– 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.