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Jerome Berryman

By Holly Catterton Allen

Protestant

JEROME WOODS BERRYMAN (1937 --) is best known for his unique approach to Christian education known as Godly Play, an approach that builds on Montessorian principles and methods of religious education. Berryman’s seminal works that best explain the practice of Godly Play are Teaching Godly Play (2009) and The Complete Guide to Godly Play (Vols. 1 – 8; 2002 – 2012). Godly Play is being used in at least 39 countries including, for example, Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Germany, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, Tanzania, Wales, and the United States. Berryman has developed his theology of childhood that undergirds Godly Play slowly and circuitously over the past five decades, and has published dozens of articles and chapters chronicling his theological, pedagogical, and philosophical journey into Godly Play as well as several books. Berryman’s recent book The Spiritual Guidance of Children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the Future (Morehouse, 2013) summarizes and synthesizes his life work with Godly Play and its interface with Christian education, children’s spirituality, and “‘speaking Christian’ as a second language” (p. 3) along with its interconnections with Montessorian principles.

Biography

Jerome Woods Berryman was born in 1937 in Ashland, Kansas; Ashland is a small ranching and wheat farming community near the Oklahoma-Kansas border. Berryman’s father, a businessman, farmer, and rancher, was a member of the Kansas legislature as were both of his grandfathers and an uncle. Berryman’s mother was a stay-at-home mom until his dad died and she became more involved in the family business. Berryman and his younger sister and brother grew up with both sets of grandparents nearby; his family attended the local Presbyterian Church.

Berryman married Thea Schoonyoung in 1961. They have two daughters, Alyda (1962) and Coleen (1967). Coleen was born with spina bifida, and many of Berryman’s writings and concerns have included a focus on children with special needs. Thea was a music teacher for children ages 3-12 at School of the Woods, a Montessori school, in Houston for 35 years. She died on January 25, 2009. Throughout his writings describing the development of Godly Play, Berryman credits Thea as a co-developer in the process.

EDUCATION

Berryman received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Kansas in 1959, after which he attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he received his master of divinity in 1962; he read theology further at Oxford University's Mansfield College during the summer of 1966 (Certificate, 1966). He then attended the University of Tulsa Law School where he received his Juris Doctorate (J. D.) degree in 1969. Berryman was awarded three post-doctoral residencies in theology and medical ethics at the Institute of Religion in the Texas Medical Center in Houston (1973 – 1976). Berryman completed his doctor of ministry from Princeton in 1996.

Berryman graduated from the year-long program at The Center for Advanced Montessori Studies in Bergamo, Italy (diploma, 1972), and in 1991 he was awarded a Lilly Endowment grant for study in Italy related to the history of the Montessori approach to religious education, and in November of 1997 he received the Kilgore Creative Ministry Award given by Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.  In 2000 he received a second Lilly Endowment Grant to study the theology of childhood. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity by The General Theological Seminary in New York City and in May of 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

PROFESSIONAL HISTORY

After receiving the master of divinity in 1962 from Princeton Theological Seminary, Berryman became a Presbyterian minister, serving in parishes and schools until he was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1984.

From 1973 – 1984, Berryman also served in various positions in the Texas Medical Center in Houston and as a Fellow at the Institute of Religion. His tasks included teaching the pastoral care of children, medical ethics, the relation of science and religion, and faith development courses in five pastoral care programs in the Texas Medical Center’s hospitals and at the Institute of Religion (part of Texas Medical Center at that time). Berryman also served directly on health care teams at Texas Children's Hospital and Houston Child Guidance Center. In addition, he was  an adjunct assistant professor of Pediatric Pastoral Care on the clinical faculty of Baylor College of Medicine 1979 – 1984, and adjunct professor of Christian Education at The Houston Graduate School of Theology.

From 1984 – 1994 he served Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston first as a consultant in 1984 and then as Canon Educator for the remainder of his time with Christ Church. 

From 1994 until the present, Berryman’s focus and full-time work has been the development and promotion of Godly Play. From 1994 – 1998 Dr. Berryman traveled widely as a consultant, conducting workshops and teaching courses all over the world. From 1994 – 1995 he also served as part-time associate rector at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Houston and as chaplain to Holy Spirit Episcopal School where he taught fourteen religion classes for children and led four children’s liturgies each week as well as working with families.

From 1998 – 2007 Jerome Berryman was executive director of the Center for the Theology of Childhood in Houston, Texas. On August 1, 2007 Berryman retired as director and was appointed Senior Fellow of the Center. The Center for the Theology of Childhood is now the research arm of the non-profit organization Godly Play Foundation (http://www.godlyplay.org). The Center includes a library of some 4,000 books focused on matters related to Godly Play; it is located in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Dr. Berryman’s educational experience with young people is broad. He has been Director of Christian Education in four churches of various sizes, served as a boarding school chaplain (as well as a teacher and as a basketball and track coach) at Culver Military Academy (1965 – 1968), and has done youth work in churches. His experience in non-church settings includes being headmaster of a Montessori school for 250 children from 2-14 years of age in Cleveland Heights, Ohio where he built one of the first Montessori middle schools in the United States.   

As a consultant, Berryman has been active for many decades in the areas of religious education, child development, the spiritual guidance of children, organizational and family systems, medical ethics, counseling children and young people with suicidal tendencies, the pastoral care of children in hospitals, values curriculum, and other similar matters. Among these consultations were The Consultation and Liaison Service at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, The Crisis Team at Houston Child Guidance Center, The Houston Independent School District, The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, The Human Studies Review Subcommittee at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Houston, The Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ, The Lutheran Church (ELCA), The Presbyterian Church (USA), The Reformed Church of America, The Christian Reformed Church, and The Episcopal Dioceses of Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Albany (New York), and Upper South Carolina, as well as many individual churches and theological seminaries of various denominations.

Berryman has read papers, delivered lectures, and conducted workshops at conferences in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Scotland, Wales, and throughout the United States in the areas of religious education and the pastoral care of children. Theological institutions that have invited him to share his expertise include Princeton Theological Seminary, Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Medical School, Catholic University, Rice University, Case Western Reserve University, Tulane Graduate School of Education, Texas Tech University School of Law, The University of Houston, Villanova University, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Iliff School of Theology, The Pacific School of Religion, The General Board of Religious Education (Australia), The General Theological Seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary, The School of Theology of The University of the South, The Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, and others.

