All Age Worship with Prayer Stations
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 symbolise 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 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.
There is then a choice. Some go straight to the prayer stations and taking part in the accompanying activities, while others stay for a Bible reading, reflection and intercessions before doing this this.
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/carers. It took longer for the adults to get used to this way of working 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 focussed 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...
Seasonal Prayer Stations:
Advent: The prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel: A time to prepare for Christ's coming
Epiphany: A Liquid Worship service with prayer stations to celebrate the coming of the wise men.
Palm Sunday Six stations including confession, prayer, word and reflection all based around the theme of Palm Sunday
Good Friday 1: These ten prayer stations were used in an All Age Service on Good Friday. They include the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus in the temple, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Passion. Each station included a play activity (such as making a dove or a cross) and a prayer activity (lighting candles or making a knotted string whip).
Good Friday 2: The Way to the Cross: A look at the story of Good Friday from the point of view of the people who particiapted in it, including Judas, Simon Peter, Pilate, Simon of Cyrene and Mary.
Good Friday 3: These prayer stations were used as part of a Liquid Worship service for Good Friday. They include Jesus before Pilate, the road to Golgotha and the crucifixion... There were opportunities to taste vinegar, bang in nails and make crowns for Jesus the King
Good Friday Reconciliation: Five different stations were used to reflect on the story of Good Friday. Each one was linked with the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral after the second world war by using prayers, images and stories. There were opportunites for prayer and creative response.
Pentecost: The Holy Spirit - inspiring, encouraging, comforting...
Harvest: The Parable of the Sower: Prayer stations for the sower based on the themes of the path, the rocks, the thorns and the good earth
Bible Sunday: Books of the Bible, writers of the Bible, the Bible through the ages, Mary Jones, the Bible in danger
Remembrance: Courage: The story of Daniel was linked with the First World War, focussing on different kinds of courage: physical courage (individual bravery, Daniel in the lion's den); enduring courage (the Israelites in exile in Babylon, life in the trenches) and moral courage (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, conscientious objectors).
Remembrance and Peace: Two simple prayer stations for Remembrance Day, one focussing on remembering the effects of war and the second on the need for peace.