Folks at First – Esther Maeers

An interview with Esther Maeers by Esther Wiens

Godly Play- Children’s Ministries

  1. EW: Esther, when the children are released from the worship service to go downstairs, they run as though they can hardly wait to get there. One would think they were headed for a picnic. How do you account for this?

EM: I believe the children are so excited to run downstairs because of the relationships they have built with their church family. Many of them have grown up since babyhood within this church. They have developed strong friendships with the other children and with many of the adults who lead and help in the children’s ministries.

  1. EW: What is your role and with what age do you work?

EM: I have a couple of different roles within the worship that goes on with the children downstairs. I am a parent of a child in Godly Play and a baby in the nursery. I help to co-ordinate Godly Play by organizing which stories are told each week and who the leader and the shepherd are to be each Sunday. I also lead or shepherd throughout the year within the Godly Play room.

  1. EW: What do you hope to achieve with children who are very young? What indication is there that your goals are being realized?

EM: In Godly play the children are ages 3-7. The bible stories are taught in such a beautifully child-centred way. Each story is brought to life using wooden figures and structures. The leader tells the story in age-appropriate vocabulary and the children hear the story, wonder about the story and then are given time to work with it, either through re-telling it or through the use of materials in the room, such as play dough, paint, markers, etc.

  1. EW: Do you have a curriculum, or some helpful teaching material?

EM: Godly Play is a very well thought-out program. There are 3 different books that we work with. The books offer the bible stories in a script-like fashion for the adult, which explain both the words to say, and the actions to help with the re-telling. Each story also includes the corresponding bible verse and questions to help further the children’s understanding.

The Godly Play program also lays out the structure for each Sunday. We mimic the adult service upstairs in a child-appropriate way. The children prepare for worship by removing their shoes and walking slowly and speaking more quietly as they enter the Godly Play space. We begin by singing songs of praise and greeting one another. The children listen and wonder about the story, and then we read the verses in the bible.

They also participate in a prayer circle of thanksgiving, and we have a feast every Sunday, which symbolizes communion. After the feast, the children have time to work with the story using the wooden figures and the art materials within the room. We end each Sunday with a blessing and a special treasure to take home. As you can see, the children take part in very meaningful worship when they are downstairs.

  1. EW: Yes, it sounds wonderful! What a gift you are giving our children and our church! What part of all this do you find most satisfying? Is there any part that is hard for you?

EM: The most satisfying part is hearing their questions and thoughts about life and about the stories we are learning. I enjoy getting to know them and being a small part of their growth within our church. I guess the most challenging part is dealing with the many distractions that are a part of working with young children; e.g., the many ants in the spring, a new child who is just learning to sit and listen or a child who may be having a tough day.

  1. EW: Do you have the necessary space and equipment?

EM: The Godly Play room has been created into a beautiful worship space for our children. We have any beautifully made stories and lots of wonderful art supplies for children to create with. The main materials that need to be restocked from time to time are painting paper, play dough, treasures for the treasure box (stickers, stamps, etc.) and supplies for our feast (muffin papers, cheerios, crackers, etc.)

  1. EW: Jesus said, “Allow the children to come to me.” Do you feel you are accomplishing this?

EM: I believe that Godly Play is such a wonderful worship service for our children. The stories help to bring the bible to life and make it meaningful for young children. Our children are building a strong relationship with God and with each other through this program.

  1. EW: What gives you joy in this work?

EM: I feel joy when I hear a child use the materials to tell the story in their own words. I feel joy when I see the work that a child has done to better understand the story through art. I feel joy getting to know these amazing and very capable little humans.

  1. EW: Well, God bless you! How can we as a church be most helpful to you?

EM: I guess the way the church could help to make my job easier as co-ordinator would be for others to volunteer their time. We are always looking for capable and loving adults who enjoy working with children as a leader or shepherd (helper) in Godly Play. Also, we could always use help for our annual clean-up days or donations of art supplies when we are low.

  1. EW: What kind of feedback do you get from the parents? Is some of it helpful?

EM: I don’t always have the chance to hear from the parents, but I do feel that they are confident about leaving their children with the loving adults who help in Godly Play.

EW: Well, Esther I would like to thank you on behalf of the church for what you and the other teachers are doing for our children.

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