Berryman is a former member of the American Bar Association and belonged to the Family Law Section. He was also a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. In Houston, Berryman served on the Ad Hoc Legal-Medical Child Advocacy Committee. He presented "Alternative to Bedlam: The Mentally Disabled and Society’s Rights and Responsibilities" at the University of Houston's Half Century Symposium presented by the Graduate School of Social Work and spoke at the Texas Attorney General's Conferences on the Rights of the Handicapped in El Paso, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. In addition, he presented a series of public lectures called "Law, Justice, and Human Development" at Texas Tech University School of Law.

Berryman has also served as a member of the board of the Religious Education Association. Today he continues his membership in the International Seminar for Religious Education and Values, and the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education in the United States. He is a retired priest in the Diocese of Colorado. 

Works cited in biographical section:

  • Berryman, J. W. (2013). The spiritual guidance of children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the future. New York: Morehouse Publishing.
  • Hyde B. (Ed.). (2013). The search for a theology of childhood: Essays by Jerome W. Berryman from 1978-2009. Ballarat, VIC, Australia: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd.

Contributions to Christian Education

Simply put, Jerome Berryman’s primary contribution to Christian education is that he (and his wife Thea) developed a variation of Maria Montessori’s approach to religious education that is called Godly Play; and, just as importantly, he brought Godly Play into Protestant circles in the United States and beyond. Along the way Berryman has recorded his theological, pedagogical, practical, ecclesiological, and personal journey over his forty-year publishing career.

Brendan Hyde’s recent publication of several of Berryman’s writings, The Search for a Theology of Childhood: Essays by Jerome W. Berryman from 1978 – 2009 organizes Berryman’s writings around five major themes: “1) Maria Montessori and religious education, 2) children and religious language, 3) children, spirituality, and religious education, 4) play, imagination, and the creative process, and 5) ethical considerations when working with children” (preface).

Following a basic description of Godly Play, this article will utilize Hyde’s thematic category system as an expedient way of discussing Berryman’s pedagogical, philosophical, and theological contributions to the field of Christian education.

Godly Play: Development and Rationale

Jerome and Thea Berryman developed what is known now as Godly Play over five decades.  Berryman first articulated the nascent ideas that later informed Godly Play in a paper he wrote for D. Campbell Wyckoff in a religious education course at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1960. Though his ideas were not fully formed, Berryman knew he wanted to move away from the idea that children were empty vessels waiting to be filled with information presented by religious teachers. He believed that children already knew God and that “what they needed was an appropriate language to construct their own personal meaning about that reality” (Berryman, 2009a, p. 14). In the late 1960s, while observing his daughters in a Montessori school in Little Rock, Arkansas, Berryman realized that Montessori's methods of play could be adapted for the kind of religious educational purposes that he was envisioning. (Of course, Montessori had originally utilized her methods of play to teach religion, as well as academic subjects, in her schools in Italy and Spain and elsewhere, as Berryman later discovered.)

Berryman took the next major step on the journey toward Godly Play in the early 1970s when he and his family moved to Bergamo, Italy for Berryman to study Montessori’s educational approach at the Center for Advanced Montessori Studies. While there Berryman met Sofia Cavalletti (a third generation Montessorian—see next subsection) who had already developed (with Gianna Gobbi) one form of Montessori religious education that came to be known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Jerome and Thea Berryman spent the next two decades working with children in a variety of settings, in Montessori schools, Pines Presbyterian Church, and the Institute of Religion, developing materials that later would become Godly Play. Berryman also interacted in a pastoral role with families whose children were physically ill or psychologically troubled at Texas Medical Center, Texas Children's Hospital, and Houston Child Guidance Center. During these years, Berryman called his developing approach to Christian education theological play.

In 1984 Berryman was ordained as an Episcopal priest, and, as Canon Educator for Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, he, along with Thea, began to refine the basic methods of theological play, employing research procedures to hone the processes. Each two-hour research session of theological play consisted of five parts: first, the person by the door helps each child relax and “get ready”; this initial crucial step welcomes children and tends to forestall behavior problems that otherwise might arise. The entering process also helps to center the children as they prepare to enter the story. The second step has two parts: first the children are invited into the presentation as they sit in the circle with the mentor, and secondly they are invited to wonder together about the meaning of the presentation. The next step is to leave the circle and begin to do their “work” (serious play) that is either with materials in the room on the shelves or to express their existential issues with the many art materials. Finally, the leave-taking begins. It is important for the children to leave the room with affirmation and deep closure. This closure includes acknowledging the parents as they arrive to pick up their child; and last, the story-teller says a specific good-bye to each child by name.

Berryman began calling his theological play approach Godly Play near the end of this period, and in 1991, he produced his first book explaining the basic tenets and understandings of the approach: Godly Play: A Way of Religious Education (HarperCollins).

Berryman continued to refine the lessons and guidelines he had initially written in the 1970s and 1980s, fine-tuning further in the 1990s as he commenced work on his multi-volume, user-friendly set of materials now used around the world: The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volumes 1 – 8 published from 2002 to 2012. These volumes contain scripts for sacred stories, parables, or liturgical action with specific verbal and non-verbal guidelines as well as detailed diagrams for the layout of the unique Godly Play materials (two- and three-dimensional characters, animals, props, and underlays).

Berryman’s Teaching Godly Play: How to Mentor the Spiritual Development of Children (2009a) presents the full Godly Play approach. Berryman summarizes briefly the key processes of Godly Play: “entering the space mindfully, the presentation of the lesson, wondering in the community of the circle about the presentation, working alone or in small groups to create expressive art to reflect on the lesson or one’s life experience, gathering in the circle again for prayers and a simple ‘feast,’ and going out with a formal good-by” (Berryman, 2015, p. 555).

