All Age Worship with Prayer Stations

 – from the Spiritual Child Network –

All Age services need to provide worship opportunities for both children and adults. But how can you do this in small rural churches where it is hard to find sufficient clergy or lay ministers to preach and take services and the number of children can vary from none to ten? One solution has been to develop a monthly All Age Service with prayer stations. Our prayer stations are visual, interactive displays on the theme. They are set up in different places around the church – for example one month we may use the transept and the chancel, another month the area around the font and the pulpit. In summer months we try to use the churchyard as well! This photo shows Jacob’s dream and everyone (children and adults) was invited to reflect on a time when they felt close to God, to tie a ribbon on the ladder as a symbol of this or to create a picture or pattern to symbolize this. Each prayer station has a board with pictures, brief words, reflective questions and suggestions for prayer and play activities. Sometimes children and adults will spend all the time at one station, at others they will visit them all; this is left open for people to make their own decisions. This photo shows the good shepherd leading the sheep through the valley of the shadow of death. People were invited to add their own objects and symbols to the display.

Structure of the service

We begin together, sitting in the round. We have a welcome, hymns and songs and the confession altogether. This is followed by a story, usually in the style of Godly Play. We then split up. The children go off to visit the prayer stations and take part in the accompanying activities. The adults have a Bible reading, a reflection on the theme, and intercessions. Then they too have an opportunity to visit the prayer stations. We come back together for the creed or statement of belief, our prayer tree and Lord’s Prayer and the final hymn or song.

How well does it work?

The children enjoy the variety of activities and also the opportunity to take part alongside their parents/care-givers. It took longer for the adults to get used to this way of worshipping but we are beginning to find that this approach works even on the weeks when we have no children and that it adds depth to what would otherwise be quite a “thin” service. The informal atmosphere of the service works well with those who aren’t used to a more formal service. On the downside, it does take time to prepare and set up. The prayer stations are left up for the following week for visitors to the church.


Joseph: Our first attempt at using prayer stations focused on the theme of forgiveness. Hunger: We used the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, and also looked at hunger in the world today and what can be done about it.

Light: Jesus the Light of the World. What does this mean and how would we show it? Exodus: What does it mean to be free? Slavery was all the Israelites had ever known…


Living Till We Die

A journey of faith practices, by Nancy Blakely

July 28, 2015

Reposted from the Hope4CE blog

The study guide, Living Till We Die: a journey of faith practices, was developed from a pilot course held at Hospice of the Upstate (SC) and was made possible through a grant from the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith. Recognizing the difficulty people have in discussing end of life issues, the course seeks to create a safe environment to begin that conversation within the community of faith.

Bringing together resources and activities, the course encourages reflection on the questions, “Can we flourish in the face of death? Are we able to begin doing that now?” In this course, we affirm that God’s gift of faith makes that possible. Also, there are specific ways we can practice living out that faith.

The primary resource for the study is the book, Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People, ed. Dorothy C. Bass. For the initial course, six of the twelve faith practices found there were chosen to be examined during the six successive Fridays during Lent, meeting two hours each week. Those six faith practices, considered through an end of life perspective are: Honoring the Body, Keeping Sabbath, Forgiveness, Healing, Dying Well, and Singing Our Lives.

Blakely Picture

This study guide was then developed so that others could design their own course, picking and choosing which activities are most useful and will fit into their allotted time frame. Thus, the study can be adapted for many different settings: Sunday School classes, weekend retreats, community forums, adult Vacation Bible School, personal study and vocation, even youth confirmation classes (it is never too early to learn faith practices that will set the pattern of one’s life).

“So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12)

Nancy Blakely, Chaplain, Rainey Hospice House, Hospice of the Upstate

If you would like to obtain a copy of the Living Till We Die study guide, Nancy has indicated that you can send requests to   

The Presbytery of Coastal Carolina has a copy of Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People, ed. Dorothy C. Bass available for members to borrow.  Contact

Super-Sized Scrabble – Team Activity

Reposted from Gail Jackins on July 27th, 2015

Scrabble 5

“I decided to create Scrabble for Sunday School as a special treat, or a year-end celebration, or special event.”

Scrabble for all Ages
My family has a tradition of playing Scrabble every Christmas. It’s a long-standing annual ritual. We block out time, buy special snacks, and sit down to compete. When the kids were younger, we adults helped them figure out words. Now those “kids” are parents. Soon, they’ll be helping my generation figure out words!

