25 July 2012

Guest Post: Chameleon Godly Play

(aka Adjusting Godly Play to Fit the Context!)

Sheila, who blogs at Explore and Express, has been a guest blogger here before. I think we may be at the core of a sort of mutual admiration society. We are both ex-pats living in European countries, both discovered Godly Play here in Europe, and both brought it to our churches more or less single-handedly. In many ways, though, Sheila's managed to take it a good deal further than I have yet. She's taken it to schools and forests, she's done it in German and English and even in Russian. So when we first got the idea of trading guest posts (this was ages ago, because then we then got all caught up in the idea of an Eastertide guest post series and postponed these one-off posts for another time), I asked if she'd write something about adapting Godly Play to different contexts. Thanks so much, Sheila, for all your encouragement and enthusiasm, and for writing this guest post for me.

At school.
Chameleons have always fascinated me. They change their color in various social situations and to blend in with their current setting. They’re also a good metaphor to describe my life since it was „taken over“ by Godly Play several years ago.

One of the many personality tests that I have taken over the years describes me as a „Maximizer“. That means that when I put the time and effort into learning something, I figure out how to use the heck out of it.: ) Much like a chameleon, I figure out how to make whatever I am doing blend with the current setting.

In my kitchen.
Godly Play is no exception to this. After falling in love with this concept for religious education, I justified the time, energy and money I put into it by using it everywhere possible.  Since 2009 I have told Godly Play stories to children (both in church settings and in public schools), drug addicts, women involved in prostitution and „normal“ adults, all on two continents and in three languages.

How does one go about adapting Godly Play to fit a particular environment? I’m no expert, but here are a few things that I have learned along the way:

1. Know your audience.  Find out as much as you can about how they think and what makes them tick. Get a feel for how they will respond to the various elements of GP. Then you can expand on certain elements and tailor others. If you are telling a GP story in another culture or setting that you haven’t yet visited, do a little research beforehand to find out these things. 

2. Decide what is doable and be flexible. Ask yourself, „What can we leave out and still have everything we need?“ If, for example, your setting rather than your audience has changed (ex. going from an indoor setting to the park in summer), then you may have to pare down your supplies or expectations. At one point my „room“ for children’s church changed from a large kitchen to a tiny bedroom. I had to pare the creative phase way down to just crayons and colored pencils. But you know what? The kids still responded to God and drew thought-provoking things.

3. Pray and listen to God.  That might seem obvious, but sometimes we get so absorbed in the materials and learning the story that we forget this one! Having God’s perspective always bring fresh ideas.

Wondering with children in Irkutsk, Russia.

There is still so much more to learn! Storyteller and I would love to hear how any of you have adapted Godly Play to different settings. Please leave us a comment or link to any of your ideas.


  1. This morning I was the lay preacher at a Methodist church in England and told "The Great Family" story instead of a having a sermon. There were about 30 people present, (mostly aged 50 plus) and they enjoyed it very much. I really love using Godly Play with adults!

    1. Welcome, Allys, and thanks for sharing your experience. It's been my experience, too, that many adults enjoy Godly Play stories. If you've written about this on a blog, or posted photos of the event on Facebook or anything similar, you'd be welcome to leave a link here.


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