How sad it would be if we merely heard the story and didn’t explore it, didn’t pull it on to see how it fits. Without truly investigating the story, we might never discover the treasures God sews into it.
In Godly Play, we unpack the story through our wondering questions.
Wondering questions happen after the story has been told and the teacher has paused to enjoy the story for a moment. The wondering questions at the end of every story script in the Godly Play books are really great. We often add our own, responding to the direction that the children’s comments take us. The questions are usually very general at first, to help the children ease into both thinking and sharing their thoughts. An opening question might be, “What was your favorite part of the story?”
If you look at the questions at the end of the stories you’ll find that there are different kinds of questions depending on the type of story. For the sacred stories, you’ll see questions like, “I wonder where you are in this story, or what part of the story is about you?” For the parables, you’ll see questions like, “I wonder what this seed (tree, pearl, etc) could really be?
It’s important to accept silence as part of the wondering process and not to rush the children. It’s also good to remember that we’re not to judge the answers to the questions. We can ask more questions about a child’s answer and help them think through their responses. As Jerome Berryman writes in How to Lead Godly Play Lessons, (p56), “As Godly Play teachers our job is to support the process of wondering, not to approve or disapprove of specific answers. The children’s wondering emerges out of their own lives, their relationship with God and their participation in the lesson. Let God be there. Allow this powerful language to do its work. Trust the searching of the children to find what they need with God and the scriptures.”
This trust may be difficult for people who are new to Godly Play. Folks often find security in the idea of protecting the children from what they determine are wrong answers. But when we do this, we greatly limit the Holy Spirit to move in the child’s own life, to work through her own experiences. God is strong enough to speak to the child within the child’s own wondering.
Every single Sunday, I come away from Sunday school thoroughly impressed with the thoughts the children express. One thing I’d really like to work on this year is sharing these thoughts (without names attached) with the parents and the congregation. Because the children have a special kind of spirituality unencumbered and unspoiled by adult concerns, we need to hear what they have to say. So I want to encourage my teachers to have someone other than the storyteller ready to write down the children’s responses to the wondering questions, so that they can be shared.
To make this recording process easier, I’m going to type out the wondering questions in advance and have a copy for each class in the attendance folder each week. I look forward to hearing the children’s responses!