Baptism Box

This is what I use when preparing children age 3-10 (ish) for baptism. These are children who are going to be ‘answering for themselves’ – ie. making their own baptismal vows – but will also usually have Godparents who will make those promises with (not for) the child. I usually do baptism preparation 1:1 with the child’s parent(s) present as well. 

This is my baptism box:

baptism box.jpg

It is brightly coloured and a bit shiny – it certainly looks like something special. I only use it for this purpose, so children won’t have seen it before. It is about 25cm square.

In my baptism box are:

  • white cloth
  • bowl
  • jug
  • flask of water
  • doll
  • candle
  • matches
  • oil stock containing oil
  • Bible (age-appropriate)
  • book about baptism (age-appropriate)
  • photo of a baptism (preferably of similar-aged child)

I explain that the baptism box contains special things to help us think about this special occasion. I get them out a few at a time, speak to the child about the part of the service they relate to, and invite them to ‘wonder’ with me about what the various objects and words might mean or remind us of.

First, I spread the cloth on the floor/table and get out the water, jug and bowl. I pour the water into the jug, and invite the child to pour it into the bowl. We discuss what we can use water for (washing, drinking, growing plants, etc). Many children will comment that water is necessary for life. Then we discuss bible stories with water in them – creation, flood, exodus, baptism of Christ, wedding at Cana, walking on water, etc.

Next I introduce the doll and invite the child to choose a name for him/her. We discuss the importance of names. The child might know something about their own name – what it means, or who they are named after. Then I demonstrate baptising the doll, and invite the child to have a go. I often ask the child how they think the doll feels about being baptised – this is often an opportunity for them to talk safely about how they themselves feel.

Then I get out the candle and matches. We talk a bit about light and fire, and what they might mean or do or be for, touching on the idea of the Holy Spirit being represented by fire, and Jesus being the Light of the World. I light the candle and give it to the child to hold. There is usually a bit of silence at this point. Then I introduce the words “shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father” and we discuss what that might mean. The child blows out the candle, and we talk about the idea that the light of Christ cannot be blown out.

Next we get out the oil stock. The child might try to guess what is inside. Then I invite them to open the stock, touch the oil, and guess again. I demonstrate making the sign of the cross on the doll’s forehead, and invite the child to do the same. Again, I ask how the child thinks the doll feels.

Then I explain that there are some special things about baptism that we can’t see – these are the special words we use. We look together at the key words used and the promises made at baptism. We discuss what promises the child will make at their baptism, and what promises God makes to them.

Finally I get out the books – a bible and a book about baptism, both appropriate to the child’s age and/or reading ability. We might read the book about baptism (or part of it) together. I will leave the books for the child and their family to borrow (or, if there seem to be not many books in the house, to keep).

I then invite any questions from the child and their parents(s) which often leads to more discussion.

By the end of the session, the set-up looks something like this:

baptism-box-contents

Then I invite the child to help me pack everything back into the box, remembering what each thing is for as we put it away.

This session is supplemented by a rehearsal on the day before the baptism, at which  we will recap the key words and symbols, as we walk through exactly what will happen on the day of the baptism. This includes another opportunity to ask any questions. 

“Help everyone to know that they are welcome in your family” – prayers by young people

Let us pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

We thank you for welcoming us into your family.

We pray for people whose families don’t welcome them, and families in difficult or abusive situations. We pray that they know they are loved.

We pray for those who have lost loved ones and for people who are lovely and isolated. W ask that you comfort them through challenging times.

We pray for people suffering from mental illnesses, particularly people with eating disorders or who have self harmed or have suicidal thoughts. We pray that you can help them to feel valued and happy.

Help these people to know they are welcome in your family.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hear our prayer.

 

We thank you for welcoming us into your family.

We pray for those who are on the outskirts of society. We pray for people who can’t, or choose not to, see each other’s perspectives. We pray that you can help us to love and understand every member or our society.

