Wednesday, November 23, 2005

entering the biblical text or godly play in larger settings

Godly play is a wonderful way of engaging the Scriptures. It uses imaginative storytelling, pauses and offers space to “wonder” around the text, then concludes the story. I am still wrestling with how it can be used in larger congregational settings. How do groups of more than 40 people all have space to “wonder” together.

This following variant worked well on Sunday morning. I was working with the crossing the Jordan narrative. I printed up three wondering questions on different coloured cards;
I wonder what it felt like to face the Jordan?
I wonder what it felt like to cross the Jordan?
I wonder what it felt like to stand on other side?

(Download PPT file of 3 questions)

The story was read. I then divided the congregation into three sections and invited them to “wonder” in groups, and to write their wonderings on the relevant coloured cards. The kids got involved, carrying the cards to and the various groups, and then collecting the cards from the groups to lay on an “altar” at the front of the building.

In about 7 minutes, 180 people of all ages and stages, entered/wondered their way deeper into a Biblical narrative. (The service then moved into a dialogue sermon, two people applying the text to our life as a congregation.) Here are the congregational “wonderings”; which shows quite some depth of congregational engagement/wondering with the text.

I wonder what it felt like to face the Jordan?
• Came so far & now will God really do this? —sense of fear –wishing they hadn’t come — a barrier—so close, but so far away — children would sense fear of their parents.
• Faith testing — Daunting — Trust — Terrifying — Overwhelming — Imposing — Unvanguishable— Faith challenge — Last obstacle — Final test of Faith/Courage — Spiritual strength (test)
• Apprehension/Fearfull — Faith — Hope — Excitement — Relief — Trust — Obedience
Frightening — unsure — panic — scream yell run — try to swim — Yell at Moses — Yell for help
• Apprehension — This is the last straw! — Maybe there’s safety in numbers — Why are we here? — Can we build a bridge?
• Fear of the unknown — How deep is the river? What enemies will I face on the other side? Will it be better there than here?
• Petrified? How deep is it? Can’t swim — How cold? — Where is the Lord? — Be swept away from family

I wonder what if felt like to cross the Jordan
• Scared — excited feeling of exaltation — in Awe — Look for all your family to come with you.
• Don’t hesitate – could loose faith — frightening — uncertain & tentative —scared — Awesome (to be part of such a miracle) — expectant — Exciting — Spontaneity – just step out — first step hardest then OK.
• Daunting — sense of history — excitement — anticipation — fear — haste — Praying that the water won’t come back till we get across. Amazement — Praising God for what they were going to.
• Scary — want to go back — Exciting — Speed up to get to other side — apprehensive — awe
• Fearful — trusting — full of anticipation — heart in your mouth — boost of faith — refreshing
• Scary — Gratitude that God had given them a 2nd chance — God was with them. — It wasn’t muddy because it was dried up — Wasn’t God good holding the water back. — Uncertainty about what the future held. — A real challenge.
• Nervous Anticipation — Awe struck — Thankful that God fulfilled his promise. — Hope for the future — wonderful — Sense of the past, excitement of the future. Trusting in God to help me. — humility.

I wonder what it felt like to stand on the other side?
• Thoughts for those that didn’t make it — Now what? — After 40years — Wow how did that happen? — The occupants said where have you been? — Why so long — Lets open a deli
• Relief — Rejoice — Disbelief — Anxiety — Amazement — Trepidation about the future
• Tremendous relief, —joy — satisfaction — thankfulness — shame for may doubts — excitement for future possibilities knowing what God has done this time.
• Encouraging — unbelievable — Reliving — Faith building — Dry — Stunned
• Amazed — Wow! — No turning back now — Relieved — Blown away — Sense of anticipation wondering what God will do next.
• Wow! Satisfaction – we’re here! Amazed. Regret over what they left behind. Thankful that the promise had finally been fulfilled. Grateful & sense of peace after experiencing God’s power. What now? Can’t go back. Sense of humility – may have been doubting God but he pulled through for them.
• Elation — relief – Joyful — “Cool”— Elation – Wow! — Astonished — Praiseworthy to God — Amazing

Posted by steve at 09:12 PM


  1. I’ve been pondering this. We have experimented with storytelling and then inviting questions. It initailly worked well, but I think the less bold began to feel excluded because they didn’t have the courage to ask questions in a larger setting (not that we have anything like 180 people present).

    I like your idea… I’m sure I will use it. Thanks.

    Comment by Graham Doel — November 24, 2005 @ 1:55 am

  2. loved this 🙂

    Comment by Lorna — November 26, 2005 @ 10:46 am

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