Storytelling in multigenerational settings
Faith & Play and Godly Play® can work very well in multigenerational settings if approached with care. Children and adults alike are drawn deeply into the stories through the storyteller’s careful pacing, use of manipulable materials, periods of silence and invitations to wonder. Children already know everything they need to know to appreciate and respond to Faith & Play and Godly Play®, but adults sometimes need a little help.
In multigenerational settings, the storyteller may want to begin with words such as these:
All of you children are already ready for this story. You have everything you need. But grownups need some extra help to get ready. They like to know what is happening next. So please be patient for a bit while I help them get ready.
(To adults) This is a Montessori-inspired approach to teaching children between the ages of 3 and 12. You don’t have to pretend to be a child to appreciate the story you will hear and see. In fact, you will cheat yourself out of the experience if you do. Just relax and be yourself. Each person in the room will experience the story at his or her own developmental level.
When I begin the story proper I will no longer look at you, but will focus on the story materials; I invite you to do the same. This is because the story is the focus, not me.
When we get to the end of the story there will be open-ended statements that invite wonder. I will look at you to indicate I invite your responses. There are no wrong answers. Respond as yourself, but please be mindful that when adults and children wonder together it is easy for the adults to overwhelm the youngest ones or dominate the sharing. Try to respond from your full self and not just from your head, avoiding critique of the method itself. To benefit from this experience, focus on the story and the wondering questions and how they work in you.
After a period of wondering we will have a work time where you can continue prayerful wondering using either art materials or the story materials themselves. I will guide you through this. If time allows, we will come back together for a closing after the work time.
(To adults and children) Now all we need to do to get ready is be still and quiet inside. [Pause.] I think we are all ready. Let’s begin.
In multigenerational Faith & Play, the whole meeting community can participate. If the community is large, divide into groups of no larger than 25 for maximum benefit. If there are only a handful of children, keep them in one multigenerational group rather than split them up between the groups.
It is important for all participating adults to remember that
- wondering questions are truly open-ended
- there are no sets of "right" answers that the storyteller is trying to pull out of the participants
- people are to respond from their deep experience, not from their bank of concrete facts or abstract theories
- all speak from their hearts as in worship sharing, using simple, honest language
- pedantic, prescriptive or critical modes are to be avoided
- sharing in as few words as possible (try seven or less) and allowing periods of silence provides time and space for children to respond
If the adults genuinely care for the children and remember these guidelines, the children will understand in their own way and will sense that adults do indeed care for them and value their spiritual experience. Both children and adults will likely grow from the experience and learn from one another.