In the introduction to Volume 8 of The Complete Guide to Godly Play (2012), Berryman offers this global insight:

Godly Play is . . . more like spiritual guidance than what is typically thought of in the church as children’s education. It involves children and adults, as guides, moving together toward fluency in the art of knowing how to use Christian language to nourish their moral and spiritual development. (p. 7)

Godly Play is now being used in at least 39 countries around the world. A full listing of countries is located at the website of the non-profit organization Godly Play Foundation (http://www.godlyplay.org). The Godly Play Foundation has its headquarters in Sewanee, Tennessee; and Godly Play Resources, the United States licensed manufacturer of Godly Play products, is located in Ashland, Kansas (http://www.godlyplayresources.com/). The Center for the Theology of Childhood, the research arm of the Godly Play Foundation, is located in Greenwood Village, Colorado; and a well-equipped Godly Play room is located nearby at St. Gabriel Episcopal Church in south Denver.

Following this brief description of the practice of Godly Play, the next several subsections address the historical, pedagogical, philosophical, and theological foundations of Godly Play, utilizing Brendan Hyde’s (2013) five-part schema: “1) Maria Montessori and religious education, 2) children and religious language, 3) children, spirituality, and religious education, 4) play, imagination, and the creative process, and 5) ethical considerations when working with children” (preface).

Maria Montessori and Religious Education

Berryman (2013) calls Godly Play the fourth generation interpretation of Montessorian religious education; he calls E. M. Standing’s work the second, Sofia Cavalletti’s work the third, and his own work, Godly Play, the fourth. 

Berryman has written half a dozen articles about Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) as well as several chapters surveying her life, her radical (for the time) educational ideas, and especially her insights about religious education. One main point he makes is that “Christian educators are usually not aware of Montessori’s deep interest in religion and many Montessorians have forgotten or never noticed this” (2013, p. 33). What is generally known about Maria Montessori, especially in the United States, focuses on her educational principles: respect for the child, a holistic approach to the child’s development, the importance of sensorial manipulatives for grasping abstract complexities, and an emphasis on the child’s freedom to personally choose manipulatives with which to play/work. What is less known is that Montessori’s Roman Catholic background and beliefs deeply influenced her work, that she viewed Mass a pedagogical method, and that she possessed a deep appreciation for the spiritual nature of children. Berryman brought key principles and practices from Montessori’s approach with children into his theology of children and his Godly Play methods; among those principles and practices are respect for the child, a quiet, calm ethos in the learning environment, a keen openness to the insights and thoughts of children (prompted with open-ended and wondering questions), and the use of sensorial manipulatives that support the child’s spiritual growth and understandings. 

Berryman’s writings regarding Montessori trace the generational transitions from Montessori’s original work regarding religious education to Godly Play. Though several of Montessori’s devoted followers focused more on Montessori’s contributions to education in general, E. M. Standing (1887 – 1967) built the bridge for the second generation of Montessori religious educators. Standing, a Quaker, converted to Catholicism as had other Montessorians before him. Standing’s greatest contribution to Montessori’s religious educational legacy was publishing a collection of Montessori’s articles (translated into English) as The Child in the Church (1929), and later a greatly expanded version of the same book (1965) that included chapters that described lesson plans and teaching materials.  

According to Berryman (as mentioned earlier), Sofia Cavalletti (1917 – 2011) is the third generation interpreter of Montessori religious education, most easily seen in her development of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd with Gianna Gobbi. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd takes Montessori’s direct pedagogical guidelines with the Mass and other Catholic liturgical practices and applies them as well to Bible stories from Scripture. An entire three-level, nine-year curriculum has been developed and is still followed today in many Catholic churches, facilitated in the United States by The National Organization of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd USA and internationally by The International Council (Consiglio) in Rome. 

Berryman and his family moved to Italy in 1971 in order for him to study at the Center for Advanced Montessori Studies, where he met Sofia Cavalletti. His work since then has built upon Montessori’s ideas and Cavalletti’s work with children. Berryman (1991) credits Cavalletti with inspiring him to begin his work with Godly play and with giving him the "conceptual tools, the practical guidance, and the encouragement to start" (p. 43). 

But Berryman (2013) acknowledges his profound indebtedness to Maria Montessori’s work and insights regarding religious education, especially that the setting is a place with “an atmosphere of recollection which [can lead] to meditation and prayer” (p. 80).

Had it not been for Berryman’s intense commitment to understanding Montessori’s (and later Cavalletti’s) ideas and work, it might have been further decades before the impact these women have had on Catholic religious education permeated to Protestant circles. Because of Berryman’s Presbyterian roots and his ordination as an Episcopal priest, Godly Play is currently used in Protestant churches—mainly historically liturgical churches. In the past, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was used almost exclusively in Catholic circles, and Godly Play was used almost exclusively in Protestant circles. However, some Protestant churches are now using Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and conversely some Catholic churches are now using Godly Play. Furthermore, in recent years, evangelical and other less historically liturgical churches have begun using the scripts for sacred stories and parables from the various volumes of The Complete Guide to Godly Play (2002 – 2012), welcoming in particular the contemplative silences and wondering questions of the Godly Play approach (see, for example, May, 2006; Stonehouse & May, 2010).

 

Children and Religious Language

Interspersed throughout his writings, Berryman weaves poignant childhood vignettes (his own and others) that reveal how children, even young children, experience and think about God. He believes that children are spiritual beings who already have a relationship God. What they lack is language to express that relationship; Berryman says a key purpose of religious education is to help children acquire that language.

Berryman (2009a) also believes that children (and adults) grapple at some level with the existential limits at the edges of knowing and being, and Berryman specifies these limits as death, the threat of freedom, aloneness, and the need for meaning (p. 46). Again, a key purpose of religious education is to help children acquire language to address these existential concerns. Berryman first began to explore the idea of existential limits and the importance of religious language when he was working in various capacities with chronically or terminally ill children at hospitals in Houston (Berryman, 1985). As Berryman (2013) notes, “it is hard to pretend that children are not aware of their existential limits in a pediatric hospital” (p. 77); in fact, Berryman states that the first people who really saw what Godly Play could do for children were the child-life workers at Texas Children’s Hospital, “because they had felt the limitations of the domain they worked in for helping children cope with the limits to their being and knowing” (p. 77)

Just as medical professionals around children can help give children language to discuss their questions about their physical illness by sorting through a doctor’s kit facsimile or visiting the operating room, pastoral leaders and Christian educators can help give children religious language to discuss their existential questions by, for example, allowing the child to work (play) with the sheep, the sheepfold, the good shepherd, the wolf, the ordinary shepherd, and “places of danger” after the telling of the Good Shepherd parable and asking the wondering questions that follow the story. “Providing the means and the imagination to cope with the existential limits to being and knowing is a major function of religious language” (Berryman, 2009a, p. 46).

