Godly Play - Faith formation for ages 3-10

At St. Paul's, children in Preschool through 4th grade, (ages almost 3 through 10) are invited to participate in the world-renowned Episcopal program of "Godly Play."

Godly Play Schedules:

8:45 to 11:30 - Nursery available for children 5 and under. 

10:15 - All Children gather in the Sports Hall for free play & games.

10:30 - Preschool thru Kindergarten Godly Play, Room B15

10:30 - 1st and 2nd Grade Godly Play, Room B16

10:30 - 3rd and 4th Grade Godly Play, Room B17

For 5th Grade and up, please see our youth page: http://www.stpaulsbellingham.org/youth

 

 

What is Godly Play?

Godly Play teaches classic Christian ideas and stories. It will give your child "the basics" to enhance their natural experience of God's unqualified love, and how God works in our lives.

Children have a natural and innate sense of God. They instantly "get it" when you tell them the stories, explain the symbols, and share the language of God's love. It allows them to identify and express what they already know deep down inside.

The Godly Play program is offered every Sunday in the lower level of the church (down the stairs and to the left down the hall). There is no charge for attending, and you do not have to be a member of St. Paul's to enroll your children in Godly Play.

 

 

We tell the traditional bible stories, but in very creative ways. We take the time to let children wonder how each story and biblical character connects with their experience and relationship with God.

We demonstrate the deep meaning in these stories using the traditional symbols and language of Christianity while encouraging and engaging your child's natural creativity and thoughtfulness.

Here's a short video introduction to the Godly Play program:

It's not your old-fashioned Sunday School! Godly Play uses established, tried-and-true methods, but in a new way.

We all love stories, and Bible stories have layers of deep meaning. They are an important part of our culture, our heritage, and our moral codes. These stories have been passed down for centuries because they show us how to live our lives. Shouldn't your kids know these things?

We help you teach your children the fundamentals of the Christian "language" and culture. Knowing the parables, sacred stories, prayers, and traditions helps children to be aware of God’s love and presence.

This program can literally set the stage for a full and rewarding life. It can show children how to live and to grow in faith.

Godly Play is different from a traditional class, where the teacher spends an hour telling the children what they need to know. And for the kids, it's not about rote learning, memorizing, or being constantly entertained. Godly Play is a creative, imaginative approach to Christian teachings.



Part of our Godly Play time is “wondering”. We wonder who how and why a story happened, how it connects to us in our lives, what is the most important, if anything is left out, and more.

One Sunday, one of our amazing storytellers told the story of “Jesus and Zacchaeus” and then “wondered” with the children.

"I wonder what it feels like to be so short you can’t see what you want to see."

A few children answered “scared” and talked about being lost in a crowd and separated from their parents.

"I wonder how Zacchaeus felt when Jesus called him by name."

"O" indicates with 2 thumbs up. "A" says Zacchaeus would feel happy but confused. "O" changes his gesture to one thumb up and one thumb down.

"D" says, “Yah, he’s like really, REALLY happy, like the happiest but he’s like, “what? me? even though I did those bad things?”.

"I wonder how Zacchaeus felt when he was right with God and right with people."

Again "O" puts his arms straight out and his 2 thumbs up. We end up with a circle of extended thumbs up because everyone else agrees, too.

Our storyteller says “I am constantly amazed and humbled by these children. They are a blessing and constantly remind me how much God loves us.”


In the summer we do Sunday School all together upstairs in the gym.  It’s called “Lego my Bible.”  The children hear a story and then react to it with Lego building.

The Nursery at St. Paul's

All children up to 3 years old are welcome. The nursery is open on Sunday Mornings from 8:45 to noon. It is located on the lower level of the education wing (go down the stairs in the hallway near the offices) and bear to the left to Room B21.

The play area of St. Paul's nursery in Room B21

The play area of St. Paul's nursery in Room B21

The napping area of St. Paul's nursery

The napping area of St. Paul's nursery

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If you desire, we can give you a pager to take with you and we will notify you if there is any issue with your child.

If you desire, we can give you a pager to take with you and we will notify you if there is any issue with your child.

This is by far the nicest nursery I have ever seen. Very organized and clean. We were visiting with our twin infants and I had no worries leaving both of them with the girls who were so sweet.
The pagers they give you are an added bonus as I know if I’m needed they will be able to page me. Great church and friendly people!
— A visitor to St. Paul's

Questions & Answers About Godly Play

How does Godly Play follow the service of the Holy Eucharist?

We follow the same proven pattern as the "big people". Each class follows the pattern of getting ready (the gathering), listening and responding to bible stories (the liturgy of the word), the feast (the liturgy of the table), and saying goodbye (blessing and dismissal).

What kinds of project will my children do in Godly Play?

They get to decide for themselves. After a bible story is told to the students, the storyteller and children use "wondering questions" to reflect on the story together. Then each child chooses whether to respond to the story with art materials or play.

How will I know if my child is learning anything?

