Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stategies for Worshiping with Children: 4. Praying in the Sanctuary

Helping a child grow into praying with the worshiping congregation requires more than repeated shushing and instructions to “close your eyes and be quiet!”  It requires that parents become prayer partners with their children.  Different weeks and different prayers in any given service can be shared by parents and children in a variety of ways.  Below is a collection of strategies for parents to use in the pews with their children.  The goal is not that a child is fully involved in EVERY prayer EVERY week, but to encourage children to participate in at least one prayer each week.  And, BTW, sometimes we do pray more readily with our eyes open and a pencil in hand (especially when we are children).  So…

-        Help children follow printed prayers in prayer books or printed orders of worship just as you help them follow the words in the hymn book.  A bookmark or other paper on its side just under the words helps.

-        Prayers don’t have to have words.  Invite your children draw their prayers.  They may draw a friend they love or are having trouble with, some activity or problem they are dreading, something that makes them say “Yea, God!” this morning.  Draw in the margins of the printed order of worship, on a sheet of paper or in a spiral bound worship journal you bring to worship each week.

-        Identify all the prayers that are prayed regularly in your worship, e.g. the Lord’s Prayer.  Learn them a phrase at the time at home.  Then, encourage children to pray them with you in the sanctuary.

-        Listen with your child to “the long prayer” writing down important words or phrases as you hear them on a sheet of paper or in a worship journal.  Enjoy passing the pencil back and forth as you listen and write. 

-        Write your own sharable prayers in margins of the bulletin for your child to read. 

-        Underline a phrase in a printed prayer and write “Amen!” (“I agree” or “so be it”) beside it.  Or, write your own prayer that builds on the underlined prayer maybe tying it to a specific concern in your family.  Share it with your child.

-        Write a word or phrase in one of the day’s prayers on a sheet of paper or a page in a child’s worship journal. Encourage the child to illustrate it or add more related prayers around it.  Add drawings or prayers of your own to the page – if it feels right.

-        Help your child draw his or her prayers starting with a loopy design.  In each section the child draws or writes one person or topic about which to pray.  With markers or crayons they decorate each section as they talk to God about that person or topic.  (This is a good strategy to try first at home.  Suggest it at the beginning of “the long prayer” at church after the child knows the process.)

-        Older children like to structure prayer by writing simple poems.  The first line is a person or topic.  The second is two words that describe that person or topic.  The third is three “ing” words for that person or topic.  The last line either repeats the word or name or offers a word that is the same.

                                       friend, neighbor
                            playing, singing, keeping secrets
                                            thank you

What strategies have you tried as you help children grow into praying with the congregation?  Share them in comments.

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