Researchers from the University of British Columbia who studied Christian children in Canada, as well as children of mixed ethnicities in India, found that children who are spiritual -- believe in something greater -- reported a greater levels of happiness than those who solely went to church or simply had a level of religiousness. Prayer services can help children explore and express their own spirituality. However, it's essential to tailor a prayer service to the ages of the children attending it.
Choose a meeting area. It should be a space that is quiet and contained such as a small chapel, meeting room or classroom. It's important that the children feel comfortable in the space. Young children, for example, might be more interested in looking around a new space, so it might be better to keep them in a familiar location. Teens, on the other hand, might need a special place that takes them outside the environment of the classroom. Outdoor venues such as a grotto or even a picnic area can also become a place for prayer.
Prepare the space. Use items such as candles or pictures to define the prayer service as a sacred time. When conducting a prayer service for older children and teens, light the candle at the beginning of the prayer service and blow it out at the end. Consider using a battery operated votive or electric candle around young children who should not be near an open flame. Place a spiritual picture in a prominent place to give the children a source of focus during the service.
Begin the prayer service with a greeting, or opening, which sets the time apart from other activities and helps the children understand that this is a special time. The greeting can be something as simple as a prayer or a song. Young children can sing a familiar song as the greeting. Older children can read an opening prayer together. Consider using pre-recorded music with teens. Listening to music as they read the lyrics can help teens connect to the words of the song. Consider writing down the order of the service for older children.
Read from sacred text such as the Bible, the Torah or the Koran. If you are conducting an interfaith prayer service, consider using an uplifting selection from a spiritual writer rather than promoting one spiritual book. Young children benefit from shorter passages written specifically for their limited vocabularies such as a children’s Bible. There are also versions that present scripture in the vernacular for older children and teens.
Share prayers within the group. These can be prayers that the children already know. Young children can recite simple prayers together while older children might recite longer prayers or several prayers such as saying the rosary. Longer prayers or litanies are more appropriate for teens. Be sure to include time for the children to share prayer requests. Even young children often have needs, friends or family members for which they want to pray.
Close the prayer service. Young children can sing a simple song to end the service. Older children and teens can recite a memorized prayer or read something from a prepared sheet. Like the greeting, the closing helps reinforce the idea of a sacred time and space.
Items you will need
- Spiritual pictures
- Candle or electric votive
- Sheet with the order of the prayer service
- Keep the children's age in mind when determining the length of the prayer service. Young children's services should be short, no more than 10 of 15 minutes. This helps to keep the children's attentions focused on prayer. Older children and teens can handle a longer service, but watch for fidgeting or inattention. These are clues that it is time to close the service.
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