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Next Gen Godly Play Report

15 March 2010 5 Comments

by Judyth Roberts Dec 21st, 2009

In late 2009 research was undertaken in the US and the UK by the Uniting Church Assembly to explore ways that Godly Play may be nurtured and implemented in the Australian church context.

Godly Play is able to provide a powerful way to engage children’s spirituality, through a focus on scripture, ritual and worship and it is important that we collaborate with others to develop a Godly Play network in Australia. 

This could be achieved through advocating for reflection on children’s spirituality and the theology of childhood, providing Godly Play presentations and demonstrations, linking networks of interested Godly Play practitioners, creating a website in Australia to support the network and provide information and work towards a national, collaborative Godly Play network that can become part of the international Godly Play community.

The Uniting Church in Australia has many large well-resourced churches and schools that could become centres for Godly play and provide ‘model’ classrooms and regional support. It is possible that many churches would be interested in Godly Play but be unable to commit the resources required, but most churches would be able to incorporate elements of Godly play to their work with both children and adults.


Short term (within 12 months)

  • Create a website and brochure
  • Provide ‘tasters’, workshops
  • Supply articles about GP to church publications
  • Get GP on agenda at presbytery meetings and synods
  • Keep a practitioner network or data base
  • Support trips to UK for training
  • Explore possible grants to support GP

Medium term (2- 3 years)

  • Set up some GP classrooms, at least one per state
  • Explore a GP Australian model adaptable to the Australian context
  • Get GP material into church libraries, theological colleges and their libraries
  • Work out an organisational structure here to nurture GP
  • Link with international GP
  • Launch GP in Australia

Long Term  (3 – 5 years)

  • Research
  • Teacher training
  • National Conference

There will be barriers to the above.  If the Uniting Church is sure of the benefits of Godly Play, then there should equally be a commitment to support people who are interested in learning more.  It may be that Godly Play will be provided in a spectrum; from an occasional story told in a way that reflects Godly Play principles, to a uniquely adapted form of Godly Play in Australia, perhaps called something else; to the recognisable form of international Godly Play using scripts, resources and materials in a Godly Play classroom.

The barriers for many churches will be:

  • No strategic vision for children’s ministry 
  • Lack of money to get books and resources and training
  • Children’s ministry seen as fringe issue for parents, therefore

      lack of commitment 

  • Lack of children’s space in churches, and security for resources
  • Difficulty of adapting Godly Play training and practice
  • Difficulties because of size of Australia – some communities

      are very isolated outside of capital cities

  • Godly Play can be seen in a very limiting way as a great method of storytelling, but it can be so much more. 

I believe the absence of children from most of our churches is impoverishing them.  We have failed to articulate clearly a vision for integrated children’s ministry, for nurturing children’s spiritual formation. Further we have failed to respond compassionately to the changes in society that are impacting on families, or recognise the failure of program-driven, ‘info-tainment’ methods which have resulted in the loss of generations of children.  We urgently need to find new/old ways of relating to children and their families and responding to Jesus’s call to welcome them and share our rich spiritual heritage in ways that can be transforming to the whole church and honouring to God.   

                        Biologically, adults produce children.

                               Spiritually, children produce adults.

                                      Most of us don’t grow up until we have helped children to do so.

                                                                       Thus do generations form a braided cord.



  • Kathy said:

    I am so pleased to hear that the Unitng Church is considering Godly Play. My children attend a Montessori school and having gone to a tradional mainstream school myself, I was a little sceptical at first, but when exploring the Montessori methodology I was truly amazed. In observing a Montessori classroom, the children were engaged, self sufficient and at peace. When I explored further I realised there was a programme that incorprated Montessori methodology with religious education. I truly believe that this is the way of the future. Children no longer learn in the tradional didactic way. If we are to spiritually nurture our children, we need to do it in a way that is meaningful to them, so that their relationship with Christ begins with them in their formative years and stays with them. In the increasingly more secular world we live in, this is an opportunity for the church to have a meaningful role, in partnership with parents, to spiritually nurture our children. This will give a firm spiritual foundation for these children that will keep them anchored in the ups and downs of life. I strongly encourage that the Unitng Church pursue this programme for the wellbeing of our children.

  • Kathy said:

    This is great news! I look forward to seeing Godly Play up and running in Australia. Keep up the good work!

  • Jennifer said:

    Who made your beautiful Holy Families (wood and fabric)?
    You’re spot on wrt the challenges of implementing GP (they apply here in North America, too) but you’re also absolutely right about its value and the importance taking kids’ faith formation seriously.

  • Fiona Bushby said:

    I first heard about Godly Play on National ABC Radio The Spirit of Things. I was so enlivened with the idea and needed to find out more.
    I know this is an excellent way of engaging children, and adults. It is more than learning accounts of Gods’ history, our history, its ‘LIFE’, meaning purpose relationship. I want to help GP become possible for the children in my local area. Fiona