You'll know. The most important thing that we teach in a worship education center is how Christian people live and work together in community. Many parents who have children in the Godly Play program find that their children will begin to re-tell bible stories -- often in the car on the way home from church. Parents also report that their children "wonder" aloud at various times during the week about the meaning of the bible stories they heard at Godly Play.

Will my child  bring home projects or worksheets?

Not usually. Our worship education center holds a variety of  art supplies for the children to use as they respond to the stories. But because each child my be reacting and wondering about different aspects of the story, we do not assign crafts or give out sheets as a part of the program. We are working on a series of bookmarks for you to use so you know what is happening in the class throughout the year.

What "existential" issues will the children be asked to face?

The same stuff that bothers all people. Being alone, what to do with freedom, being afraid to die, what has meaning in their lives.

Will my child have fun?

The kids seem to really look forward to it. We will create a safe place for your children where their ideas, opinions, and gifts are deeply respected. What's not to like?

What is the role of the teachers?

There are two teachers in each class. One is the lead Storyteller, while the other manages the practical issues such as greeting the children, encouraging them to collect themselves quietly, and giving the signal to begin. Both act as spiritual supporters and guides. Their job is to help each child see their unique and independent relationship with God.

What can I do as a parent?

Tell stories at home. Realize and respect that your children are people on their own distinct spiritual journeys. Avoid asking them "what did you learn in Sunday School today?", instead ask some of the "wondering questions" in the bookmarks. Respect the sacred space of the Godly Play classroom. Bring them to church regularly knowing that they are in well-trained, loving hands.

Godly Play "isms"...

Yesterday when my son came home from school, he said his friend was talking about Easter and so he asked him:  

“Do you know the REAL reason for Easter?”  

"What?" 

I asked him if he answered his friend, and here is what he said:

“I told him the real reason for Easter is that Jesus died on a cross. They took his body to a cave. His mom and some other people went to the cave to take him some flowers or something and when they got there the cave was empty but there was a gardener guy there and they asked him where did Jesus’ dead body go? And that guy? He said,

'I’M Jesus.'” 

His friend said, "Didn’t he die though?" 

“Yeah, he died but he got back alive again.” 

"How did he do that?" 

And he replied with a voice with this air of certainty,

“Because…He’s the Son of God.” 

"I knew about the Cross, but I didn't know about the coming back alive part." 

As a parent figuring out how to raise him in a church, in this ever growing secular country, without having a childhood church life myself, I was glued to what had just happened. My son was able to share his Faith so openly and so honestly. He also is at an age where he knows that not everyone believes like we do AND feels totally good about sharing it (and why wouldn't he, right?). Then I asked him, where did he hear that story? We haven’t covered that story yet this year and I personally haven’t told him that one yet. And he said,

“I remember it from Godly Play last year.” 

 Isn’t it amazing?? One little 10-15 minute Godly Play story and he got all that out of it!! FROM LAST YEAR! 

Should your children receive Communion?

OF COURSE THEY SHOULD!

You will notice that our congregation has children of all ages. We are blessed beyond measure to have them as part of our community.

Visitors also notice that, starting at a very young age, our children receive communion right along with everyone else.

Several principles inform our approach to children at communion:

  • Receiving communion is an act we spend our entire lives learning to understand.
  • Chronological age is neither a barrier nor an automatic gateway to this evolving understanding
  • Children are full members of our faith community
  • Children learn by experience
  • The Episcopal Church teaches that baptism is complete initiation into Christian life
  • In our experience, children often exhibit a profound understanding of receiving communion, and can be inspiring and helpful to adults
  • Communion is included in some way in every year of our church school curriculum

Of course we recognize that parents have preferences in this area based on their own faith journey and their knowledge of their children. We respect those preferences and will follow your guidance at the communion rail.


Tracy Herzer, an Episcopal children’s educator, has given us the TOP TEN REASONS WHY CHILDREN SHOULD BE IN CHURCH:

10. Repeated exposure to the sights, sounds and symbols of Eucharist help form all Christians.

9. Children actually like sitting in those usually-empty front row seats so they can see and hear what’s going on.

8. It would be expensive to repaint all those signs to read “The Episcopal Church Only Welcomes Adults.”

7. Practice makes perfect – teaching young children to enjoy and participate in the service helps them become active and receptive worshiping adults.

6. There are no pop quizzes at the communion rail! We all experience the Eucharist as a mystery . . . you don’t have to be able to explain it in order to benefit from it.

5. Children have their own unique relationships with God. Being in church helps them learn how to pray, sing, worship, and otherwise strengthen that relationship.

4. If children aren’t in church, who are the candy-unwrapping, restless, coughing, whispering adults going to blame for the noise?

3. Sunday services make great family-togetherness time. Use the quiet space for extra hand-holding or snuggling time that may get lost during a busy week.

2. Children teach us what absolute joy looks like – and what better place to experience that than in church?

And the Number One reason why Children are Welcomed in our Church?

1. Without Children, The Circle of God’s family is not complete!