Set the Tone for the Group
The goal of each session is for all the participants to have fun. We learn by doing. We know how to study the Scriptures. We know how to take them “seriously.” We know how to discuss the meaning. We know how to agree and disagree with each other. We do not need to learn those things.
We do, however, need to rediscover the activity of Play. We need to (re-)learn how to play. So the most important thing to keep in mind when facilitating a group Playdates with Scriptures session is this: Foster Play.
Be Quick: These activities are not meant to be either studied or labored over. “First thought, best thought” is often the best policy. Hence, a certain “unthinking” quickness can be encouraged. There are no mistakes. Blurting is good. As everyone gets into the spirit of play, this quickness will become more natural. Encourage it!
Take Your Time: On the other hand, while being quick with first responses, Play needs breathable time. Play with those “unthinking” blurting things people say. If folks are enjoying an activity, let the activity fill the time. Let the participants’ engagement determine how long an activity lasts. Allow the playing to go where it wants to go.
It doesn’t matter! Any translation of the biblical text will do. It’s just fine participants have different translations from each other. In fact, sometimes that nurtures the play. Let your play honor and enjoy the differences. No one wins. No one loses.
Bible Gateway (biblegateway.com) provides many translations of the Bible online—English as well as many, many other languages. It’s a searchable site and a great place to use for printing out the Biblical text for distribution or for those Playdates that encourage folks to “cut up” or circle or otherwise interact with the biblical text. Use it!
Privacy in Community
Allow time for participants to share their play with each other. Be childlike. Children love to share what they’ve drawn, the sand castle they’ve built, the wad of tissue paper that they have scrunched into a “doll.” Share with one another and enjoy each other’s creations.
But forced sharing can be oppressive and induce shame. Creativity and play has the power to drive us into our deepest, most beautiful, vulnerable, and fearful places. We honor the power of play when we let each other find their own way out into the community. No forced sharing on this playground.
Today’s play is sufficient unto itself. Tomorrow’s play will be new. Even if we repeat what we do today, it will be different in that repetition. We encourage abundance when we Let go of the products of our play. Sure, post them on your refrigerator (or a group wall). Share the poems and drawings, and wonderful creations of your play. Or, throw them away. Either is fine. There is more play to be had. The genius—your genius—lies in the doing, in the activity. Trust the abundance of your play. You’ll be surprised!
Beware of Explain-itis
Explore, rather than explain. This is a hard one. Our culture of Bible Study has programmed us to explain every detail. Especially details that make us uncomfortable. Value the Questions over the explanatory answers. If you must give answers, make sure they’re funny answers, playful answers, answers that propel you into more questions. The value lies in the exploration, not in the (arrogance) of cognitive mastery. It’s a new, old way to learn. Keep to questions. Let them multiply. Here are some good question starters for those times you feel an attack of “explain-itis” coming on:
“I wonder … ?”
“What if … ?“
“Could it be … ?”
“What would it be like … ?”
Return to the Text
At the end of the session (or at the end of an Activity), return to the text. Read it again. Invite someone from the group to read it aloud. Breathe. Let the silence rule for a minute or two. Then, allow time for the participants to share—either orally or by a short free-write. What strikes you about this text today? After the play. After watching and listening to others play. Where does this text take you? Let the day’s play enter yourselves as a seed. You don’t know yet what it might become in you! Listen to the text afresh.
The facilitator does not need to “sum up” the session. Perhaps a participant can be invited to do so “on the spot,” but no summing up is necessary. Let things grow on their own.
Some Thoughts about the Session
It’s a Playdate! Think accordingly — about room, room arrangement, flexibility of both time and space. It’s often good to open and close a session with prayer. Strive for simplicity in prayer as well as in play. Let everything you do together be an encouragement for playfulness. Disruptions can be creative moments. Even disagreements can be turned to new imaginings, together. Encourage laughter—but never laughter at anyone. Inasmuch as you are able, make a shame-free zone.
Plan well, then let go. This is a “Go with the flow” kind of time. Let surprise into the room.
Facilitation of the Group
It’s helpful to have a facilitator for each session. The same person may facilitate each session, or the role of facilitator can be rotated among the group members.
The facilitator’s responsibilities might include: setting up the room, making sure the “Items needed” are available, opening the session (words of welcome, perhaps a simple prayer), facilitation of the activities, being conscious of group dynamics and empathic with individual needs, and closing the session.
Other tasks that help the group to function might include some kind of snack or food (food = community) and someone to email each member of the group during the week with a reminder about the next session. Ideally, every member of the group will join in encouraging the playful nature of the group sessions.
If you have rotating Facilitators, make a copy of the “Facilitator Basic Guide” for each Facilitator.