Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to anyone visiting this blog!

Photo: Adoración de los pastores (Adoration of the Shepherds), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (c. 1657), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ministry update & personal finances

I very rarely blog or comment about my own financial situation or means of support. However, I realise that some of my readers may wish to be made aware of this subject - so, despite a fair degree of discomfort in doing just that in this post, here goes!

For over three decades now, my 'home' church near London (UK) has consistently been making monthly gifts to help cover my personal and family needs in Spain. However, this arrangement will come to an end in March 2012 due to the cutbacks the church feels it needs to make in its annual budget and other priorities in its ministry. The leaders are presently encouraging their members (and any others beyond the local congregation who wish to support me individually or as families) to take steps to make personal arrangements once the church payments cease. They will be reminding the members again shortly by means of a letter, and recently they asked me for a short note outlining my current ministry that could be enclosed with their letter - especially for those who do not have access to this blog. Here is what I wrote:
For over 25 years, I have been involved with Unión Bíblica (Scripture Union Spain) as their National Coordinator for Children’s Ministries. I continue to travel regularly as a Scripture Union worker to different parts of Spain (and sometimes further afield), responding to invitations for training, lecturing & consultation. Since 2004, my work as a trainer has particularly focused on Godly Play, an imaginative approach to encouraging children (and grown-ups) to engage personally with Bible stories. My other duties with Scripture Union Spain also include publishing projects, especially in the area of evangelistic and Bible-reading materials for children.

More recently, I have been encouraged by the leaders of my (other) local church in Galicia (north-west Spain) to take over as their new Children’s Minister. This involves general supervision of Sunday school classes, summer camps, all-age worship, prayer events for children, etc. At the time of writing, I am busy training Sunday school workers in Godly Play principles and practice, setting up a brand-new Godly Play environment in one of the church classrooms, organising a KidsGames seminar for children’s and youth workers in Galicia, and regularly preaching on key Bible texts which either refer directly to children or impact indirectly on ministry with children and young people.

None of these posts is salaried, so my work still depends on voluntary contributions from supporters. I continue to be extremely grateful to God who has supplied my personal needs and those of the ministry for more than 35 years by means of regular donations from faithful supporters. Thanks be to God for this practical fellowship in the gospel!
If you also wish to contribute financially, you can send designated gifts on my behalf via Independent Christian Workers Trust (ICWT). This is especially useful for UK tax payers, as ICWT are able to reclaim tax through the Gift Aid scheme and, thereby, substantially increase these contributions. I would be happy to give you further details on request.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I wonder if there is any part we can leave out...

One of the wondering questions often used in Godly Play after presenting a Bible story is the following: "I wonder if there is any part we can leave out and still have all the story we need".

The challenge in our storytelling is to grasp what is essential and to omit the superfluous. Scripture itself is selective and often the biblical narratives use the bare minimum of language to convey the essence of the story. Too often when we tell these stories to children (or adults) we tend to elaborate on them and fill in the gaps, instead of allowing the children to thoughtfully read between the lines themselves. Godly Play seeks to employ the same economy of language as Jesus did, for example, in his parables. But there may be even more that we can leave out - hence the question for the children to ponder with us as, together, we seek to grasp the essential.

A couple of volunteers from my church congregation in Galicia have offered to carve some of the wooden figures used in Godly Play as we prepare the new classroom for the coming school year. I guess sculptors continually ask themselves the same wondering question: what more can be chiselled away before getting to the imagined object they have in mind? So throughout the creative process, the craftsman who produced, say, the beautiful donkey in the Holy Family set of figures (see illustration) will be wondering what else that is NOT a donkey can be carved away before finally reaching that which is essentially the donkey we need! The art is leaving out the unessential in order to focus on what really counts.

My church is currently celebrating the centenary of the construction of the rural chapel where we meet. A hundred years of tradition is something to celebrate! However, the leaders of the congregation are also aware that changes need to be made as the church faces the challenges of the twenty-first century. They need wisdom to balance tradition and renewal. "I wonder if there is anything we can leave out (or, perhaps, even add) and still have everything we need" was essentially the question that was in the air during the Reformation!

