Playdates with Scripture

Playdates CoverI’m in a group online that talks a lot about making “things.” Members of the group crochet and knit, paint, create delicate paper sculptures, do performance art, draw cartoons, play the kazoo, make beautiful postcards and send them out to strangers, create astonishing costumes for themselves … All kinds of things. It’s wonderful to see the imagination alive.

I like to make things, too. I’ve had a macrame phase (years and years ago), needlework, a make-a-meditation-fountain period, a long obsession with strawbale and cob houses that never got built. My fiction-writing comes out of this drive to “make a thing.” These days my “makings” are more tame–courses, essays, worksheets for class, even semester schedules.

In any case, I’m like a third-grader, “Look what I made!” I want to rush to some giant refrigerator and post my “thing” on the door with huge magnets. Most of the things I make these days don’t fit on the refrigerator door, however.

So I’m gonna use this blog post as my virtual “refrigerator door” and show you the “thing” I’ve made. You can find it … still in progress here: Playdates with Scriptures.

Here’s how I describe the overall project:

Playdates with Scriptures refers to a growing collection of group and individual activities for individuals and groups that provide opportunity for adults of all ages, youth, or intergenerational groups to encounter the Scriptures in creative and playful ways. The activities enhance the ability to engage Scripture with mind, body, and soul through using an imagination, humor, and free-range thinking. Any question goes … though most questions give way to more questions rather than to firm answers. Playdates with Scriptures provides a spiritually and mentally invigorating way to explore the Bible.

Stop Studying and PLAY!

For the past few years I’ve been collecting the myriad of crazy and fun “exercises” I’ve used in teaching the Bible in seminaries, colleges, and the church. I think my most recent count of “worksheets” in the spreadsheet I’ve developed is 217. That’s a lot of worksheets and exercises!

In 2012 I took a 6-week course in Standup Comedy in Chicago. I was required to perform on stage at a Chicago comedy club as my “final” in that course. It was a blast.

But it was more than just a personal kick. While I studied the craft (and art) of standup comedy, I began to articulate a different kind of hermeneutic, a different approach to reading scripture. Okay, I admit, it wasn’t different for me. I’ve been reading scripture this way since I was a little girl. It’s natural. It’s what we Wiles folks did. (More on that, perhaps, in a later post.)

I’ve come to the conviction that the Bible was never meant to be studied. Yet, we have “Bible Studies” all over the land, probably at every hour of the day or night, some group somewhere is studying the Bible.

And all that studying is couched about with notions of finding the meaning and understanding what it really says — that is, getting it right.

And yet, the scriptures never say we have to get it right. As though the text just means one true thing. As though if we study hard enough we can finally master this text. As though if we learn the “real” truth about the text–the spiritual truth or the historical truth or the theological truth or the sociological truth or the prophetic truth–if we can just nail it down right, then . . .

Then, what?

To borrow from Scripture itself: The young man in Matthew said he’d gotten it all “right”–he’d kept all the commandment. “What do I still lack?” He had all the right answers, but knew something was missing: What do I still lack?

Well, folks, I’m ready to start a revolution. Stop studying the Bible! Start playing with the Bible instead.

Stop studying the Bible! Start playing with the Bible instead! Click To Tweet

What we lack is a relationship with this text. We are so busy looking for “the point” that we miss the point. Let’s stop excavating (exegeting) for deep truth. Let’s encounter … Let’s engage … Let’s inter-act … Let’s argue and converse and imagine and wonder. Let’s play.

The most serious thing we can do is to play. For when we play, we trust. When we play, we nurture freedom and wonder and intense engagement. (Watch a toddler. Just watch ’em.)

When we want to get to know someone, we don’t study them, we spend time with them in some kind of “play”– dinner, conversation, a ballgame, shopping, a walk in the park.

We don’t maintain intimacy with our partner by studying them, but by doing things together, things that we both enjoy.

We don’t interact and come to know our children by studying them; we play with them.

Play is the arena of freedom. Let’s bring that to the text … and let the text nurture that emerging freedom!

So, I’ve made this “thing” — I’m calling it Playdates with Scriptures.

I’ve got a long way to go on getting it built. I may never finish. But here are the two specific “things” I’ve got up and running now.

Playdates with Scripture: An Advent Collection (for Year C)

Granted, I got this “thing” made at the very last minute. We’re just a week away from Advent. But if you’ve got a group that does “Bible Study” and you’re still looking for a four-week guide for Advent, take a look at this. It’s a downloadable (pdf) collection of Playdates with the texts for Advent.

The downloadable guide includes a short introduction to “Why Play with Scripture?”; a facilitator guide and session handout for each of the four weeks of Advent; and a couple of brief guides for how to facilitate a group for these kinds of activities. It’s written for adults of any ages, but would work for youth as well.

You just need one pdf for the whole group because you have permission to copy pages from the pdf for the facilitators and group members to use. I hope it might be of use to some of you, even at this very last minute. Please pass the link on to anyone else you know who might be interested. [Go to the Product Page for the Advent Collection.]

Playdates with Scripture: A Weekly Subscription

Starting the 1st week in Advent (the week of November 29, 2015), for those who sign up for Playdates with Scripture email subscription, I’ll send you an email every Monday with a playful activity to use throughout the week in your personal devotion time. I give no answers. I give no meditation. There’s no theology or dogma or teaching or study.

There is, however, an activity for you to use in your individual time with the biblical text. Each “Playdate” will include the following:

  • A statement of the value of the playful activity.
  • A list of any items needed for the activity. (Simple things like a Bible, a pen and paper.)
  • A “How to…” for doing the activity.
  • Adaptations of the activity, for either individuals or groups.
  • Usually three Biblical References, as suggestions for texts to use in your play throughout the week.
  • Access to Resource Material about the “Mindset of Play” and online templates.

In addition, you will receive a short “Guide to Playdates with Scriptures for Individuals.”

The weekly subscription is $5 a month. (There’s an annual subscription as well. Did someone say, “Hey! Cool Christmas gift for someone!”?) [Go to the Product Page for the Playdates with Scripture email subscription.]

So there are my “things” for the moment. Thanks for being my Refrigerator Door!


If you use any of the material, I would love to know how it went for you and your group. What suggestions do you have for extending and improving?

And if you’ve read all this long way … and you’re a student at New Brunswick Theological Seminary … holler in my direction. I’ve got a coupon for you — I’ll comp you a copy of either of the above. Just imagine that your tuition covers it. 🙂