In the latter half of 2014 Nic Best, Assistant Primary Sergeant at Winton Corps, began a journey with Godly Play. In August 2017 Andrea Harrison visited her to ask some questions about that journey and how Godly Play is being used at Winton now.
How did you become interested in GP?
In October 2014 Jackie MacGregor, the then DCO, mentioned something about Godly Play. I had worked in a Montessori school so she thought that I would be interested. I was already involved with the YP work at Winton.
Although I had read something about GP I had not experienced it before attending a three day core training in the summer of 2015.
Just two weeks after that training I told my first GP story at the Junior Soldier camp at Milton Abbey in Blanford. It was the Ten Best Ways and I told it three times to different groups- 60 children in total. Although nervous, I enjoyed it. It was good to put into practice what I had learnt and I enjoyed seeing the reactions of the children who had never encountered GP.
After that what happened?
I wanted to use GP in the Sunday School and so I met with the then corps officer,
talked about GP and told her a story. She suggested I made a presentation to Programme Team . This happened in Spring 2016. Andrea Harrison ( now GP Enabler) also came to the corps to talk with the officer.
In the autumn I went to the Soul Pursuit training weekend with the YPSM of Winton and suggested that he attend a GP session that was being run there . Although he remained uncertain of the impact it would have on children, he agreed to a trial period of three months : we could tell a GP story once a month. Since then he has continued to approve of its use, although he is not a story teller.
Another member of our YP team , Kristen Lloyd , had by then done the three day core training and so with Jackie MacGregor there were three of us qualified to use GP. We began using GP with the whole group of children in January 2016.
How did you choose your first stories?
We were limited by what we had. Since then we have built up our collection of story materials by borrowing from others and using a £500 grant from the corps . We have also made some stories.
You now use GP with your under 6s group, Little Gems. When did that start?
In January 2016 we began the transition to prepare Little Gems for a full GP session.
The preparation period lasted from January-September. ( There is a video interview where Nic talks about the process of preparation.)
What has the reaction from parents and the rest of the corps?
The Programme Team of about 20 people were very positive. GP reminded some of them of days when they were at Sunday School. They felt the impact of it for themselves.
Parents haven’t really questioned what we do. It would be ideal if they could attend a session for themselves but it has been difficult to find space and time for this.
Since you started your journey with GP there has been a change of officers. Has this affected what you are doing?
No it did not affect it as they had already heard about GP and were enthusiastic. They encouraged us to buy some more stories.
Where else have you been able to use it in the corps?
I am employed at a local school so my free time is limited but I have presented a story to the Friendship Group, a group of older men and women, on two occasions. I also told Faces of Easter to the Brownie Group. Although both groups meet at the corps, most members are not part of the Sunday morning congregation.
The Brownies were very vocal in their wondering and coped really well with it in the middle of a very active session. The wondering in the Friendship Group was very positive.
Maybe if I was asked again, I would seek to do a whole session.
In preparation for both groups I would ask more questions about the room set up and context of meeting.
Do you tell a new story each week?
No at the beginning we decided that we would tell one a month so as not to overload children/story teller. The story is told in the first week. There is a short response time but in week two there is a full response time. The story is re told in the third week and then on the fourth week there is a full GP session with all the children aged 2-13. We always do the feast.
We have a prayer time after feast and children can choose what they would like to pray for. (See photo).
How do you evaluate what you are doing?
After each session there is a brief debrief between story teller and door person . This begins in person but might continue by text throughout the week.
We’re still working at our welcome and goodbye.
What are chief joys in using GP ?
Seeing the children using the story materials in response time,making their own meaning. It is also fascinating to see how their play changes over time.
What are your frustrations?
Not always having enough time for a session/ feeling rushed. It can be frustrating trying to work out how to educate the rest of the corps about GP.
Where else have you used GP?
I work at a school for children with special educational needs.There I have told the Ten Best Ways and Holy Family. I had to think more about the response materials in this context. I tried to have a sensory material for each aspect of the story but I could do more work on this.
I have also used Godly Play at the school my children attend. I told the Faces of Easter.
What advice would you give to someone starting to use GP with their YP?
You will need perseverance and to recognise that it takes time to introduce GP . Meeting with other Godly Players wherever they are is really important: going to Enrichment Days and the annual conference, for example. Also to remember that GP is not for everyone. Accept that but rejoice when you find like minded souls!
If you can read a little bit about the Montessori method and never stop evaluating your practice.
Click the link below to watch the video interview