Godly Play Case study: St Andrew Tower Hill, Kirkby
The parish of Kirkby is large, serving a council estate and private housing of around 40,000 people in an area characterised by serious deprivation, humour and commitment. Kirkby was the location for the 1970's police series Z Cars; the theme tune is still played at Goodison as Everton FC run onto the pitch to conquer all comers. Serving the churches in the Kirkby Team are a Rector and three Team Vicars. One of the churches, St Chad's, is a large traditional church built in 1876 on a site where Christian worship can be traced back to 850AD. St Andrews and its two sister churches St Mark's and St Martin's are modern churches dating back to the 1960's.St Andrew's is very new indeed. In 2001 a fire destroyed the original building and the church was rebuilt from scratch.
The four churches work closely together, reflected in their early decision to plan and prepare as a team for running Giving in Grace in the autumn of 2005.'Their work with children was one strand in an extensive use of the Giving in Grace programme across the Kirkby Team Ministry. See the excellent Kirkby Team Ministry web site for more about each of the four churches and their ministry in Kirkby.
After some deliberation St Andrew's decided to follow the Exodus preaching series mainly because the idea of “journey” appealed and it was felt that it would resonate with many people in the churches who are on their own spiritual journey. The decision was also influenced by the children’s resources within Preach Exodus! and the belief that it would be good to integrate the teaching material for both adults and children.
St. Andrew’s Tower Hill has a small children’s group called the “Cool School” which meets every Sunday except the first Sunday of the month, when the children stay in church for all age worship. The children range from 3 to 13 years old and there are 7 teachers who work in 3 teams, teaching one session a month. None of the teachers had ever used Godly Play before although a few had seen it in action. However after a briefing session they were keen to give it a go.
The children's ministry leaders stayed close to the scripts as they were written, each team producing their own Godly Play box to illustrate the story. Feedback from the leaders was that they felt very comfortable leading the sessions; what’s more the children were really struck by the excitement and wonder generated by what was going to come out of the box. Whereas with previous material that we had used, often attention had wandered and on occasions discipline and order had been a problem. With Godly play whether the children were 3 or 13 they were engaged, quiet and fascinated. Once the story had been told, the use of “I wonder” questions were really helpful in enabling the children to enter into the story and extract it’s meaning and relevance for their young lives.
Once the sessions had finished the children came back into church for communion and then during the notices, shared with the adults what they had been doing, with the help of their “special” box. Thus the adults were able to get a different slant on the story that they had been studying. It is an just a rumour that many adults said that they wished that they had been out with the Cool School as it sounded much more interesting than staying in church!
Now the New Year has come and the Giving in Grace programme has been completed. However, the Cool School leaders are continuing to use Godly Play Scripts on some of the Gospel stories this term, due largely to the response they had from the children and their belief that this is a great way to facilitate the children's familiarity with the Bible story and their spiritual learning and growth.