31 August 2012

learning from a child

Recently, in preparing for a young family to visit our house, I got out my own childhood doll, Lolly, only to find that her dress was so old and worn that it was coming apart. It certainly wasn't suitable for play anymore. I mentioned this to a friend, and she suggested I pick up a package of doll clothes at Ikea.
Although they looked all right in the store, the clothes turned out to be about two sizes too big for Lolly. But with a bit of hand-stitching I took up the dress in the shoulders so that it was more or less acceptable, and put Lolly on the shelf of children's toys in our living room.

Almost as soon as our young guest found Lolly she asked me, "Don't you have any other clothes for her?" With exaggerated care, I showed her Lolly's original dress and how the fabric was disintegrating. Then I told the story of buying new clothes, finding they were too big, and hand-sewing the shoulders of the dress so that it would fit. But unlike me, this child was not daunted at all.

She took off the new striped dress, and put Lolly into the blue sweatsuit. She then carefully rolled up the sleeves and the pant-legs so that they were the right length. Then she put on the raincoat. 

Again, she carefully rolled up the sleeves. This was difficult, since there was already a large bunch of fabric there (the rolled up sweatshirt sleeves), but she persevered. She even managed to get the rain-booties onto the doll, despite the fact that the doll doesn't really have feet. By fastening the booties as tight as they would go, and then holding the doll very carefully, she was able to keep them from falling right off.

I told her how glad I was that she had shown me that the too-large clothes would work for Lolly. I really meant it! I had not even considered keeping them, but already had them ear-marked for the "donate" box in our attic. What a pleasure to be shown something unexpected.

09 August 2012

5 things to remember about Wondering

This is something I wrote as part of the Explore and Express series of Godly Play 101 posts:

Godly Play storytellers signal the end of the lesson and the opening of a time of reflection by pausing for a moment and then raising their eyes to make contact with their listeners. They say, slowly, thoughtfully, I wonder...

Each genre of Godly Play story has a slightly different set or style of Wondering Questions. I call these questions, but they aren’t phrased as questions, and that’s deliberate. Everyone is encouraged to wonder, everyone is free to share their responses, but nobody is ever pressured to answer.

Please click through to Five Things to Remember about Wondering on Sheila's blog to read the rest of my post.

05 August 2012


This moment was part of what I've been hoping for:

distracted by "adult" worship
This child spent the first part of our service today working with materials about the story of Jonah (a story she knows not from Godly Play but from a Bible storybook at home). However, as I snapped this photo, her attention was drawn away from her own work to the worship service taking place in the same chapel. Last week a mother said to me that she noticed her son singing along with one of the congregational responses as he sat drawing a picture.

As Carolynn wrotes,
The children playing during the worship does not mean they are not also engaging with what they are seeing and hearing. 

welcoming young families

Recently, David Pritchard pointed his Facebook friends to a short article which began like this:
Imagine a place where God's call to see children valued and cared for goes unheard. Imagine that in this place children are ignored, excluded and treated as insignificant. Now imagine that place is a church
Viva News, 11

(The Viva News link above will take you to a pdf of the whole magazine. This article is found on pages 4-5.)  

This week I've posted some ideas for welcoming children at church. Here's an example of another very simple and practical way to show young families that they're welcome:

This is accessible to both men and women.

The photos above and below were taken at a local church building, where they've provided a changing-table and even diapers / nappies. [I spotted a similar set-up at Ikea, where they had a whole range of sizes available.] The hand-lettered sign in the close-up below welcomes you to use the nappies / diapers.

(The sign welcomes you to take one. )

02 August 2012

children in church - advice for grown-ups

Earlier this week I wrote some advice for parents who bring their children to our Play and Pray area in church. In the weeks since we've brought children back into our regular services (rather than having them at Junior Church) I've also thought of advice I'd like to give clergy and other other grown-ups in the congregation. (Some is this is based on my own mistakes!)

photo (c) Pikku Arkki Valokuvaus, used by permission*

Advice for clergy, worship leaders, and congregations
  1. Include the children in your congregation. Include the children when you make eye contact with the congregation. If you'd like the children to participate in something, such as the Peace, say so. But attract their attention before your instructions or invitation. (It's better to ask, Children, have you got your banner ready? than Could you bring the banner forward now, children, which has the attention-getter at the end of the sentence.)
  2. Signal that narrative Scripture texts are stories. Whether or not your church stands for the Gospel, whether or not you include a Gospel lesson - if your Bible reading is a story, try to make it sound like one. You don't have to ask the children to listen - just reading something as if it were interesting will attract attention. 
  3. Think of ways to get children involved. Could children help collect the offering? hand out leaflets? read the lesson? serve cookies or biscuits after church? Even if the youngest you can easily include right away are in their early teens, I believe that'll help younger children look forward to the time when they too can participate. 
  4. Remember that not all children are alike. Work not to embarrass a child. If you wouldn't call on the average adult for this, is it something you should ask a child to do? Some children love to be the center of attention (and it may then be difficult to get them to step back out of the spot-light), while others hate it. Some children love to sing and others don't. For some, the best part of church is community; for others it is the chance to be still and know God
  5. Model the behavior you want children to follow. Stifle your laughter at behaviors you don't want to encourage (however hard that may be). Even glaring at a child who is "misbehaving" may be less fruitful than putting extra effort into your own concentration. If a child is going to take on a new task (such as using a tall candle-snuffer or reading into a microphone), let them watch you do it during a practice run ahead of time and then try it themselves. 

* I find this photo wonderfully funny because it looks as though the boy has been invited to watch what is happening at the altar but is bored by it. However, it's important not to mistake a lack of eye contact for a lack of attention. Who's to say that he isn't listening intently? And even if he is bored, I'm so thankful that he was welcomed to the Lord's Table!