How Play-Doh inspired the Beatitudes

A few weeks ago I opened the play-doh pot with my son for the first time. There were four distinct colours: blue, red, yellow and orange.

Skip to two weeks later and there are now just three colours: yellow, orange and purple.

My son didn’t seem to realize that you shouldn’t squish blue and red together. But no matter how much I tried those two colours soon merged into purple. Didn’t he realize how you’re meant to play with play-doh? Couldn’t he see the method in my madness?

Clearly not. He just wanted to play.

The other Youth Fellowship leaders and myself decided that up until Christmas, we would look at the beatitudes with the young people. We felt this fitted well with the new ethos that was being created of an alternative, subversive and worshipping community we were trying to create.

I was leading the first week: ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

As all good youth workers do, I searched google high and low for those who may have already attempted the beatitudes with their young people. But what I found was the same old talk and group discussion methods that I had done before. Surely there was something different that could be done? Rather than trying to keep things pretty, was there a way I could make purple?

We had been shown a video when I was at college about experiential learning. Was there away of getting the young people to experience the beatitudes rather than simply hear about them?

I came up with a plan and discussed it with the other leaders to make sure they felt it would be ok. And with God’s grace we went ahead.

Here’s what we did.

At the start of the night we took the young people into another room and split them up according to their eye colour. We had two groups. Brown eyes and everyone else. The brown eyes were the smaller group. They would be the ‘blessed’ group. The others would be the oppressed group.

We brought them all back through and made the oppressed group sit up the back on the floor. we pushed them, shouted at them and were generally mean to them. To the ‘brown eyed’ group we were the opposite. they came in and sat at the front, got juice and sweets and sat on chairs. We had a small worship time with them at the front that the oppressed group at the back couldn’t hear. they were simply told to shut up.

Next was ‘game time’. We took them all through the back but only let the brown eyed group play the game. The oppressed group had to keep quiet and watch. If any of them talked we split them up and took their phones. When  people needed to pee, we made them hold it in.

We then brought them all back together and had a short time of feedback.

I then spoke about the context of the beatitudes. In jesus’ day there were the elite and the oppressed. The blessed were those who had status, wealth and power (just like today) but Jesus came to speak to the oppressed. To tell them, “You are blessed”.

Rather than simply tell them about the context, they experienced it (albeit breifly). But it seemed to work.

Now by putting this up I’m not trying to say, “oh look at how good and great we are”. I’m really not.

But what it has caused me to do is think about how we share the good news. Do we simply tell our young people about faith or do we help them experience it?

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