We pray for refugees, particularly those who are still trying to reach a safe environment. We pray that they feel welcome in their new communities.

We also pray for people who help others in our society. We pray for support and appreciation for them.

Help these people to know they are welcome in your family.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hear our prayer.

 

We thank you for welcoming us into your family.

We pray for new members of our church, and for our new bishop Steven. We pray that you can guide them in everything they do.

We pray for schools, and in particular people taking exams. We pray that they work to the best of their ability.

We pray for people suffering from injuries, illness or disease. We pray for healing.

Help these people to know they are welcome in your family.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hear our prayer.

 

We ask that you help us to welcome and care for all people.

Amen.

 

Led By The Spirit – intercessions by young people

Today a small group of young people (age 11-14) met to write the intercessions for this evening’s Led By The Spirit service at All Saints, High Wycombe (http://www.allsaintshighwycombe.org/).

I provided some framework for the writing process, and acted as scribe, but the ideas and the words are entirely the young people’s own. None of the young people had done anything like this before, and I am very proud of their first attempt!

Let us pray.

The response to “Come Holy Spirit” is “Come, hear our prayer”.

Come Holy Spirit. Come hear our prayer.

We pray for the church. For churches to be a place of love and inclusion and not a battlefield. For people to know that they are always welcome in our church community. For people who are searching for God’s love and finding it hard. For Christians living in fear of being persecuted for their beliefs.

Come Holy Spirit. Come hear our prayer.

We pray for the world. For an end to the war in Syria and other countries around the world. For society to be more accepting of people of different genders, races, sexuality and class. For everybody to have clean food and water and good sanitation. For world leaders to make wise decisions on behalf of their countries. For and end to FGM.

Come Holy Spirit. Come hear our prayer.

We pray for our local community. For everyone to give and receive compassion from our community. For people who are homeless to be and feel safe, and to escape the trauma of fear and anxiety. For local schools and young people and the future of our community. For harmony and peace between people of all faiths and none.

Come Holy Spirit. Come hear our prayer.

We pray for people in any kind of need. For people who are hungry or thirsty. For people who are suffering physically, mentally or emotionally. For people for whom family is not a safe place.

Come Holy Spirit. Come hear our prayer.

We pray for people who have died. For those we love and miss. For people who have died in war or traumatic situations. For people who have inspired us, and people who have given their lives for others.

Come Holy Spirit. Come hear our prayer.

We thank you God that you always listen to us, that you act out of love, and that you accept us as we are. We pray for your Holy Spirit to work in us to make the world a better place and reflect your love. In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Led By The Spirit prayers

“Our Father…”: Exploring the Lord’s Prayer through prayer stations

I used these prayer stations with young people (aged 10-13). They could also be used with adults, younger children, or a mixed-age group.

Each prayer station had a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer and brief instructions, which are reproduced below, together with a list of the equipment I used for each prayer station and some brief reflections on each one, including quotes from the young people.

I briefly introduced the session, led the young people around the prayer stations, pointing out what was available at each one. They then had time to explore the prayer stations (in any order) for around 40 minutes and we came back together to discuss and reflect on the experience for around 20 minutes. The time for exploration felt about right, but the discussion could have been substantially longer if time had allowed.

 

Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name

I wonder what God is like? I wonder what heaven is like? Draw or write your ideas.

  • large piece of paper with “God” written in the centre
  • large piece of paper with “heaven” written in the centre
  • box of pens
before 1

Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name

after 1

A table full of ideas about God and heaven.

This station provoked a lot of discussion, both around the table during the exploration time, and in the discussion afterwards.

“Heaven is where all are always already forgiven.”

“I don’t think heaven is a place, but it is real.”

“God is bigger than anything.”

“God is everywhere, but I don’t know how.”

 

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven

Add markers to the map to pray for places in the world to become more like God’s kingdom.

