I tried this activity with my Encounter group, who are aged 10-13 (school years 6-8) and meet once a month in church for worship (and board games and sweets!). They are a very contemplative bunch (when they’re not being incredibly noisy!) and have enjoyed trying some of the activities from The Teenage Prayer Experiment: http://teenageprayerexperiment.blogspot.co.uk/
Before the children arrived I set up three tables. One had small pieces of paper spread over it with a single word printed on each. I used gifts of the spirit and fruit of the spirit. There were also some blank pieces and pens. Another table had small pictures spread out on it. I used leaves, raindrops, falling snow, starry night sky, clouds, sunrise, etc. Again, blank paper and pens were also available. The final table contained objects. I used stones, glass beads, autumn leaves, mustard seeds and small crosses.
When we got to this activity, I gave each child (and adult) an envelope and asked them to write their name on it. I explained that we were going to each choose some words, pictures and objects to create an individual prayer station, which we could take with us and use anywhere. (This group is familiar with the concept of prayer stations. If they weren’t, I would have taken longer to explain that.)
We looked together briefly at each table. I told them they could choose whatever they wanted, and asked them to think about what would help them engage with God, but also to select what they were drawn to, without rationalising their choices too much. One child asked if they would have to explain why they chose their items. Another asked if they would have to tell the group what they had chosen. In both cases I said they would not.
The children spent around 10 minutes looking at what was available and selecting their items. They then went off to choose a quiet place in church to try out their prayer station and spent around a further 10-15 minutes praying silently with the words, pictures and objects they had chosen. This could have continued for longer if time had allowed.
While we were choosing objects, and while we were praying individually, there was a deep silence, and I had a strong sense of the Holy Spirit working in the children. This was bourne out by some of their reflections on the activity.
When we came back together, some children chose to share something about their experience. Their reflections were thoughtful, and often very personal. They listened very well to each other. One child described “knowing something new about myself”, another “feeling like I can be at peace with all of me, with God”, and another said they had found it “hard, but awesome”.
All the children took their envelopes away with them, and were talking to each other as they left about where and when they might use them.
I would be interested to try this activity with other age groups: both younger children and adults. It could also be adapted for non-readers by omitting the words table.