A Sunday School Treat
I decided to create Scrabble for Sunday School as a special treat, or a year-end celebration, or special event. I adapted a rules a little bit. Sunday School Scrabble is intended to be a team endeavor, to help engender a sense of helpfulness and esprit-de-corps among the students.

Making it a team game is important, as not every child is good at spelling. A child with dyslexia can be creative at coming up with words, or placing them on the board, while other children can spell wonderfully. I put the points on each tile, to spark those children who are good in math or competitive to gain points. Other rules are as follows:

  • In the actual Scrabble game, no proper names are allowed on the board. Bible names are allowed in Sunday School Scrabble.
  • I added the two-minute-play rule to keep the game moving. Some of our family Christmas games have gone into the wee small hours of the morning, but Sunday School only has 45 minutes!
  • The “mercy” rule is to keep the game going. It’s torture when a player is stuck with all vowels, or difficult consonants like “Q” and “Z”, so it’s merciful to have the chance to get all new letters.

Making the Tiles
I made the tiles on cardstock and laminated them. I wrote the letters with huge markers. 
The letters could printed on normal paper on a printer, or other material could be used for the tiles – such as floor tiles or carpet samples.. whatever is square. Below is the list of tiles and quantities.

  • 2 blank tiles (scoring 0 points)
  • 1 point: E ×12, A ×9, I ×9, O ×8, N ×6, R ×6, T ×6, L ×4, S ×4, U ×4
  • 2 points: D ×4, G ×3
  • 3 points: B ×2, C ×2, M ×2, P ×2
  • 4 points: F ×2, H ×2, V ×2, W ×2, Y ×2
  • 5 points: K ×1
  • 8 points: J ×1, X ×1
  • 10 points: Q ×1, Z ×1

Basic Rules
Feel free to adapt for your context or group.

1. Divide into no more than four teams of people.

2. Tiles are face down in a tub or box.

3. Standard Scrabble formation rules apply.  Each team receives 7 tiles to start the game.

4. Proper nouns are permitted if they are the name of a Bible book or a Biblical person.

5. Words can be found using smart phones and justified using smartphones and standard dictionary sites.

6. One person (teacher) keeps score and keeps time. Teams are given 2 minutes to place a word, or forfeit their turn.

7. Mercy rule. If all teams are stuck with letters-they-don’t-want during the course of the game they can agree to “mercy” and everyone gets to switch out tiles from the box, with the supervision of an adult.

8. Once all tiles have been claimed the game is over.  All teams then add up their scrabble points and discover the final winner.

Scrabble 1

Scrabble 3

Scrabble 2

Scrabble 4

Gail Jackins grew up in Northern Maine, so her friends refer to her as a Mainiac. She has a B.S. from the University of Maine at Orono and an M.Ed from Boston College. Gail is the Family  Minister at St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.

The Lord’s Prayer Cooking Workshop

– by Jan Napa

 SUMMARY OF LESSON ACTIVITY: Learn about the four parts of prayer ACTS.  Take colored ribbons to represent each of the four letters in ACTS and wave which ribbon they think each line of the Lord Prayer represents. Make prayer bread – roll dough into the four letters ACTS and bake.  Select one color of ribbon, write or draw a prayer on it and hang on prayer tree.

Scripture: Matthew 6:5-15


Ask: What do you know about The Lord’s Prayer? allow all answers Why do you think it’s called the LORD’s prayer?

Call their attention to the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ poster. Read it all together as a group. Say: This prayer that Jesus taught his followers had all the ingredients of a great prayer. Speaking of ingredients …. We’re going to be making “Prayer Bread”. What do you think Prayer Bread looks like? What do you think it tastes like? There are 4 kinds of prayers and you’ll each make 4 pieces to our “prayer bread”. Can you name one kind of prayer? The 4 kinds of prayer can be remembered with the word ACTS. They are:

Adoration – telling God how great He is and how much we adore and love Him Confession – telling God we’re sorry for things we’ve done wrong or things we should’ve done but didn’t.                                                                                                 Thanksgiving – telling God thank you for things                                                              Supplication – which is a big word we use when we want to ask God to help us or someone else

Activity – Prayer Ribbons

Say: The Lord’s Prayer has all 4 of these ingredients. I’ve matched a color to each of the types of prayer. Turn over the poster of the Lord’s prayer and show the colors and the types of prayer.

Adoration – yellow; Confession – purple; Thanksgiving – green; Supplication (asking) – blue

Have kids each choose one colored ribbon. Say: After I read each line of the Lord’s Prayer, I’ll pause. You decide which type of prayer that line is and wave the matching color ribbon if you have it. Read each line of the Lord’s Prayer as follows, pausing after each line. The corresponding color is shown and if they hesitate, you can read the explanation which follows in italics.

