“Do I really have to memorize the story?”

When people know I am interested in Godly Play, they always ask me this question. And you know what? Every time I dodge the question and try to be supportive. I don’t want to discourage ANYONE from using Godly Play!


Memorizing “The Twelve” at my desk (I had left the big poster of da Vinci’s Last Supper at the church – and I have to learn it from the teacher’s perspective of looking at the poster upside down!)

However, I do know that I certainly can’t leave out memorizing the story. I’ve always thought that the words were so important that I had to do my best to get them to the children: I only have about 10-15 minutes of a 45 minute Sunday School class for nine months of the year!

(Memorizing the story isn’t the hard part for me; stage fright is. I am terrified, every week, to tell a story, even to children. It fills me with joy, but I am quaking in my boots the entire time. When I tell stories to adults, it’s even worse, with a nice red rash forming on my neck and chest…)

In The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vol. 1, Jerome Berryman explains it like this:

When I tell a Godly Play story, I don’t read the story, and I don’t even memorize it. I tell it, from my heart. I enter into the story with all the presence and attention I can bring, knowing that each time I tell this story I will discover something new. (…) Our different life experiences, our different developmental stages and different personalities mean that each of us will tell Godly Play stories in a unique way.

Phyllis Tickle hits the nail on the head in her Patheos article “My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith

Implied in telling is the authenticity of what is being told. The underlying message is that this story matters. It matters because Daddy or Grand-daddy or Uncle Bill knows it all the way through. It matters because Mama or Granny or Aunt Sue loves it enough to know exactly what happens next. Of course, what that also means—and this is the source of the child’s perception of authenticity—is that Daddy and Mama et al. have valued this story enough to know it in detail and have also thought about it before telling it. What telling rather than reading or watching also means, of course, is that the stories of the faith can be pulled out spontaneously when their words and plot lines are apropos of some conversation or situation other than bedtime.

So, I memorize the story. That happens on Saturday night, and I must be diligent. On Sunday morning, I tell the story, leaving what comes out up to the Holy Spirit.

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