Discipleship

Prayer Stations

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I LOVE Prayer Stations! They are one of my absolute favorite things to use. Ever. Seriously, if you’ve never used these before, please consider exploring this teaching technique.

No, “teaching technique” isn’t the right description. Rather, prayer stations are mini environments created for the worshiper to encounter God in unique ways that cover all the learning styles. Through prayer stations we are creating guided opportunities for students to spend time in God’s presence. We are no longer saying to them, “Read your Bible and spend time with God,” but we are teaching them how to spend time with God by actually spending time with God. Prayer stations create opportunities for students to speak with God through guided conversations, and, also, listen for His voice.

The Logistics

Prayer Stations as Centers
Each station has a specific theme & activity for the participants to complete. For example, one station might be focused on forgiveness. Short “instructions” are included to unpack what forgiveness is and why we need it or why God offers it. Then there is a simple task for the participant to complete. Perhaps the participants spend some time confessing their sins on an individual dry erase board, asks God for forgiveness, then wipes the board clean and thanks God for His forgiveness. Be sure to include enough supplies for everyone to accomplish the task and not be on top of one another.

Depending on your set up, group size, and time alloted you can generally have anywhere from 4-10 stations set up at one time. These can all fit in one classroom or be spread out throughout your entire church (often depends on the audience size).

Prayer stations are generally heavy on supplies & prep time but don’t always have to be. I’ve done an Easter Prayer Path that took weeks of planning & prep and was supply heavy – think VBS for a one-day Easter Prayer Path – complete with turning classrooms into a tomb and a garden. I also recently did a prayer path for a lesson on David & Goliath which required minimal supplies and set up only took 20 minutes. Go big or go home. Or the simpler the better. Both theories work & have their time & place in the prayer path world.

I generally try to create stations that can be self-guided by the worshipers so that I do not need to have each station manned or hosted by volunteers. However, one time we were trying to get our Youth Ministry more involved so our Youth Minister had different kids lead each station. It worked beautifully!

Prayer Station Themes
Here are 3 Prayer Paths I have used in the past. All include stations I have adapted from various sources or written myself.

  • Easter Prayer Path – This PP was written for families to participate in together prior to our Good Friday service. Prayer paths that include preschool aged children work best when they can do it with their families. After all, someone needs to be able to read the directions to them! Stations were set up all over the building to accommodate a large crowd.
  • David’s Life Prayer Stations – This PP was written for a week at camp with kids who had completed 2nd-5th grades. The version included here is a compilation of some of the stations used throughout the week. Each day we explored a different theme & story from David’s life. The stations offered fit that day’s theme. Incorporating these stations allowed me to do some teaching with the large group first and then students were able to individually respond to God through these stations. Stations were set up in our large group room (with a few being outside). Students were asked to limit the number of people at each station (I think it was no more than 6/station at a time) and to remain silent so as not to distract their friends.
  • Worship Response Stations – These stations are written and designed for our students during their small group time every Sunday. We generally have 5 stations available at a time and we rotate those out periodically. As you can see these are more generic so that it doesn’t matter what the specific lesson is that day. The goal is for our kids to be able to respond to God.

Prayer Stations for ALL ages!
By design prayer stations are intergenerational. A 4-year-old can understand than when his mistakes are written on a dry erase board and he asks God to forgive him that He wipes the board clean like they never happened just as simply as that speaks to my grown woman heart. Parents who struggle to know how to have faith conversations with their young children can practice with guided instructions and activities at a prayer station. I have been using the David prayer path written for elementary kids at a Bible study for moms with only minor tweaks (substituting “school” and “homework” for “job” and “laundry”, etc.). It works not because these moms aren’t smart but because God speaks through these experiences. We all need to be forgiven, to forgive others, to be reminded of who God is, and to know how much He loves us. Regardless of age. Or gender. Or demographic. God speaks when we create the space to listen.

