We welcome and look forward to children being in worship with us each week and children are always welcome to participate with in worship and church activities. About 15 minutes into the 10:30 worship service we invite children into a special time to wonder about God. We hope that children will worship with their families until this moment in worship. Afterwards, they will be invited to go to spiritual formation classes designed especially for them.
We currently offer two classes. One class is for children in pre-kindergarten through second grade and a second class for children in grades 3-5. The younger children meet in the yellow room and the older children meet in the blue room. These rooms are located downstairs underneath the sanctuary. Trained volunteer teachers lead our classes using a curriculum. All of our teachers are screened to ensure they meet our safe child policy requirements and consent to yearly background checks.
In her book, Formational Children’s Ministry, Ivy Beckwith says that “the act of becoming Christian is the actual practicing of being Christian, over and over and over again”. By using an educational model that focuses on practicing the attitudes, skills, values and knowledge of our faith, children at the United Churches of Olympia are encouraged to wonder, grow and to prepare themselves for a lifelong faith journey. Children will interact with Scripture using all their senses through the use of story, art, music and movement and even food.
Fun fact: Did you know that approximately 80% of the Bible is told in story narrative?
Here is a bit of what the Godly Play Foundation has to say about the process:
“The result of a lifetime of research and practice by theologian, author and educator The Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman, the Godly Play method is a curriculum of spiritual practice exploring the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. The Godly Play curriculum engages what is most exciting about religious education: God inviting us into—and pursuing us in the midst of—Scripture and spiritual experience. Godly Play practice teaches us to listen for God and to make authentic and creative responses to God’s call in our lives.
- Godly Play is a creative, imaginative approach to Christian formation and spiritual guidance.
- It has a Montessori foundation of 40+ years of research and practice.
- It values process, openness, discovery, community and relationships.
- It models the worship life, stories, symbols and rituals of Christian congregations.
- Godly Play allows practitioners to make relevant and personal theological meaning.
- It nurtures participants to larger dimensions of belief and faith through wondering and play.”
Another wonderful thing about this curriculum is that it has space for an additional adult “helper” in the classroom each week. This helper does not need to prepare in any way, other than to be ready to have fun and help our children approach God. You can sign up any Sunday with one of the teachers.
The central learning concepts fall into four main categories:
- Developing faith foundations
- To develop a sense of belong to a faith community
- To affirm one’s sense of belong to God
- To meaningfully participate in the life of the church
- Engaging Faith Traditions
- To explore Bible stories
- To learn the history and teachings of the Church
- Relating to God and the Church
- To verbalize experiences and questions about God and faith
- To learn how to be in covenant relationship with God and each other
- Relating Faith to Life
- To explore ways we can live out our faith
- To serve others with fairness and justice.