Godly Play offers four kinds of Christian language: parables and wondering, sacred stories (basic stories of God’s work in Scripture, e.g., creation, the flood, the exodus, the exile and return, Jesus’s birth, baptism, healings, etc.) and wondering, liturgical action (Advent, Lent, Pentecost, etc.) and wondering, and contemplative silence and wondering. Godly Play teaches children the art of using Christian language, that is, parables, sacred story, silence, and liturgical action, to help them “become more fully aware of the mystery of God’s presence in their lives” (Worsley, 2015, p. 127), thus nurturing their relationship with God and addressing their existential concerns.

Children, Spirituality, and Religious Education

Berryman's understanding of spirituality for children (and adults) is two-fold: 1) their awareness of the existential issues described in the previous subsection (death, the threat to freedom, aloneness, and the need for meaning), and 2) awareness of their relationship with God (as well as their relationship with themselves, others, and nature). Though his books devote much space to the mechanics of Godly play, the undergirding theological and spiritual principles are clearly paramount. Berryman's final chapter in Godly Play (1991) is entitled “The Theology of Childhood.” In it Berryman notes that children often ask such questions as "Why do I have to die?" He explains that “Godly play is an effort to give room and permission for existential questions to arise. It is a way to give children the means to know God better amid the community of children and with caring adults as guides” (p. 137). 

In one of his more philosophical writings, Berryman (1997) discusses three ways of knowing: the knowing of the material world by the senses, the knowing of the mind by using reason, and the knowing of the spirit by contemplation. Berryman says that our body-knowing and our spirit-knowing develop first (since the mind-knowing needs language to flower); because children are spiritual beings, they begin early to intuit spiritual knowing through contemplation, but this kind of knowing is sometimes lost in school settings where body-knowing and mind-knowing tend to be more valued. “When the knowing of the spirit is overlooked by our child-rearing and educational practices, the spiritual potential is not acknowledged and nourished” (Berryman, 1997, p. 11). All three kinds of knowing are a valuable part of religious education, Berryman says, but he posits that Christian educators may have neglected the knowing of the spirit through contemplation. And it is precisely in this kind of knowing that Godly Play shines—the knowing of the spirit through contemplation. Thus, for Berryman, “the purpose of religious education is to enable both children and adults to create and find meaning in their lives by using religious language to confront and cope with existential issues and limits so as to know intimately the Creator” (Hyde, 2013, p. 143, emphasis  mine).

Play, Imagination, and the Creative Process

One of the most unusual things about Godly Play is the name itself: Godly Play. It is simply intriguing to almost anyone who hears the phrase for the first time. Berryman begins chapter one of his seminal book Teaching Godly Play (2009a) with the sentence, “This book invites you to come and play” (p. 13, emphasis his). Then Berryman asks the wonderful question, why play? which he proceeds to answer: first, he says, play is fun; then, that it is self-reinforcing; it is an end in itself; it is voluntary; it contributes to creativity; it helps us work out new solutions to old problems; it is re-creative (p. 13).

Berryman developed his approach to religious education, that is, Godly Play, in response to a burning question that rose in light of his conviction that children, even very young children, have an already existing (though undifferentiated and mostly nonverbal) knowledge of God, but they do not have the language to express or discuss it. So his question in 1960 was: “How can one teach such a strange language?” (2009a, p. 15). He contemplated this question for several years, coming to the conclusion that “play seemed . . . to be the way to help children learn and practice this language and to name and express what they already know” (p. 14). However, Berryman did not know what this play would look like. When he observed the Montessori method a few years later, he began to glimpse how one might indeed help children develop this language:

When children learn the language of mathematics, they have already experienced adding and subtracting as they pile things up or take things away in their play. The language of mathematics helps them become more conscious of what they are doing and it gives them the power to be more flexible and orderly about such actions. Why wouldn’t religious language work in the same way? (p. 14)

Over the next decades, Berryman (and Thea) developed those special scripts and created those unique sensorial materials that help children enter the sacred stories and parables, participate in the liturgical actions, and wonder together about God. After the storytelling and wondering time in Godly Play, the children are allowed to play with the very pieces that were used to tell the story (e.g., the tree and the birds in the parable of the mustard seed, or the sheep and the shepherd in the parable of the Good Shepherd). They also are allowed open choices to create with paints or markers their responses to the stories they have entered. Their imagination and creativity are engaged as they play with the story materials and as they paint. For Berryman, “religious education for both children and adults must be grounded in play and imagination, and must enable the participant to engage freely in the creative process” (Hyde, 2013, p. 189, emphasis mine).

Ethical Considerations when Working with Children

A crucial message Berryman wishes to communicate to children is respect; respect for children was also a central theme in Montessori’s work and life (Berryman, 2013, pp. 29 – 32). During Berryman’s years of working as a chaplain with terminally ill children in Houston, he was keenly concerned that researchers who were collecting samples and other data from these sick children should consider those processes from the viewpoint of the child. He laid out an ethical process for involving these children in research in relation to three questions children might ask, “What are you going to do to me?” “Why must I do it [the research]?” “What if it doesn’t work?” (Berryman, 1978, p. 87).

This same ethical sensitivity is reflected in Godly Play’s theological and pedagogical underpinnings. Berryman’s respect for the holistic humanity of children is revealed in several ways. For decades, Berryman has claimed that children (even young children) grapple with existential limits and issues such as death, aloneness, and the need for meaning just as adults do; his view was at first quite out of sync with the pervasive understanding of cognitive developmental psychology of the time (which espoused the idea that children do not begin to think abstractly until age 11 or so). While most Christian educators were taking a basic cognitive approach to Christian education, Berryman was developing religious language to help children cope with their existential struggles.

