One Day…

I took my youth group to Greenbelt again this year. All sorts of things moved and inspired us, but perhaps most of all this song, “One Day”: http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/One-Day.pdf

So at our first youth group session of the new term, we wrote our own “One Day” verses – and were inspired  all over again. Here they are:

One day there will be no war anywhere in the whole world.

One day the world will be a less violent and more eco-friendly place.

One day there will be no more famine and everyone will be able to get a job.

One day everyone in the world will be kind to each other.

One day everyone in the world will care about the environment.

One day there will be no racism.

One day we will experience world peace.

One day all people will be respected.

One day grown ups will listen properly to children.

The last one seems particularly telling. Perhaps we can start that today?

“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.

 

 

Christmas prayers for school services

I came across a couple of sets of prayers which I’ve used at school Christmas services in the past, and thought I’d post them in case they’re any use to anyone. Feel free to use and adapt.

Here’s a short prayer and blessing:

Loving God,
You sent Jesus into the world to bring us peace,
May we know your peace in our hearts;
You sent Jesus into the world to bring us joy,
May we rejoice in the coming of the saviour;
You sent Jesus into the world to bring us hope,
May we live as people of hope.

Eternal God,
You sent Jesus into the world to live among us,
To shine as a light in the darkness,
To be a sign of your love for each one of us;
May we know your love in our hearts and in our homes,
And may the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Be with us all and those whom we love,
This Christmas and always.
Amen.

And here’s a longer set of prayers:

Lord Jesus Christ you came to bring us peace; may your peace rule in our hearts and in the world. We pray for those places in the world where there is no peace: for countries torn apart by war and unrest; for homes and families where there is conflict; for friendships and relationships which are not as they should be. Lord God, breathe your peace into these situations, that this Christmas may be a season of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Lord Jesus Christ you came to bring us joy; may we rejoice at the coming of the Saviour. We pray for all who will celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas, for all churches, schools and Christian communities around the world. Lord God, fill us afresh with the awe and wonder of your coming among us as a tiny child.

Lord Jesus Christ you came to bring us hope; may we live as people of hope. We pray for all those for whom hope seems far off: for those who are ill or anxious, for those in prison, for those who are homeless, for refugees. We pray particularly for those for whom Christmas is a stressful, lonely or difficult time. Lord God, shine your light in their darkness, and light up their path with your hope.

Lord Jesus Christ you came to show us the love of God for each one of us; may we know that love in our hearts this Christmas and always. You came to show us how to share that love with one another; may we be ready to love, help and serve other people in your name.

All this we pray in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,

Amen.