Can we imagine a church where play and imagination are seen as serious spiritual disciplines?
I did training last year in Godly Play. If you’re not familiar, Godly Play is an interactive storytelling method that focused on children’s innate relationship with God. That makes it sound boring… Godly Play tells biblical stories using playful objects that not only teaches children the stories and some traditional Christian language but also makes room for their own multi-leveled responses that often involve creative/artistic expressions.
Just… see for yourself:
There is a serious under-use of play in many adult ministries. On the other hand, one of the critiques I often hear of children’s and youth ministry is that it’s all fun and no formation. While I think there is a fun factor in play, play is different than fun. I would say most children’s and youth ministers both ordained and lay I know are very much aware of that having fun and playing can build faith even if to an outsider it looks like they’re “just” playing a game.
There is a time to sit, to read, to engage in discussion based on a book of the Bible or another guiding book. There is even a time for lecture. I like lectures and books and discussion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like painting and music and storytelling. Not just looking at paintings and hearing music but participating in making art and music (whether or not I’m “good” at it). There is a time to read and a time to play.
How do we make room in our serious spiritual practices for play, imagination, and creativity? Maybe it’s time for Christians to start taking play, imagination, and creativity seriously. Maybe it’s time to realize play and creativity sneaks into our worship, education, and mission more than we admit.
- Prayers are poetry.
- Communion is interactive drama.
- Potluck suppers are improv.
- Stained glass is art.
- Sermons are storytelling.
- Session meetings are groups imagining together.
- Budgets are like writing music, making sure the individual notes create harmony.
- Interfaith activities are asking others to dance with you and accepting the invitation to dance with them.
- Meeting others through local, national, or international missions can be yoga–a difficult stretch at first but eventually part of your healthy routine.
You don’t have to pick up a crayon or a brush for play, creativity, and imagination to be at work. It’s already a part of our lives, and like every part of our lives we ask how we can use our gifts for the glory of God and the service of our neighbors. Creativity, play, and imagination don’t have age limits either. These are activities we can do as a whole church.
I think the future of spiritual practices is the full inclusion and intentionality of involving play and imagination as spiritual disciplines. I think it will look different in different people’s lives. And that is the most exciting part.
-Written by Emily Hope Morgan, a Millennial pondering questions of the new Millennium