Another way Godly Play reflects respect for children is that the teacher typically sits on the floor with the children during the Godly Play story-telling time. This physical posture communicates an equal status with the child; it carries the idea that the adult and the children are all learning together. Another Godly Play process that exhibits respect is the practice of listening intently to children’s responses to the wondering questions and listening quietly and patiently to children’s descriptions of their drawings and paintings in response to the stories. These listening practices represent a foundational understanding in Godly Play that God himself is at work in these children and that the teacher can honor and acknowledge God’s work in that child by listening well.

Becki Stewart (2003), a longtime Godly Play trainer, summarizes the fundamental ethic of respect: “Perhaps the most critical element to making the Godly Play room a safe place is the respect with which the teacher treats the child’ (p. 87).

Berryman’s Legacy

No doubt, Berryman’s primary legacy will be the widespread use of Godly Play as a spiritual practice with children. Interestingly, however, Godly Play is now being used more broadly than as children’s curriculum in churches. For example, in July 2014, a Godly Play and Dementia conference was held in the London. Other non-church settings such as schools (Helm, Berg, & Scranton, 2008; Berryman, 2002; Acland, 2003) and pediatric medical settings (Farrell, Cope, Cooper, & Mathias, 2008; Berryman, 2002) are finding unique benefits of Godly Play in their settings, and faith communities are increasingly recognizing the benefits of Godly Play in intergenerational settings. Another population that is being served is children (and adults) with special needs (Berryman, 2013); interestingly, both Montessori and Berryman as young adults (and later) had experiences with children with special needs that informed the development of their approaches to religious education.

Behind Godly Play per se lie the foundational principles out of which Berryman developed his unique curriculum. He has written extensively on the concepts and themes explicated earlier in this article, and many of those well-developed ideas are being infused into the broader field of Christian education, even among those who have never experienced Godly Play. Berryman’s insights have been instrumental in facilitating the move away from the chiefly cognitive approach that dominated Christian education the last half of the twentieth century; in addition, Berryman’s work is also countering the trend toward an entertainment mode in children’s ministry that has risen to prominence in the last two decades.

Furthermore, in Children and the Theologians, Berryman (2009b) tackles an issue that he has addressed in his earlier writings, but not as fully and articulately as in this text. Berryman equates adults in contemporary Christian faith communities to the disciples in Luke 18: he charges that adults have sent the children away, just as the disciples did. In fact, Berryman calls adults ambivalent and indifferent toward children.

As Berryman lays out his theology of childhood in Children and the Theologians (2009b), he proposes that children are a means of grace; he points out, however, that as children tend to be marginalized and disregarded in faith communities (and elsewhere), their capacity as a means of grace often goes unnoticed. Berryman closes his text with a challenging way to experience this profound theological insight regarding children. He first tells a brief story in which a child tells her mother that Berryman is the “man who is always glad to see me” (p. 255). Berryman then challenges the reader: “What if each time you saw a child, you stopped, focused on the child . . ., and said, ‘I’m glad to see you’?” (p. 256).

Berryman concludes his thoughts with the following words:

As your custom spreads throughout the congregation and people become warm, consistent, and attuned to children—I predict that your church will change and, as Jesus said, you will slowly over time discover that when you welcome a child you welcome him and the One who sent him. Such a fundamental discovery will enrich everything you do and show the way into the kingdom for you and the congregation. The congregation will become a healthy place, where unhealthy people can come to heal and all will thrive. The church will no longer be a place of ambivalence, ambiguity, or indifference toward anyone. It will be a place of grace. (p. 256)

Assuredly, Godly Play as a spiritual practice and an approach to Christian education will be an enduring legacy of Jerome Berryman; but it is my fondest hope that, additionally, his call to radically welcome children will be as enduring a legacy as Godly Play among faith communities around the world. 

Works cited in “Contribution to Christian Education” section:

  • Acland, J. (2003). The stories speak for themselves. In The complete guide to Godly Play, Volume 5: Practical helps from Godly Play trainers (pp. 7 – 8). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2015). Godly Play method. In G. T. Kurian, & M. A. Lamport (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Christian education (pp. 554 – 556). Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2013). The spiritual guidance of children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the future. New York: Morehouse Publishing.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2012). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 8). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2009a). Teaching Godly Play:  How to mentor the spiritual development of children (2nd ed., rev. and exp.). Denver, CO:  Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2009b). Children and the theologians: Clearing the way for grace. New York:  Morehouse Publishing.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2002). The complete guide to Godly Play, Volume 1: How to lead Godly Play lessons. Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J.  W. (1997). Spirituality, religious education, and the dormouse. International Journal of Children's Spirituality, 2(1), 9 – 23.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1991). Godly Play: A way of religious education. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.  (Republished by AugsburgFortress in soft cover in 1995.)
  • Berryman, J. W. (1985). The chaplain's strange language: A unique contribution to the health care team. In J. van Eys, & E. J. Mahnke (Eds.), Life, faith, hope, and magic: The chaplaincy in pediatric cancer care (pp. 15 – 39) Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1978). Discussing the ethics of research with children. In J. van Eys (Ed.), Research on children: Medical imperatives, ethical quandaries, and legal constraints (pp. 85 – 101). Baltimore: University Park Press.
  • Farrell, J., Cope, S. B., Cooper, J. H., & Mathias, L. (2008). Godly Play: An intervention for improving physical, emotional, and spiritual responses of chronically ill hospitalized children. The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 62(3), 261 – 271.
  • Helm, J. H., Berg, S.,  & Scranton, P. (2008). Documenting children's spiritual development in a preschool program. In H. Allen (Ed.), Nurturing children’s spirituality: Christian perspectives and best practices (pp. 214 – 229). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
  • Hyde B. (Ed.). (2013). The search for a theology of childhood: Essays by Jerome W. Berryman from 1978 – 2009. Ballarat, VIC, Australia: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd.
  • May, S. (2006). The contemplative-reflective model. In M. J. Anthony (Ed.), Perspectives on children's spiritual formation: Four views (pp. 45 – 101). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.
  • Montessori, M. (1965). The child in the church: Essays on the religious education of children and the training of character. St. Paul: Catechetical Guild. Edited by E. M. Standing.
  • Stewart, B. (2003). The best way: Godly Play and brain-compatible learning. In The complete guide to Godly Play, Volume 5: Practical helps from Godly Play trainers (pp. 86 – 91). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Stonehouse, C.,  & May, S. (2010). Listening to children on the spiritual journey: Guidance for those who teach and nurture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Worsley, H. (2015). Berryman, Jerome. In In G. T. Kurian, & M. A. Lamport (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Christian education (pp. 127 – 128). Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 

