13 June 2014

Meet Doreen Olson

Doreen Olson serves on PlayFull’s board of directors and we are lucky to have her. She has become a good friend of mine and I look forward to working closely with her this year. Currently she is the executive minister of Christian formation for the Evangelical Covenant Church. I thought our readers would enjoy getting to know her a little bit so I asked her a few questions. Enjoy!



1. Are you an introvert or extrovert?

I am a nearly-off-the-charts introvert and learning to wear that proudly. If you want to know what introversion does NOT mean, check out this great blog post: 10 Myths About Introversion.

2. How do you most often experience “play”?

My grandchildren (ages 8, 7, 5 and 4) are most effective at drawing me into play of the best kind (e.g. crawling under my dining room table that, with the help of a sheet, has been converted into a fort OR making up crazy knock-knock jokes). When they are not available...well, I like to play with ideas and colors and words.

3. Tell of a time when play helped you learn something new or grow in some way.

When my first grandchild was a toddler she loved playing hide and seek. She would almost always hide in the same place in our walk-in closet. As the game proceeded, we would go through the same routine each and every time. "Is she under the bed? No, she's not there...Is she behind the dresser? No....Is she behind this door? Nope...Where could she be?" And as I discovered her between the clothes in the closet, she would squeal with delight and we would laugh together...and then she'd want to do it all over again.

In reflecting on my relationship with God, I've asked myself these questions. I wonder in what ways I typically hide from God? Does God pursue me with the same persistence as I pursue my granddaughter? Am I delighted to be found by God? Do I sense God's delight in "finding" me? These are questions of importance. Because if I am created to enjoy God, then seeing this as a playful reality contributes to my growth. I begin wanting to be found just as much as my granddaughter does and I will more intentionally put myself in places where God can easily show delight in finding me.

4. How do you see play cultivating healthy work environments?

Teambuilding happens best, in my opinion, when it involves playing together. During my 16 years in denominational leadership, I've seen this demonstrated over and over again. As we recently added new members to our departmental staff, we set aside a full day for getting better acquainted through a series of games and fun activity. This began the critical building of trust that is essential for healthy effective ministry.

5. You are a spiritual director.  In what ways do you incorporate play into this?

Using our imaginations is a dimension of playfulness whose value seems to diminish as we grow older. And yet it can be effective in promoting spiritual growth. An effective means of bringing people into the presence of God is through use of our sanctified imaginations. An example might be to encourage placing yourself into a biblical story and engaging in the dialogue, or inviting Jesus to accompany you (in your imagination) as you recall or anticipate a difficult conversation or experience. As a spiritual director, I also seek to maintain the kind of playful, anticipatory lightness that proceeds from and prompts a necessary trust that God, as the real director in the relationship, will be an active presence in our midst.

6. Why are you on the Board of PlayFull? What intrigues you most about it?

The Westminster catechism declares that our purpose as humans is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. EnJOYment is not something I see much these days. Especially in the church. And yet I believe we were created for playful joy and joyful play. The church today needs to rediscover this reality. PlayFull seems perfectly poised to assist in that important process of rediscovery.

On a personal level, I see my own need to rediscover this truth. Hearing Jesus say, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3), I am struck by my tendency to take things far too seriously. I need to learn from children. PlayFull intends to assist both adults and children on this learning journey. And I want to be a part of that important journey.


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