It’s still Easter…and during this time of getting to know Jesus in a new way, we have been hearing stories of Jesus appearing to His followers after His resurrection. First on the day of his resurrection to Mary Magdalene and then later to the pair of followers on the road to Emmaus, then to more of his followers and to Thomas who had missed seeing Jesus the first time.
Then, Jesus tells the disciples to go and wait… wait for him in Galilee. How strange it must have been to not be with Jesus all the time. He seems to come and go after His resurrection. His appearances seem more mysterious, more magnificent, more unexpected. While they are waiting, Peter gets the idea to go fishing and so several of the disciples get in a boat and head out for a night of fishing.
They fish ALL night and catch nothing. I imagine they tried many spots, trying to find just the right place to throw their nets. When it was almost morning and they were near the shore, they hear a voice calling from the shore, “have you caught any fish?’ They reply, “no,” not really knowing who it is.
The mysterious figure tells them to cast their nets on the other side and when they do their nets are SO FULL of fish that they cannot pull in their nets. John realizing it is Jesus on the shore, tells Peter, “It’s the Lord!” and Peter jumps out of the boat and heads directly to Jesus who has prepared a fire and is cooking fish over it. When all the disciples arrive, Jesus breaks bread with them and they eat the fish and bread together.
We have been going through the stories from Following Jesus during this season of Easter. The Godly Play/ Young Children and Worship style of storytelling is truly powerful, both for the children and for the storyteller. As I entered the story, preparing to tell it, I felt God saying He had something for me in this story.
One of the things I enjoy about the Godly Play approach is the discipline of preparing the story and learning the script. Oddly, this was hard for me at first. I felt reluctant to memorize something that someone else had written, particularly because the scripts leave a lot of detail out, purposely leaving out some of the details in Scripture.
But the process of learning the story leads me to meditate on the story in a way I wasn’t doing when I would teach children before. Because we teach children so many “familiar” Bible stories, I think that I was tempted to think, “Oh, I got this! I know this story frontwards and backwards, I can just wing it when I tell it.”
When I prepare the story for a Godly Play session, it forces me to use my brain and flex my storytelling muscles. Not only do I need to learn the story to the point where I can tell it without reading, I also have to think through how I will move the figures and lay out the materials. The focus is on the story and not on me as the storyteller, so I can’t rely on my charm and personality to relay the message which means I have to pay more attention to the nuances in the story itself.
As I entered the story through preparation, I realized how often I go out “fishing,” getting ahead of God. I go searching for fish, casting my net here and there and wondering why my nets come up empty. My own efforts can never yield the power that simple obedience in God’s timing can. When Jesus instructed the disciples to cast their nets, they received a whole night’s catch in one swoop of their nets. But that’s not all! Even before the disciples get to shore with the freshly caught fish, Jesus is there with breakfast—cooked fish and bread.
What good things does God have for us already that we need to come close to Him to receive? Are we out fishing when all we need to do is come to shore and receive His good gifts?
I am sure that this particular week, I got more out of the story than the children! I am so thankful for the story materials that allow even me as an adult to enter the story with wonder and create meaning as I use the simple figures to retell this story of Jesus.
We have had several stories that take place on the Sea of Galilee the last several weeks both in Children’s worship where we use the Godly Play approach and also during our Wednesday evening AWANA program and our Sunday school hour. This overlap has allowed us to explore the story in many different ways. Here are a few pictures of the children exploring stories of fish, and boats, and water as they learn about Jesus.
Because Fish and the Sea area a part of so many Bible lessons, I created a Pinterest board that provides more lesson ideas for these themes. Here is one on fish and here is one of Jesus calms the storm and finally one on Jesus Walks on Water.
You may also be interested in my post on Jesus calms the storm, here.
If you use the Godly Play approach in your children’s ministry, I would love to hear some of your experiences of entering the story. What has God taught you through the preparation process?
If you have questions about Godly Play or would just like to know more, please leave a comment below. I am by no means an expert, but would love to share more of our journey!