In October, my wife and I are moving house (again!) to be closer to the church and thus enhance our process of integration. There will not be as much space for all my stuff in the new house. "I wonder what I need to leave out (throw or give away) and still have everything I need" will be the question on my mind as I prepare boxes and attempt to de-clutter. Hmmm!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Creating a safe and welcoming space

Here's an extract from a summary report on the work of the Coming Generations Track at last year's Scripture Engagement Forum at Melaka, Malaysia. The full report can be found here.
The Coming Generations track comprised about 40 people from every continent [...] The main themes of the track focused on how we can release the potential of young people’s interaction with God’s word [...]

Creating a safe and welcoming space

When young people perceive that we are listening and authentically sharing our own lives with them, a safe space is created where they can feel confident to explore Scripture. In such a space, we are affirming that no question or comment will be rejected and that no right/wrong response will be demanded.

Godly Play® models an approach that provides a safe sacred space for children to explore the Bible. Led by David Pritchard, we were - as children - invited slowly and thoughtfully into the story of the Old Testament patriarchs in ways that engaged our imagination and left us ‘wondering’ at the mystery of God, and at his invitation to be part of his story. This was a space characterised more by silence and simplicity than noise or clutter. As we became engrossed in the story, the storyteller (David Pritchard) became almost invisible: direct connection had been made between the story and the ‘children’. This is a deliberate intention in Godly Play®.

In a safe space, what is the role of the adult? We were challenged to take a step back and let God do what he wants to do in the group and among its individuals - to allow the Bible, his word, to speak for itself [...]

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Godly Play classroom / 2

The creation of resource materials for the new Godly Play classroom in Castiñeiras (Coruña province, NW Spain) is well underway. Good progress is being made, with a team of volunteers from the congregation of Castiñeiras Evangelical Church working on the materials in their spare time during the summer with the intention of completely equipping the classroom for the start of the new school year.

It seems that we won't have to purchase any of the resources from Godly Play suppliers, as the volunteers are skilled and motivated enough to do the entire job themselves. This is quite remarkable and extremely beneficial: the volunteers will have the satisfaction that the fruit of their work will be used regularly in the Sunday school for many years to come - and it will certainly save the church some money!

The artefacts have been lovingly crafted to a high standard of excellence - really top quality! It will be wonderful to see how the children respond to them!

I hope you enjoy the pictures here of this part of the creative process. More photos will be added as other materials are produced.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Second Godly Play workshop in Castiñeiras

¡Godly Play is progressing in Galicia!

The second workshop took place on Saturday 12th June at my church in Castiñeiras (Coruña). There were 8 of us from that church and another participant from another church in Ferrol, a town in the north of La Coruña province, in NW Spain. This time, the workshop focused on Sacred Story, both the learning and practising of the narratives in Godly Play, as well as the creation of resource materials for telling them.

You can find more photos of the event here

Monday, June 07, 2010

World Weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk

For several years now, I have been translating, adapting and distributing resource materials relating to Viva's World Weekend of Prayer (WWP) for children at risk. I have been doing this as part of my work with Unión Bíblica (Scripture Union Spain), rather than through formal contact with Viva themselves.

Prayer is an integral part of Scripture Union's aim of "encouraging people of all ages to meet God daily through the Bible and prayer". Intercessory prayer is part and parcel of "meeting God", especially prayer on behalf of those who are closest to God's heart - i.e. vulnerable and needy children - and this in itself is a response to the reading of Bible passages such as "A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in his holy habitation" (Psalm 68:5).

This year I translated Viva's WWP poster, PowerPoint presentation and 5 prayer sessions for children. I am happy that through Unión Bíblica's partnership with La Semilla de Trigo (the Spanish branch of Grain de Blé / Grain of Wheat) and the Asociación de Educadores Evangélicos de Madrid (Madrid Christian Educators' Association), we have been able to promote this material to a wider circle of contacts through e-mail distribution, Facebook posts, digital prayer bulletins, etc.