  • large world map
  • small post-it notes or other sticky markers
before 2

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven

after 2

Praying for world event, for friends and family, for the environment…

The young people prayed for a very wide range of situations: events that have been in the news, places they have been learning about at school, friends and family around the world, etc.

“I want to pray for people who don’t have enough to eat, but I don’t know where to stick it – it could be lots of places.”

“I’m praying for my Dad who’s working in a dangerous country. And for the people who make it dangerous, so they can stop.”

“I wanted to pray for someone who is in heaven, but heaven isn’t on the map… so I stuck the marker on my head.”

 

Give us today our daily bread

Take a piece of bread and chew it slowly. Thank God for giving us things we need. Pray for people who don’t have things they need. 

  • a loaf of bread
before 3

Give us today our daily bread

after 3

A lot of bread eaten… and a lot of prayers prayed!

This was a prayer station which many of the young people returned to several times. When we discussed it, many of them said this was because they kept thinking of something else to pray about. Several of them sat for a long time chewing the bread, and it was a station where people largely chose to be silent.

“I like that it was doing, not just writing.”

“The taste made me think about good things, but also the times I’ve been hungry.”

[After a young person asked how much bread they could take, and I said “As much as you want.”] “Some people never get to have as much as they want. I’m praying for them.”

 

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

Take a stone. As you hold it, think of something you need to ask forgiveness for. Place the stone in the water. Take another stone. Think of something you need to forgive someone else for. Ask God to help you forgive. Place that stone in the water too.

  • stones
  • bowl of water
before 4

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

after 4

Weights held… and put down.

The young people engaged slowly and thoughtfully with this activity. Many of them said it was the one that had most impact on them. It was hard for most to articulate what was going on, but they sensed it was something significant.

“I didn’t exactly like it… but I think it was the most important because it made something change.”

 

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

We all face choices. How do you choose which path to take? If you have a choice to make at the moment, or a question to ask, put it in the box and ask God to help you see the way ahead.

  • picture(s) of junctions in roads, paths, etc
  • box with a slot
  • paper
  • pencils/pens
before 5

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

after 5

A box full of question, wonderings, possibilities…

It was very important to some young people that what they put in the box would not be read by anybody – it was just between them and God. Others wanted to share the questions and choices that are on their minds. There were some interesting conversations when young people discovered that they were facing similar choices to each other.

“I asked how I can know if I’m choosing the right thing.”

“I asked about what I can do to help people. There are lots of things I could do, but what is the right one that God wants me to do?”

 

For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

What words can we use to praise God? How can we describe God? Add a word to the board to create a prayer of praise.

  • display board [or other large surface]
  • post-it notes
  • pens
before 6

For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours, now and forever

after 6

A prayer of praise

This station generated a wide range of ideas about God and, in the discussion time afterwards, led to some deep conversations about the nature of God and of belief. It also generated our topic for our next session as, right at the end of the discussion, one young person asked “What is God?”

“I like that everyone put different things. It shows how many different things there are about God.”

“I didn’t understand all the words people put. But I don’t understand everything about God either, so that’s ok.”

“It’s good that we did praising God together. It’s better than on my own.”

 

 

AMEN

We used a circle of floor cushions as our “Amen” area, but any comfortable seating would be fine. It was where everyone returned to at the end of the exploration time, and also provided a quiet space for young people to take time out to reflect during their exploration of the prayer stations.

 

 

Crib service 2015 – Christmas in a bag

You will need:

  • envelopes/bags/boxes (one for each child)
  • straw
  • cotton wool
  • stars (could be plastic/wood/cardboard/stickers/whatever you can get hold of)
  • tea lights (or other candles)

Total cost: varies depending on numbers and suppliers. I got enough for 150 children for £6.40.

Choose how you are going to tell the story. This could be the traditional placing the figures in the crib scene. It could be acting out the story (either children or adults, either rehearsed or ‘from scratch’). If you’re short of time to prepare, it could just be reading a book or showing a DVD.

