Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on rethinkingyouthministry.com and is reprinted here with permission.
by Brian Kirk
Most of us would love it if we had a group full of young people who loved to pray and were fully comfortable with sharing their deepest concerns out loud with a group. But since we are working with adolescents, this is never likely to be the case. Young people are often shy about sharing verbally with others for fear of being laughed at or not being able to really articulate what they feel. Additionally, not all young people (or adults, for that matter) are verbal learners. So here are a few prayer ideas that tap into other intelligences and learning styles:
Pass out a sheet of aluminum foil to each person. Invite students to take time in silence to craft the foil into the shape of something they want to offer up in prayer. They could create an object, an initial of a person’s name, or even something abstract. When finished, students can choose whether or not to share about their prayer requests represented by their foil creations, and then all foil prayers are placed in the midst of the group for a closing prayer.
Much like the one above, students are given a lump of Play-Doh and asked to create a shape representing a prayer need. When everyone is ready, join in a circle and have people, one at a time, place their creation in the center of the group and in some way attach it to the other Play-Doh creations to represent the way our shared prayers become one.
Pass out several multi-colored pipe cleaners to each person and invite them to create a shape that represents a prayer need in their lives. When all are ready, present each prayer creation verbally or in silence, and then have the group work as one to attach all the pipe cleaner shapes together.
Sometimes kids just can’t think what to pray about, so this idea uses photos to spur young people to consider the prayer needs in their lives or world. Cut out photos and images from magazines and place them in the center of the group. Invite students to retrieve an image that connects with them and some need for prayer in their lives. Ask each person to share why the image grabbed her attention and how it speaks to her about a prayer concern.
Place several votive candles in your worship space with a larger central candle in their midst. Light the central candle and invite kids to come forward in silence and light a votive from the central candle to represent a prayer for another person in need. Allow this to be an unstructured time so that students come forward as they feel ready, and allow individuals to light as many candles as they like. (Don’t forget to protect the floor from dripping wax!)
Establish a bulletin board or other wall space in your youth room where young people can regularly post photos, news articles, and messages lifting up joys and concerns they want to share with the group.
This one is a little more ambitious. Create wall space in your room painted with magnetic paint (yes, it exists!) and provide an ample supply of magnetic poetry words for students to create a wall of creative prayers to share with others. Similarly, paint a section of wall with chalk paint and allow them to graffiti their joys and concerns right on the wall.
Set out a plastic container filled with sand. One at a time, invite each person to go to the container and trace in the sand a word or symbol of something for which each seeks forgiveness. When they are finished, invite them to pass a hand over what they have drawn, obliterating it as a way of accepting God’s forgiveness.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.