I have already received some feedback from churches who have used these prayer resources, including the following comment:
"I am using this wonderful material you attached with my children in Sunday School and we are really making the most of it. They actually keep quiet and show great interest in the stories displayed in it, and pray!!!! which is a great task for them. Thank you for sharing this material with all who love and teach children." Rosa
My own church at Castiñeiras (A Coruña), in NW Spain, decided to take part in WWP for the first time this year. The Sunday School children had already worked with some of the translated prayer materials on the Sundays leading up to the WWP and the 2-hour meeting I had with them on Saturday 5th June. Sixteen children, aged 6-13 years of age, attended this special meeting. They enjoyed expressing their feelings and reactions to the situations depicted in the prayer resources by means of half an hour of free art response. Then they rehearsed songs and Bible readings for a 30 minute presentation they would be taking part in during the morning service the next day at church. Finally, the children and their teachers engaged in a short time of prayer.

This gathering was also important for me, as it was the first real interaction I have been able to have with the children as a group since I joined the church earlier in the year.

Yesterday (Sunday 6th June), we celebrated WWP with the whole congregation. The church leaders had already decided to shift the normal morning service to the evening, and had announced that arrangement the Sunday before, so that the maximum amount of time could be devoted in the morning to prayer for children at risk. About 100 people attended the all-age morning service, which included a display of the children's art responses from the day before, the adapted WWP PowerPoint presentation, case studies from the translated lesson materials, Bible readings led by the children, songs, congregational responses and open prayer. Several of the church members approached me after the service with positive remarks expressing a desire to continue celebrating the WWP in future years.

It's vital to pray for children at risk in today's world. Even more strategic is when children themselves are involved in praying for other children - this is a powerful means of grace in God's hands. Viva estimate that around 3 million people may have taken part this year in WWP events around the globe - over half of which will have been children!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Weekend residential training for Christian educators

This past weekend (28-30 May), I have been leading some residential training near Madrid on working with children for a small group of Christian educators. This event forms part of the regular annual programme of the Asociación de Educadores Evangélicos de Madrid (Madrid Christian Educators Association), run in partnership with Unión Bíblica (Scripture Union Spain). The training is based on the course Working with Children Today, which I put together many years ago and continue to update regularly.

On this occasion, only four people took part in the course. They were from churches in Madrid and Aranjuez, and included school RE teachers, leaders of summer camp programmes, child minders and Sunday school teachers. Despite the low numbers, there was a good spirit in the group and plenty of motivation to learn and share. Here are a few of their comments on the closing feedback sheet:
  • "I really liked this course!"
  • "Just right! It's helped me a lot!"
  • "Great! Many thanks!"
  • "I am really grateful for everything I have learned. Thank you!"
The next training in this series is scheduled for the end of September.

Godly Play at a national conference for Christian medical staff

At their latest national conference, which took place this past weekend (28-30 May) near Madrid, the Spanish Christian Medical Fellowship, Unión Médica Evangélica (AME), agreed that their morning worship should consist of Godly Play stories.

So, I was happy to lead two half-hour sessions on consecutive mornings before breakfast, presenting the classic stories of The Great Family and The Parable of the Good Shepherd. These presentations aroused a great deal of interest from the group, and many useful conversations took place subsequently during the breaks for coffee and lunch on subjects such as chaplaincy services in children's hospitals, training in pastoral ministry to children, child spirituality, etc. I am expecting to receive follow-up invitations from several of the participants to develop work in these areas through Godly Play workshops and seminars.

More photos of this event can be found here

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Godly Play weekend in Valencia

I'm writing this post in Madrid, in between Godly Play presentations last weekend in Valencia and a residential training event on working with children this coming weekend here in the Spanish capital. So, here's my report on the first of those two activities.