Our father who art in heaven (yellow and green) We adore God because He is our heavenly father, creator of all Hallowed be thy name (yellow) God’s is holy and even God’s name is special Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (blue) Help people on earth act like followers of Jesus, like it is perfectly in heaven Give us this day our daily bread (blue and green) God please give us what we need to do your work And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (purple) God please forgive us for the things we’ve done wrong And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (blue) Help us not follow what tempts us to do wrong For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory now and forever. (yellow and green) God you are powerful and deserve praise

(Collect the ribbons for use later.)

Activity – Prayer Bread

Have kids wash their hands Assemble the kids around the 2 tables (standing – don’t use chairs). Put a plastic tablecloth on each table. Open a roll of 10-count canned biscuits. Give each child one biscuit and a plastic knife. Tell them to cut their biscuit into 4 pieces – one cut across and one down. Tell them that these 4 pieces represent the 4 types of prayer. There will be a sugar and cinnamon mixture that you will pour into a small bowl to be shared between 2-3 kids. Say: Gently roll one of biscuits piece into a ball. This represents A, Adoration, prayers of praise to God. Roll it in the bowl of sugar and cinnamon to completely coat it. As you roll it around, say a silent prayer to God of Adoration.

As they do this, lightly spray a round pan with ‘Pam’. Place on the table. When the kids have finished their Adoration prayer, have them place their little rolled biscuit in the pan. Say: Now take your second biscuit piece and do the same thing, but this one represents C – Confession. Gently roll it into a ball, then roll it in the sugar/cinnamon and pray a silent prayer of confession for something you’ve done that you need to ask God for forgiveness for. Remember that if it’s something you’ve hurt not only God by doing, but also someone else, then you also need to ask that person for forgiveness, too. Also if someone is sincere and asks for your forgiveness for something they’ve done to you, we should forgive. That’s what the line of the Lord’s prayer means that says: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. They will place this ball in the pan also. They’ll make one layer, then if/when the bottom of the pan is covered, they’ll start a second layer. Third ball: repeat the process asking what the next letter is – T – and what it stands for – Thanksgiving. Silently pray a prayer of thanks. Fourth ball: repeat with S – Supplication – “God, please help _____ with _____.” When their last biscuit ball is in the pan, have the kids wash up while you pour a stick of melted margarine over the biscuits. Then sprinkle some of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over it. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Watch closely. While bread is baking: After kids have washed up, have them sit in a half circle.

Activity – Prayer Ribbons. . .con’t

Ask: So what exactly is ‘prayer’? Prayer is talking to God. But when we pray we’re not supposed to be looking out for our own wants and needs, we’re supposed to be praying with God’s Eyes — any guesses what that might mean? We want our world to be like God wants it to be. We want ourselves to behave like God wants us to behave. We want to be like Jesus because that’s who God wants us to be like! Prayer is asking and working for God’s kingdom and God’s rules to come and happen now. Explain: The hanging of prayer ribbons on trees is known in many cultures and has been adopted by many churches. What does the American tradition of hanging a red, white & blue ribbon mean? (That we’re proud of our country) What does hanging a yellow ribbon mean? (That we have hope for someone to return home, whether it’s someone who has gone off to fight in a war or someone who is lost). Say: We’re going to each choose one color of ribbon, based on the ACTS prayer (show poster with ACTS and colors) of a prayer that we want to pray and then write (or for youngest kids – draw a picture) that prayer. Using ink pens have them write their prayer on their ribbon. Then help them tie it to the “prayer tree. Let the kids know that others in the congregation will be encouraged to add to the prayer tree, too, and then should tell their parents to add to it. Don’t let brothers or sisters who are part of the LIGHT know yet though because they’ll be doing it with their group another Sunday. When everyone’s ribbon is on the tree, have the group stand around by the prayer tree and pray this prayer or another like it: God, thank you for being someone we can talk to. You know what makes us happy and what makes us sad. You know what each person in this class has put on our prayer tree. Please answer these prayers in a way that will help us. And all God’s kids said, Amen!

After the bread has baked, you’ll flop it out of the pan onto a plate. Then after it cools a bit have the kids break off pieces to eat and enjoy. While they eat, let their ‘shepherd’ have some time to do wrap up/reflection with them. This cooking lesson worked very well for all ages from preschool through 5th grade.

Unwrapping the Treasures of the Bible

Children’s Sermon or Children’s Church Activity – Rally Day theme – “Adventures of the Treasurer Seekers”

Our heritage stresses the importance of reading the Bible. This children’s sermon will help children understand the treasurers that await them as they read the Bible.