Bibliography

Books Authored

  • Berryman, J. W. (2014). The great family: A picture book for children, leaders and parents (L. Mitchell, Illus.) Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2014).  The parable of the Good Shepherd: A picture book for children, leaders and parents (L. Mitchell, Illus.). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2013). The spiritual guidance of children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the future. New York: Morehouse Publishing.
  • Hyde B. (Ed.). (2013). The search for a theology of childhood: Essays by Jerome W. Berryman from 1978-2009. Ballarat, VIC, Australia: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2012). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 8). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2009). Teaching Godly Play: How to mentor the spiritual development of children (2nd ed., rev. and exp.). Denver, CO:  Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2009). Children and the theologians: Clearing the way for grace. New York:  Morehouse Publishing
  • Berryman, J. W. (2008). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 7). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2006). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 6). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2003). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 4). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2002). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 3). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2002). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 2). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2002). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 1). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1995). Teaching Godly Play: A Sunday morning handbook (Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1991). Godly Play: A way of religious education. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.  (Republished by AugsburgFortress in soft cover in 1995.)
  • Stewart, S. M., & Berryman, J. W. (1989). Young children and worship. Louisville, KY: Westminister/John Knox Press. 

Books Edited

  • Fowler, J. W., & Keen, S. with Berryman, J. W. (Ed.). (1978). Life maps: Conversations on the journey of faith. Waco, TX: Word Press.

 

Articles in Academic Journals and Reference Books

  • Berryman, J. W. (2015). Godly Play method. In G. T. Kurian, & M. A. Lamport (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Christian education (pp. 554 – 556). Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2015). Christian formation: An overview. In G. T. Kurian, & M. A. Lamport (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Christian education (pp. 258 – 259). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Winter, 2014). The middle realm, the creative process, and the creator in religious education. CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, LXI(1), 21 – 40.
  • Berryman, J. W., with Hyde, B. (2010). A game to be played: Play and authority in religious education. Journal of Religious Education, 58(3), 35 – 43.  
  • Berryman, J. W. (September, 2008). Speaking of evil: The struggle to speak no evil when teaching about it. Interface: A Forum for Theology in the World, 10(2), 57 – 67.  
  • Berryman, J. W. (April, 2007). Children and Christian theology: A new/old genre.  Religious Studies Review, 33(2), 103 – 111.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2005). A mind apart: Understanding children with autism and Asperger syndrome. Family Ministry, 19(3), 85 – 87.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2005). Playful orthodoxy: Reconnecting religion and creativity by education.  Sewanee Theological Review, 48(4), 437 – 454.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2004). Children and mature spirituality. Sewanee Theological Review, 48(1), 17 – 36.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Summer, 1999). Silence is stranger than it used to be: Teaching silence and the future of humankind. Religious Education, 94(3), 257 – 273.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Summer, 1998). Laughter, power, and motivation in religious education. Religious Education, 93(3), 358 – 378.
  • Berryman, J.  W. (1997). Spirituality, religious education, and the dormouse. International Journal of Children's spirituality, 2(1), 9 – 23.
  • Berryman, J. W. (September, 1996). Teaching Godly Play. PACE: Professional Approaches for Christian Educators, 26.
  • Berryman, J. W. (April, 1996). Godly Play: A way of religious education. PACE: Professional Approaches for Christian Educators, 25, 31 – 37.
  • Berryman, J. W. (May, 1994). Montessori religious education: Sofia Cavalletti (1917-    ). PACE: Professional Approaches for Christian Educators, 23, 3 – 7.
  • Berryman, J. W. (April, 1994). Montessori religious education: E. M. Standing (1887-1967). PACE: Professional Approaches for Christian Educators, 23, 3 – 7.
  • Berryman, J. W. (March, 1994). Montessori religious education: Maria Montessori (1870-1952). PACE: Professional Approaches for Christian Educators, 23, 8 – 12.
  • Berryman, J. W.  (June, 1994) The old becomes new: Experiencing repetition without getting bored. Reformed Worship, 32,16 – 17.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Fall, 1990) Teaching as presence and the existential curriculum. Religious Education, 85(4), 509 – 534.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Spring, 1989). Children in worship: An ethic of respect. Liturgy: Ethics and Justice, 7(4), 53 – 59.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Summer, 1985). Children's spirituality and religious language. British Journal of Religious Education, 7(2), 120 – 127.
  • Berryman, J. W. (May, 1985). Becoming fundamentally scriptural without being fundamentalistic. Scriptura: Journal of Biblical Studies (The University of Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa), 14, 25 – 74.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Spring, 1981). A comment on an article by Eugene J. Mischey. Character Potential:  A Record of Research, 9(4), 186 – 189.
  • Berryman, J. W.  (May – June, 1980). Montessori and religious education. Religious Education, 75(3), 294 – 307.
  • Berryman, J. W. (May – June, 1979). Being in parables with children. Religious Education, 74(3), 271 – 285.