When the children arrive, give them their envelope (or bag or box) and explain that they’re going to be collecting the story during the service. After each section of the story, invite the children to come and collect the next item:

  • After Jesus’ birth: straw, for the stable.
  • After the shepherds: cotton wool, for the sheep.
  • After the wise men: the star.

Finally, invite them to collect their candle. Light everybody’s candle, and talk about Jesus being the Light of the World.

After the candles are blown out and put into the envelopes, invite the children to take away their envelope and use it to tell the story again on Christmas day, and to share the story with other people. If you have materials left over, you could invite the children to make another set to give to someone as a gift.

“Look what I got/made/collected at church” is a great way for children to open up conversations about Jesus with their family and friends. It’s a fun and non-threatening way for them to share and explore their faith with the adults and other children in their lives.

 

“Jesus, help us to follow you” – intercessions for an All Age service

In these prayers, the response Jesus, help us to follow you is accompanied with actions. We use Makaton signing, but you could use any simple gestures. Teach the response and the actions before you begin the prayers. 

Jesus said: “I pray that they will all be one.”

Help us and your whole church to work together to bring the good news of God’s kingdom to all people.

Jesus, help us to follow you.

Jesus said: “My peace I give to you.”

Help us to work for peace in our communities and the wider world. Guide the leaders of the nations to work for peace and for the good of all people.

Jesus, help us to follow you.

Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered together, I am there.”

Help us to be active members of the communities to which we belong, and to look for opportunities to work together to serve others.

Jesus, help us to follow you.

Jesus said: “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”

Help us to comfort and care for those who are sick, distressed or in any kind of need.

Jesus, help us to follow you.

Jesus said: “I have gone to prepare a place for you.”

Help us, as we remember the dead, to look to the day when we will share with them in the eternal joys of heaven.

Jesus, help us to follow you.

Jesus said: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive.”

Help us to pray continually for the needs of the world, and to have faith in the power and love of God.

Jesus, help us to follow you.

 We offer all these prayers in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” – a youth group session plan to prepare for Peace Sunday

I have done this session with Encounter, my 10-13 year olds. They are a small group who know each other well, are very open with each other and me, and have a keen sense of justice. We meet once a fortnight for an hour and a half, of which this plan covered the last hour.

Starter: word association – ask each person to say the first thing that comes into their head when they hear the word “peace”.

Discussion: put on the table/floor a selection of quotes about peace, some scriptural, others from peace activists, theologians, philosophers, etc. Invite comment: “which do you feel draw to?”, “are there any you disagree with?”, etc. Allow discussion to move freely for 10 mins or so. Draw links where possible with ‘word association’ responses.

Reflection: move to another area where you have marked out on the floor three squares inside each other:

20150911_151022

Our peace diagram before…

Invite everyone to stand in the outer square. Explain that here we are thinking about “Peace in the world”. Move to the next square in, which is “Peace in relationships” and finally the inner square, which is “Peace within ourselves”. Check that everyone has understood what is meant my each of these phrases.

Provide post-it notes and pens, and ask the young people to write/draw their thoughts/ideas/images/prayers about peace and stick them to the diagram on the floor. Encourage them to read each other’s ideas and discuss them together as they go along.

...and after.

…and after.

Response: Introduce (if you have not already done so) the phrase “blessed are the peacemakers”. Ask for and discuss examples of situations where there is no peace, and what the actions of a peacemaker could be in those situations.

Invite the young people to find a quiet space in which to reflect on how they can be a peacmeaker. Ask them to write and/or draw a “peace pledge” – one or more things they are pledging to do in order to be a peacemaker. Add these to a noticeboard to create a display. This could be added to later by other groups in the church.

Display of peace pledges.

Display of peace pledges.

Prayer: Invite the young people to pray for God’s help and guidance in beng peacemakers, and for places and situations where there is no peace. This could be a time of open prayer or something more structured.

20150911_213614