Children’s Sermon or Children’s Church Activity – Rally Day theme – “Adventures of the Treasurer Seekers”

Getting Ready:

  1. Prepare a Bible by wrapping it in four layers of paper.       Begin with a layer of white tissue paper. Cover this layer with a layer of comic-strip paper (Sunday funnies). The third layer is a covering of gold foil, and the top layer is a layer of brown wrapping paper.
  2. Place the Bible in a treasurer chest.
  3. Create a poster that says “Adventures of the Treasurer Seekers”. Wear a pirate or archeologist costume.
  4. Have a small treasurer map listing stories (with scripture references) rolled up and tied for each child.

The presentation:

Welcome to the Adventures of the Treasurer Seekers! Who might we find searching for treasure?

Display the treasurer chest and ask the children – What is one of the most treasured items of our Christian faith? What is something we have at our seats in worship and in our Sunday school classrooms and even in our homes?   Something with stories about God… Yes, the Bible. Have a child open the chest and take out the pre-wrapped Bible.

Tell the children that the Bible is a special gift from God that helps us to live and grow according to God’s promises. There are many treasurers hidden in the stories and poems found in our Bible.

Hold up the wrapped Bible and show the brown wrapping paper. Say: “We all know that the Bible was written long, long ago. Some parts of the Bible were composed more than a thousand years before Christ was born. Some of the stories come to us from a time before people could even write. This is a sacred book of our faith. The brown paper wrapping reminds us of how old these special stories are. (Let one child remove the brown wrapping paper and return the Bible to you.)

Next we have gold wrapping paper. This is a reminder that our Bible is very valuable. It is filled with life giving treasures and promises from God. Our Bible is both old and valuable. (Ask another child to remove the gold paper.)

Wow! The next wrapping looks interesting!   I think it’s the comic strip or funny papers from the newspaper. The Bible is filled with wonder-filled stories. You hear them in worship, in Sunday school, VBS and Friday Night Life. There are adventure stories, and miracle stories, stories of heroes and stories of villains.   Can you think of one of your favorite stories in the Bible? (Let children share their favorite story.) Have a child remove the comic paper to reveal the white paper.

Tell the children the white paper reminds us that the Bible is not only old, valuable and entertaining, but it is also inspired. It came from people who had a special understanding of God. (Let a child remove the last layer of paper and hold up the Bible.) Say: It is not like any other book.   When we read it, we discover what God is like, God’s promises to us, and how God wants us to live. We can all join in the adventures of the Treasurer Seekers as we read, explore and discover the promises of God.

PRAYER: Thank you God for the many treasures you have provided in the Bible. Amen.

Using the Movie “Inside Out” to Discuss Emotions

by Kimberly Secrist Ashby – Reposted from

Some of the best discussions I’ve ever had with groups have happened because of a movie. Beginning way back when Disney released “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and I took the youth group, to a moving community and church discussion of “The Passion of the Christ,” right up to the current Pixar/Disney movie “Inside Out,” a good movie has sparked all kinds of theologizing for me. It’s a great Nieburhian mix of church and culture – learning to see popular culture through the eyes of faith and take something meaningful away from it.

So when I saw “Inside Out,” I knew I had to write a discussion guide. This movie puts us in touch with what’s really inside of us, and gives us ways to consider how our emotions are expressed (or not expressed) in our lives. The movie opens the door so we can dive deep and learn some new things. My favorite discussion with my own daughter was about how joy and sadness can work together to make something deeply meaningful that really resonates for life. She’s entering middle school – years I remember as full of both emotions almost constantly!

Hopefully there will be something here to use in your ministries with all the different-aged theologians in your congregation.

Kimberly Secrist Ashby– Rev. Secrist Ashby is a Presbyterian pastor serving in Maryland. She is a Trainer and Board Chair for the Center for Emotional Intelligence and Human Relations Training, and soon to be in the church and leader consulting business as Shalom Consulting.

Here is the link to the free discussion guide created by Kimberly Secrist Ashby. It contains discussion questions for preschool, school age, and youth.

This resource is in no way affiliated with Disney or PIXAR. The Inside Out movie is property of Disney PIXAR which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this resource.

Giving up Hurts – A Congregational Healing Tree


By Rose FryDecember 2002

This was done during the winter months, but could be adapted for any time of the year.

Winter can sap the life out of anyone. The forlorn landscape causes hearts to contract, shrinking inward until it’s safe to come out again. Broken branches, shriveled foliage, and rasping dry winds—all discourage any hope of life, either in plants or in our own dispirited hearts.