Chapters and Introductions to Books

  • Berryman, J. W. (2014). The transforming moment and Godly Play. In D. R. Wright, & K. J. White (Eds.), The logic of the spirit in human thought and experience: Exploring the vision of James E. Loder Jr. (pp. 105 – 130). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2009). Theologizing with children: A parable approach. In G. Y. Iversen, G. Mitchell, & G. Pollard (Eds.), Hovering over the face of the deep: Philosophy, theology, and children (pp. 197 – 213). Munster, Germany: Waxman.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2006). Playful orthodoxy: Religious education’s solution to pluralism. In D. Bates, G. Durka, & F. Schweitzer (Eds.), Education, religion and society: Essays in honour of John M. Hull (pp. 205 – 214). London: Routledge.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2005). Play as a means of grace in religious education. In C. Ota, & C. Erricker (Eds.), Spiritual education: Literary, empirical and pedagogical approaches (pp. 80 – 93). Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Berryman, J. W.  (2004). Children and mature spirituality. In D. Ratcliff (Ed.), Children’s spirituality: Christian perspectives, research and applications (pp. 22 – 41). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2003). Foreword. In The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 5; pp. 5 – 6). Denver, CO: Living the Good News.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2001). Discoveries in the desert. In The Upper Room disciplines 2002: A book of daily devotions (pp. 272 – 278). Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2001). The nonverbal nature of spirituality and religious language. In J. Erriker, C. Ota, & C. Erriker, (Eds.), Spiritual education: Cultural, religious and social differences; New perspectives in the 21st century (pp. 9 – 21). Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1999). Celebrating the transition to childhood. In H. W. Sanborn (Ed.), Celebrating passages in the Church: Reflections and resources (pp. 14 – 37). Atlanta, GA: Chalice Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1994). The young child and Scripture. In Beginning the journey: From infant baptism to first Eucharist (pp. 50 – 66). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1992). Comments on the article by Eugene J. Mischey. In J. Astley, & L. Francis (Eds.), Christian perspectives on faith development: A reader (pp. 192 – 196). Leominister, UK: Gracewing Fowler Wright Books.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1992). Faith and the language of faith. In D. Ratcliff (Ed.), Handbook of children's religious education (pp. 21 – 55). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1988). “Parable.” In I. V. Cully & K. B. Cully (Eds.), Harper's encyclopedia of religious education (pp. 469 – 470). San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1988). “Imagination.” In I. V. Cully & K. B. Cully (Eds.), Harper's encyclopedia of religious education (pp. 320 – 321). San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1988). "Montessori, Maria." In I. V. Cully, & K. B. Cully (Eds.), Harper's encyclopedia of religious education (p. 424). San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1988). The illusive use of religious language in childhood. In M. Pyysiainen (Ed.), Kasvatus Ja Uskonto (pp. 214 – 299). Helsinki, FI: Werner Soderstrom Osakeyhtio.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1985). The chaplain's strange language: A unique contribution to the health care team. In J. van Eys, & E. J. Mahnke (Eds.), Life, faith, hope, and magic: The chaplaincy in pediatric cancer care (pp. 15 – 39) Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1979/1983). Preface to the English edition. In S. Cavalletti, The religious potential of the child (P. M. Coulter  J. M. Coulter, Trans.; pp. 3 – 20). Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1983). The rite of anointing and the pastoral care of sick children. In D. Apostolos-Cappadona (Ed.), The sacred play of children (pp. 63 – 77). New York: Seabury Press.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1978). Discussing the ethics of research with children. In J. van Eys (Ed.), Research on children: Medical imperatives, ethical quandaries, and legal constraints (pp. 85 – 101). Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.

Book Reviews by Jerome Berryman

  • Berryman, J. W. (April, 2007). Children and Christian theology: A new/old genre (Book reviews of The child in Christian thought by Marcia Bunge; Let the children come by Bonnie Miller-McLemore; Welcoming children: A practical theology of childhood  by Joyce Ann Mercer; Graced vulnerability: A theology of childhood by David Jensen; and Children and our global future: Theological and social challenges by Kristin Herzog).  Religious Studies Review, 33(2), 103 – 111.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2003). The Mister Rogers parenting book: Helping to understand your young child (Book review). Family Ministry, 17(3), 58.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1983). Childhood by Jona Oberski (Book review). Religious Education, 78(4), 596.
  • Berryman, J. W. (November-December, 1981). Empty hands: An agenda for the churches: A study guide on the ecumenical sharing of resources for use by churches, local congregations and other groups by the World Council of Churches (Book review). Religious Education, 76(6), 672 – 673.
  • Berryman, J. W. (March-April, 1980). Jesus and the children by Hans-Reudi Weber (Book review).  Religious Education, 75(2), 222 – 223.

Publications for Children

  • Berryman, J. W. (2014). The great family: A picture book for children, leaders and parents (L. Mitchell, Illus.). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (2014).  The parable of the Good Shepherd: A picture book for children, leaders and parents (L. Mitchell, Illus.). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.
  • Berryman, J. W. (April, 1984). Lent and the coming of Easter. Pockets, 4(3), 6 – 8.
  • Berryman, J. W. (March, 1984). Keeping Church time. Pockets, 4(2), 6 – 9.
  • Berryman, J. W. (January/February, 1984). Lost. Pockets, 4(1), 15.

Additional Professional Publications

  • Berryman, J. W. (Fall, 2013). The middle realm. Episcopal Teacher, 26(1), 6 – 9.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Winter, 2010). The spiritual guidance of children.  The Education Connection (the newsletter of the Association of United Church Educators), 1 – 2. Retrieved from  http://www.auce-ucc.org/#!auce-recommended-resources/cw6a
  • Berryman, J. W. (Spring, 1997). Stalking the wild story. The Flyleaf (publication of Friends of Fondren Library, Rice University), 47(2), 10 – 15.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1993). Through the looking glass:  Godly Play and the spirituality of children. The Institute of Religion Psychiatry and Religion Conference, Texas Medical Center, Houston, TX, October 7-8, 1993.  (video and audio available from the Institute).
  • Berryman, J. W. (Fall, 1992). Children and spirituality. Montessori Life (A publication of the American Montessori Society), 4(4), 37 – 42.
  • Berryman, J. W. (September-October, 1984). Religious development and the role of the parents. New Catholic World, 227, 206 – 211.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1982). Caring for sick children: The parish, the hospital, and theological play. Liturgy: Ministries to the Sick, 2(2), 47 – 53.
  • Berryman, J. W. (Spring, 1981). Religious images, sick children, and health care. Children in Health Care: Ethical Perspective. Association for the Care of Children's Health, Special Edition, 19 – 31.
  • Berryman, J. W.  (1981). Montessori and religious education. The American Montessori Society Bulletin, 19(1), no pagination.
  • Berryman, J. W. (May, 1980). Children's sermons and liturgy. Catalyst Tapes, XII(8), Waco, Texas.
  • Berryman, J. W. (July-August, 1979). A gift of healing stories for a child who is ill. Liturgy, 24(4), 15 – 20, 38 – 42.
  • Berryman, J. W. (June, 1979). The child as symbol and creative force. [Conference publication.] Houston, Texas:  Holistic Health Association of America.
  • Berryman, J. W. (March, 1979). Teaching the tools for creative justice: Rules and parables. Washington, DC: TIME Consultants. [Conference publication]
  • Berryman, J. W. (Winter, 1978). The work of Sofia Cavalletti. The Constructive Triangle, 5, 32 – 45.
  • Berryman, J. W. (1977). An urban reader's guide: Religion, annotated bibliography with an introduction. Houston Public Library, City Project, funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Berryman, J. W. (October, 1976). Faith growth in children. Catalyst Tapes, VIII(10). Waco, Texas.