State your expectations.
No matter the age, setting or group size I would highly recommend always having a time of sharing the expectations with your audience whether in written or oral instructions. Do worshipers rotate at their own pace or at your signal? Silence or partner/group work? How many people can each station accommodate at a time? If the station is full what do they do? Do they rotate in a certain order or as they want?

I had one older camp counselor share her concern that our children wouldn’t be able to handle the expectations of the prayer stations. I respectfully listened and then assured her I knew it would be possible because these kids had done them before. She told me after camp she was amazed by how much the kids got out of the stations and that she was glad she had been wrong. When kids know the expectations – and they are enforced – they will operate within the boundaries expected. Well, most of the time. Because they are still kids!

Sources

If you’re new to prayer stations, don’t be scared to give them a shot. Say a prayer or two and trust God to work in powerful ways in your kids’ hearts. God always shows up when we give Him room to speak.

A final note to those who may be new to prayer stations: Many logistic details were not expanded on. Please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message to ask further questions. I’m more than happy to give you more details then you’ll know what to do with! Happy praying!

 

 

Discerning with Children

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A Pastor friend recently asked me to come work with him & build that church’s Children’s Ministry from the ground up. It was an extremely difficult decision for me to make. On one hand, I’d love the challenge of beginning a new ministry. On the other hand, we are beginning some amazing new spiritually forming ventures at my current Children’s Ministry & I’m at the beginning of a high-risk pregnancy with my first child. The timing is terrible. Without going into all the details, friends & mentors helped me discern that the wisest decision is to stay where God already has me. When I shared my decision with my Pastor friend he was gracious & understanding & said if he’d only known it was a high-risk pregnancy he wouldn’t have even asked me. But the truth is if he would have known & assumed the answer (even though he would have assumed the right answer) he would have denied me the opportunity to pray & seek God’s wisdom in this matter. He would have denied me the chance to come to terms with how life changing this new baby is & that my identity & priorities will & should change.

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Engaging Silence in a Loud World

Shannon Rains might arguably have the craziest summer of anyone else I know right now. While completing her final summer at Kingwood Church of Christ as Children’s & Family Minister, she is also a D.Min student at Abilene Christian University and in the middle of that she moved to Lubbock Christian University to begin working this fall as the Assistant Professor of Children’s Ministry. 
It seems appropriate that she joins our conversation again today sharing the importance of practicing silence not only in our own lives but also with our children. 

I have a keen interest in engaging with children in the spiritual disciplines of silence and reflection. This concept seems counter-intuitive to most philosophies of children’s ministry. But, it is not counter-intuitive to centuries of spiritual practice or the witness of Scripture. The process of spiritual maturation needs silence and reflection on God. This is as true for children as it is for adults.

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Our children live in a very busy world. Their days are filled with noisy and activity: morning news, music in the car, school buildings full of kids, sports and music practice, multiple electronics are always on and with the average family. Parents, how many times a day do you ask your kids to do something? Kids receive constant input of stimuli.

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Embracing the Generosity of Children

Chris Field is the Founder and Executive Director of Mercy Project. He traveled to Ghana for the first time in August 2009 and has since been on a mission to bring new life to children in slavery as well as empower those around him to make the world a better place.
Chris and his wife Stacey have been married since 2005. They have four children – Famous, Micah, Beckett, and Lincoln. Chris is a gifted speaker, avid runner, and inspirational world-changer.
I’m grateful for his contribution to the conversation today. Welcome, Chris.

Practicing the discipline of service with our kids is really, really hard, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking.

The biggest problem with practicing the discipline of service with our children is that they are just so darn generous.

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Heart of a Servant

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall love as Christ loved, I shall do His work.”

– John Henry Newman

There is something so empowering for children to know now, at their young age, that God has a job for them to do. They are called to love & serve others just as Christ loves & serves us.

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The Discipline of Service “is a way of offering resources, time, treasure, influence and expertise for the care, protection, justice, and nurture of others. Acts of service give hands to the second greatest commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Calhoun, p 144)

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Love Letters from God

This year during VBS we scheduled some “Digging Deep” time: group time after Opening Worship. Digging Deep was designed for children to have some quiet, centering time with God at the beginning of their day.