One parish in Richmond, Virginia, devised a plan to counteract the drying and shrinking of hearts by bringing life back into broken relationships. Members of St. Edward the Confessor Parish developed a Lenten program designed to help parishioners rebuild and renew families as they prepared for Easter.

On Ash Wednesday, liturgy director Luci Majikas, along with a crew of volunteers, erected a bare tree in the sanctuary. The tree served as a reminder of the landscape and the barrenness of souls who do nothing to repair abandoned, desolate relationships. It stood alone and wintry at the front corner—each week a call to forgive, reach out, make amends.

Parishioners were called to do one thing to “bring life” back to the tree. Actions such as making a phone call to an estranged relative or wiping out a small debt became “buds”—written on small cards and attached to the bare branches. Small children were encouraged to clean their rooms without being told or to do what their parents ask the first time and then draw a symbol on the cards. As Lent progressed toward Easter, the tree gradually bloomed with hundreds of dangling “leaves.”

This simple program engaged people of all ages in action—action that brought tremendous change to the lives of those who participated, young and old alike. Each week families took an extra moment after the service, filling out their leaves in the pews and then coming forward to place them on the healing tree. One card simply stated, “My wife and I gave up a twenty-five-year hurt.”

A retired mother took the risk of writing to her estranged adopted daughter after being out of contact for ten years. To her joy, her daughter responded immediately. The mother flew to California and brought the whole family, grandchildren and all, back to Virginia. At church the following Sunday she showed her daughter the tree that had sparked this new life for them.

Another family had arrived from Syracuse, New York, for a wedding, grumbling and anxious about seeing “those people” again. Father Ron Ruth, the now-deceased pastor, noticed their awkwardness with each other, a not-uncommon occurrence when extended families come together for an event. He mentioned the tree to them, mentioned how challenging and courageous it is to let go of a hurt held onto for a long time, and they listened. That night some of them stayed up all night talking, working out issues, and having good conversations. They told Father Ron at the wedding the next day, “We’ll follow up on it back home.”

Father Ron explained that the program merely helped people focus. He said that the Healing Tree, as it was called, gave permission of sorts to those needing to make a change. It gave them a chance to role-play forgiveness by talking about it each Sunday. Each new leaf on the tree was another sign of courage for those still struggling to take a chance. And each new leaf brought life and closeness back to families who had somehow lost that connection.

In addition, Father Ron said that the idea of a joy-based forgiveness ties into the ancient tradition of Lent to act—praying, fasting, and almsgiving—as opposed to giving up something. “If you’re giving up a hurt instead of chocolate, it brings you to a new level—reaching out to God and each other in a new way.”

The tree itself resonated with its own power, according to Luci Majikas: “There was a grace around it that you couldn’t avoid.” The tree, a dogwood felled by the Christmas ice storm of 1998, carried a great load of symbolism. At the end of Lent, with vestiges of its cross-like blooms amongst the paper “buds,” the tree was burned in the Easter fire (see sidebar), becoming First Light for the parish.

How to Grow a Healing Tree
  • Develop a theme for your tree—forgiveness, encouragement, praise, kindness.
  • Brainstorm to create a list of ways to bring life to your tree.
  • Decide how and what will be attached to your tree: Will you send the leaves home with each family? Will you ask church school classes to create leaves for the program? Will you provide a basket of leaves for members to grab on their way into church? Will you provide a discreet way for shy or disabled people to attach their leaves?
  • Create a “station” at the entrance of your church where the program is explained and illustrated.
  • Write a straightforward text, explaining the theme and how the program works.
  • Design a flyer to include with your bulletin.
  • Ask your pastor to speak from the pulpit about the program.
  • Continue to provide new leaves to members.
  • Continue to mention the program from the pulpit.
  • Develop a theme for your tree—forgiveness, encouragement, praise, kindness.
  • Brainstorm to create a list of ways to bring life to your tree.
  • Decide how and what will be attached to your tree: Will you send the leaves home with each family? Will you ask church school classes to create leaves for the program? Will you provide a basket of leaves for members to grab on their way into church? Will you provide a discreet way for shy or disabled people to attach their leaves?
  • Create a “station” at the entrance of your church where the program is explained and illustrated.
  • Write a straightforward text, explaining the theme and how the program works.
  • Design a flyer to include with your bulletin.
  • Ask your pastor to speak from the pulpit about the program.
  • Continue to provide new leaves to members.
  • Continue to mention the program from the pulpit.