the church myself. The three days training gave me a greater insight into not only the practice of Godly Play but also gave me a better understanding of all that is at the heart of Godly Play – the spirituality of children.

I plan to offer Godly Play to our local Church of England schools in the autumn term of 2022. At Church we have discussed the greater use of Godly Play not only for children but also for adults. Also, I have already been able to encourage the staff at St. Michael’s Workshop in the valuable work they are doing. It was a valuable three days, which I would highly recommend to others thinking about offering Godly Play in schools or churches.”

The training was 50% part funded by a generous grant from the Bishop’s Education Fund which allowed trainees to more easily access this national training in a local context. Hosted at St Peter’s Church of England Primary Academy in Easton, trainees partook in three intense days during which the two facilitators gave a comprehensive overview of the background of Godly Play as well as the materials and deeper spiritual connections of using it in different contexts. Over the three days all the trainees were also given time to prepare, practice and present a Godly Play story to the group which proved for many to be both a challenging and enlightening task in in equal measure!

Belinda Allen, Executive Headteacher at Hope Federation says,

“Having the opportunity to have staff trained in using Godly play has enhanced the provision we offer in our RE Curriculum.  It has enabled staff who enjoy using cross curricular skills such as drama, questioning and reflection to focus these within the context of RE.  Godly play is accessible to every child, no matter age, ability or belief – it gets them to be active thinkers and reflect critically on what they are learning and hearing.”

Mat Lane is a trainee and a teacher at Hethersett VC Primary School. He explained;

“We are using Godly Play to support the delivery of the theology content in RE at KS1. In time we may extended this into KS2 classes as well. Staff are excited to use Godly Play and are looking forward to having another tool in their toolbox.”

Going forward, the existing Norfolk & Norwich Godly Play Network meets on a termly basis as an opportunity for those who enjoying using Godly Play or want to find out more to come together and share a story, wondering and news over a coffee and pastry.  For those that recently trained there will be further opportunity to touch base to see how they are progressing using Godly Play in their particular contexts and further establish advocacy roles for sharing their experiences of the training and delivering Godly Play with others.

The Diocese of Norwich Resource Centre also holds over 100 Godly Play sets. They have been aligned to meet the needs of the Agreed Syllabus for RE in Norfolk by the RE Adviser and it is hoped these can now be more regularly and widely used in a variety of contexts.

For more information about Godly play, to be connected to the network, or to find out more about the resources that can be borrowed please contact