On the day we were learning that “God is Love” their Digging Deep activity was to write a love letter from God to themselves. What did they think God wanted to tell them? What did God love about the way He created them? Why does God love them? Children entering kindergarten through 5th grades wrote & drew letters from God.

For most, this was the first time they had ever done anything like this before. But God showed up and spoke to the hearts of our children. Here are some of their letters.

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“Dear Liam, You are good at defense. I love you. You are cool. God”

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“Study” doesn’t have to be a 4-letter word.

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Caleb looked at me with furrowed forehead and whined, “I’ve been at school all day, do we really have to ‘study’ anymore today?” The same Caleb who a month later would beg for time to ‘study’ during class. Because study isn’t about memorizing facts or lectures from the teacher. It is about diving into God’s Word and learning to listen for what God has to say to my heart, today, right here & now.

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Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat seems like the perfect counterpart to Fasting. We are not a culture that says “no” often or intentionally self-sacrifices to make space for God in our lives. Fasting & Shabbat seem to directly challenge those principles more than any of the other disciplines. Shabbat is another discipline that is best practiced within the context of the home but must be modeled first by ministers & pastors.
Today I am grateful that Stacy Smith joins our conversation. Stacy is the Associate Director of Discipleship for Alamo Heights United Methodist Church Student Ministries. She and her husband (who is the Worship Pastor) not only model Shabbat as pastors but also practice Shabbat as a family. Regularly. May we all model Shabbat for those we serve and challenge all to honor one of the most beautiful disciplines given by God. 
Welcome, Stacy.
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Two summers ago, my husband and I made our way to Israel for the first time in our lives. It was the trip of a lifetime, destined to forever alter the way I saw God, the way I saw myself, and the way my family engaged our faith. Over the two weeks we spent in Israel, we witnessed many traditions and observances that we ourselves found quite appealing—one of which was Shabbat, or Sabbath.

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Family Style Fasting

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Josh practices fasting regularly. One day, Josh’s son told his dad he wanted to fast, too. He was 6 years old.

Little eyes are always watching and eager to follow the example set before them.

Fasting is an interesting discipline to explore with children. To be fully transparent, I haven’t done it a lot with children and until I heard Josh’s experience I had never thought about practicing it with them. Fasting is difficult for adults so it’ll be especially challenging for children who aren’t used to choosing self-sacrifice. For this reason, I believe fasting works best in the context of the home. So in preparation for this post, I asked several families to practice fasting. You can see what was asked of them here. No really, take a minute and read through this so the rest makes sense. I’ll wait.

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Praying with Kids: Permission. Play. Praise. Practice.

There are few people I’d be willing to lead me up Masada, sail the Sea of Galilee, crawl through the FullSizeRender-290x300aqueducts at Qumran, and climb Mt. Carmel with than Cayce Harris. Cayce is a woman with a deep faith & love for God and a heart of wisdom that knows no ends. I’m grateful for her friendship & leadership. Cayce is the Director of Ministries at Christ Healing Center. She and her husband, Joel, have 4 children with another on the way. The fruits of Cayce’s prayer life are evident in her work, her family & in all of her life. I’m so grateful she is willing to share with us even in the midst of morning sickness. May you be blessed today by Cayce Harris. Welcome, Cayce.

I love it when kids bow their heads and say amazing sweet, simple prayers with their hands folded and their bodies still. But let’s be honest, while it’s tender when it happens – most kids are all over the place most of the time. Activity and noise define what my kids are doing almost always.

I want my kids to learn to be still and listen – and they will learn that, there’s time for that. Even more so, I want my kids to live a life-style of prayer. I want them to know that because of Jesus’ incredible love for them, they have access. Access to GOD – the God who made it all. They can access Him as much as they want – there is no limit. There’s no such thing as too much or too often. There are no boundaries when it comes to their relationship with God and by extension, their prayer life.

How do we foster this as adults who sometimes require stillness and a 3 point lesson to feel connected to God?

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