Works about Jerome Berryman

  • The Center for the Theology of Childhood in Greenwood Village, Colorado, the research arm of the Godly Play Foundation, houses over 4000 books and other sources that relate to Godly Play including the books Berryman has authored, books to which Berryman has contributed a chapter, dissertations that focus on Godly Play or that cite Berryman extensively, and various journal articles authored by Berryman.
  • Beales, R. E. (2012). Nurturing the nurturers: Equipping parents as their children's primary spiritual guides (D.Min. Thesis, The Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA, 2012).
  • Dürigen, L. (2014). “Godly Play” und religse Erziehung nach Montessori: Eine Untersuchung im Religionsunterricht der Grundschule. Saarbrücken, Germany:  AV Akademikerverlag.  
  • Hyde, B. (Ed.). (2013). The search for a theology of childhood: Essays by Jerome W. Berryman from 1978-2009. Ballarat, VIC, Australia: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd.
  • Hyde, B. (2010). Godly Play nourishing children's spirituality: A case study. Religious Education, 105(5), 504 – 518.
  • Minor, C. V. (2012). Promoting spiritual well-being: A quasi-experimental test of Hay and Nye's theory of Christian spirituality (Ph.D. Dissertation, Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, AZ).
  • Praniess, M. (2008). Das Godly Play-Konzept:  Die rezeption der Montessori-Pädagogik durch Jerome W. Berryman. Göttingen: V&R Unipress.  
  • Roux, C. D. (1988). An open mind: A handbook in religious instruction for preschool children Braamfontein: Saailand Produksies.
  • Taylor, M. L., & Newton, A. (April, 2013). Playing with pictures of paradox: Children and Christology in Søren Kierkegaard and Godly Play.  Journal of Childhood and Religion, 4(4), 1 – 66.
  • Valkonen, T. (2014). Deep talk. Helsinki: Lasten Keskus Ja Kirjapaja Oy (Publisher).
  • Worsley, H. (2015). Berryman, Jerome. In In G. T. Kurian, & M. A. Lamport (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Christian education (pp. 127 – 128). Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 

Excerpts from Publications

  • Berryman, J. W. (2015). Godly Play method. In G. T. Kurian, & M. A. Lamport (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Christian education (254 – 256). Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Godly Play invites children into a spirit of playful orthodoxy that combines a deep rooting in classical Christian language with creative openness. This is accomplished by associating the Christian language system with the creative process to make existential meaning, which has implications for learning, which is good pedagogy, but also has implications for knowing God personally, which is good theology. (p. 554)    

Berryman, J. W. (2013). The spiritual guidance of children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the future. New York: Morehouse Publishing.

“We have an unspoken theological heritage of ambivalence ambiguity, and indifference toward children that still outweighs our understanding of children as a means of grace” (p. 8).

 

  • Berryman, J. W. (2012). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vol. 8). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.

“In Godly Play, children are taught how to enter into parables, contemplative silence, sacred stories and the liturgical action of the classical Christian language system to discover more about God, themselves, others, and God’s presence in the creation that surrounds and is within us” (p. 7).

 

  • Berryman, J. W. (2009a). Teaching Godly Play: How to mentor the spiritual development of children (2nd ed., rev. and exp.). Denver, CO:  Morehouse Education Resources.

 “What children need is not to be filled with facts or to be entertained but to learn the best language possible to identify their experience of God” (p. 14).


Berryman, J. W. (2009a). Teaching Godly Play: How to mentor the spiritual development of children (2nd ed., rev. and exp.). Denver, CO:  Morehouse Education Resources.

Teaching Godly Play is probably the best introduction to Berryman’s Godly Play approach. It offers Berryman’s personal narrative regarding how he and his wife, Thea, came to develop the Godly Play approach over a period of decades, as well as an overview of the key principles and major components of Godly Play lessons.

Berryman, J. W. (2013). The spiritual guidance of children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the future. New York: Morehouse Publishing.

This recent book summarizes and synthesizes Berryman’s seminal ideas as well as the development of his theology and pedagogy over the fifty years that Godly Play has emerged.

Berryman, J. W. (2002 – 2012). The complete guide to Godly Play (Vols. 1 – 8). Denver, CO: Morehouse Education Resources.

These practical guides contain story-telling scripts and detailed diagrams including meticulous voice and movement instructions for telling sacred stories and parables and for the liturgical actions. Each volume includes Godly Play background and philosophy; some volumes offer encouraging recommendations from experienced Godly Play trainers and practitioners; others offer suggestions for responding to disruptions, managing time, and organizing the Godly Play room. 


Author Information

Holly Catterton Allen

Holly Catterton Allen (PhD in Christian Education, Talbot School of Theology) serves as Professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb University, in Nashville, TN. Dr. Allen’s dissertation (2002, Talbot School of Theology) on intergenerational Christian settings and children’s spirituality includes subsections that detail Maria Montessori, Sofia Cavalletti, and Jerome Berryman’s views on children’s spirituality.