Playful Prayer/Prayerful Play

To open a Christian Education Commission meeting a few weeks ago, I shared a passage from a book I’m currently reading called The Hopeful Family: Raising Resilient Children in Uncertain Times by Amelia Richardson Dress. Throughout the book, Dress looks at various spiritual practices and offers caregivers ideas about what it might mean to reimagine them through a lens of “hopeful parenting.”  Rather than trying to “get it right” the goal is to offer children the tools they need to navigate life, practices that anchor them when life is hard, and a love of exploring and questioning that will enable them to search for God in their own unique ways. 

The passage I shared with the CE team was from a chapter on Sacred Reading. Dress writes, “The best advice I have for helping children love the Bible is to love it with them. Remember that for children and for adults, love comes out in playfulness. Sometimes it’s downright silly…but it doesn’t have to be…Play is an open-heartedness with yourself, your subject, and the people with whom you share it.” In that same section of the book, Dress talks about her golden rule for reading the bible: “exploration over explanation.” 

This year for the children’s Sunday School class, we are going to be adapting a class learning style called “Godly Play.” It is not all that different from what we have been utilizing, but the emphasis is much more strongly on play and exploration. Rather than a single craft or pre-planned activity, the children will have the opportunity to explore the story through their own play and creativity. They may paint an image that stands out to them from the story. They might recreate the story using woodcut figures or other materials. Or they could even use play doh to create something the story reminded them of. 

We fully expect that sometimes the connection to the story that happens during play might only be there if you squint really hard, but this style of learning is one that makes room for a plethora of interpretations and responses rather than relying on children getting “the point” of a story that some adult has decided beforehand. It is a little scary to release these sacred stories into these little hands, but it is also really exciting. And our hope is that the adults will be right there with them, exploring, wondering, creating, and learning to love these sacred stories. 

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, we are looking for storytellers, creative wonder-ers, bountiful feast servers, and loving adults with lots of diverse gifts to walk alongside CMC’s children. Let me know if you want to play alongside us, and if you’ve forgotten how to play, we can probably find a child willing to help mentor you.