Last Saturday (22 May), I was invited to lead a Godly Play introductory day in Valencia, organised by the First Baptist Church of Valencia and the 'Bona Nova' Evangelical Church, in partnership with Unión Bíblica (Scripture Union Spain). The event was attended by a group of 21 educators, both professional school teachers as well as volunteer Sunday school staff. They represented 3 local churches in Valencia city and another church in the nearby town of Xátiva.

Some of the participants had experienced Godly Play in the past at other training events, but for others it was totally new. In general, the feedback was really positive and a core group of participants expressed interest in attending workshops in Godly Play to learn the nuts and bolts of this method. A date has been reserved later this year for the first of this series of workshops: Saturday, 13 November. The staff at the First Baptist Church have also revealed their plans for transforming one of their classrooms into a permanent space in which to offer Godly Play to the children of their congregation.

The following day was Pentecost Sunday. At the First Baptist Church, two Godly Play classes were organised, the first for young children and the second for the older age group. Both groups responded very well to the wondering questions related to their respective stories: The Parable of the Good Shepherd, in the case of the younger children, and The Mystery of Pentecost, in that of the older group.

In the first session, there were many young children crowded into a rather limited space, and a number of adult observers also attended - which is not to be recommended in a normal Godly Play class. Even so, the children responded very well to the story during the response time, choosing a variety of art and craft media, as well as the materials of the parable itself. We also enjoyed sharing the feast together. In the same way, the older children responded creatively to the Tower of Babel and Pentecost stories although, unfortunately, there was not enough time that Sunday morning to celebrate the feast with them.

Some of the aldult observers were staff workers at the Valencia City Mission, who were inquiring about how Godly Play might be used with the children who have contact with the mission. So, it seems there may well be many other trips back to Valencia over the next couple of years!

Click on the following links to see more pictures of the Godly Play introduction and the children's classes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Godly Play classroom / 1

I'll be using this blog to update you from time to time on our progress in setting up a new Godly Play classroom at my church in the rural area of Castiñeiras, in NW Spain. The target is to have the classroom fully operational by September 2010, when classes will begin with a small group of children aged 3 to 6.

The Evangelical chapel at Castiñeiras is celebrating its centenary this year. However, this church community is presently renovating the rooms on the upstairs floors - and one of them will be totally dedicated to Godly Play! This is good news indeed!

Although the room is rather small, I have thought carefully about how to maximize the space. It was originally one of the rooms in the missionaries' residence over the chapel when it was built in 1910 - and includes a fireplace! However one of the pieces of furniture especially designed for the GP classroom will carefully fit in the space used for the hearth.

The room is very bright as natural light streams in from two windows, overlooking the surrounding fields and nearby beach. Its solid wood floor, rafters, doors, etc. have recently been revarnished and polished, and the walls painted.

I am really surprised how quickly the church carpenter and his team have produced the furniture for the new classroom after I had submitted to him the design for the shelves. They were ready in time for a Godly Play workshop we held earlier this month in a larger adjacent room.

Here are some practical principles about designing and organizing Godly Play space that will be guiding us as we continue to develop our own classroom.

You can see more photos here of the present stage of development. Please revisit this blog from time to time for further updates on our progress!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

World Weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk

On the 5-6 Junio, millions of Christians will be taking part in the World Weekend of Prayer for children at risk, coordinated by the international network of Christian NGOs, Viva.

Scripture Union Spain (Unión Bíblica), in partnership with Grain of Wheat (La Semilla de Trigo), are promoting this weekend of concentrated prayer for children in need through our own network of contacts. From Viva's website, practical resources for this event can be downloaded, including a Prayer Guide in Spanish, that has been carefully prepared and edited, and includes information, testimonies, prayer topics and activities for promoting creative prayer in groups of both children and adults.

The Viva website contains a number of other Resources in English, such as a PowerPoint presentation, a guide for children's activities, posters, etc. I have been busy translating some of this material into Spanish to complement the prayer guide.

These materials will be used with the children at my church in Castiñeiras over the next couple of weeks, and I will be leading a special service at church on 6 June. I hope you will also consider joining the millions of Christians who will be praying for the children whom Jesus referred to in several strong statements, such as when he said: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones".

Training updates

I have been leading several training events recently. Here's an update on news since my last post.

On 17 Abril, I was in Durango (in the Basque Country) leading an introductory day on Godly Play. This was organized by Scripture Union Spain (Unión Bíblica) in partnership with the National Department for Christian Education of the Federation of Assemblies of God in Spain.

16 religious education teachers and Sunday school teachers attended the event, representing several Evangelical churches in Durango, Pamplona, San Sebastián, Valladolid and Vitoria, and also from a Catholic community in Durango.

You can see more photos of this event here.

The following weekend (23-24 April), I was in the town of Onda (Castellón), leading a second module of SU Spain's basic training course Working with Children Today. This was organised in partnership with the 'Vida Nueva' Evangelical Church in Castellón de la Plana and the 'Bona Nova' Evangelical Church in Onda. The 18 Sunday school teachers who took part in this training event were from these two churches.

The programme also included a brief introduction to Godly Play. On the following Sunday (26 April), I was able to preach at the local church and also present the Godly Play story of the 'Synagogue and Upper Room' to the entire congregation.

More photos of this weekend training are available here.

Taking advantage of these two weekend events, I drove to Madrid to see some of our family, and then on to Salou (in Tarragona) to view a number of hotels as possible venues for our forthcoming II National Godly Play Conference, which we hope will take place at this popular seaside resort in October 2011. This meant that my all-round 10-day trip from Galicia to the Basque Country, Madrid, Tarragona, Castellón, Madrid, and finally back to Galicia, involved over 2,000 km of coast-to-coast driving in my car laden with materials for two different courses!

Finally, back in Galicia at my home church in Castiñeiras (A Coruña), on Saturday, 8 May, I led the first of a series of Godly Play workshops. This first one focused on Jesus' parables of the kingdom.

13 people, members of Evangelical churches in Castiñeiras-Riveira, Ferrol and Santiago de Compostela, took part in this practical training workshop.

After getting acquainted with, practising and presenting the main guiding parables used in Godly Play, the participants got involved in a brief hands-on session of creating their own teaching resources for these same parables.

Here you can view more photos of this workshop.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Godly Play workshop near Barcelona

On Saturday, 16 January, I led a Godly Play workshop at a church in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, near the city of Barcelona. The theme of this training event was the Godly Play "liturgical action" stories.

Fifteen teachers took part from several localities in the Catalan region: Salou, Tarragona, Molins de Rei, Torrasa and Sant Feliu de Llobregat.

Click here for photos of the workshop.

Godly Play teaching in Barcelona

Taking advantage of my annual fortnight's lecturing on children's ministry at Ibste, the Spanish Bible Institute and Theological Seminary at Castelldefels, near Barcelona, I was also able to lead Godly Play classes with two groups of children.

The first session took place on Sunday, 17 January, at a church in Sant Feliu de Llobregat (in Barcelona province). About 10 boys and girls took part and they responded enthusiastically to the stories on Holy Baptism and The Good Shepherd and World Communion.

The second session was held on Wednesday, 20 January, at Ibste's chapel, where an international group of resident children and parents at the Bible Institute gathered together for their very first encounter with Godly Play. I told them the Parable of the Good Shepherd in Spanish and English, and one of the Institute's staff also translated some of the words into Chinese. It would seem that communication was quite a challenge! However, when I moved the little wooden figures of the sheep out of the fold and made them follow the figure of the Good Shepherd towards the "green pastures", suddenly the most lively child in the group placed his cheek on the green felt underlay which represented the rich pastures. He then laid himself down and two of the other children did likewise. I doubt whether any of these 2- to 4-year-olds had ever learnt the words of Psalm 23, "He makes me lie down in green pastures". However, these little ones were intuitively following and anticipating the story - using their own body language to do so!

Photos: Eunice Sanjaime