Thursday, 29 August 2013

Update On How Our Prayer Activities Went

We’ve finally come to the end of a busy Summer of camps and conferences, so hopefully I should be writing a few more blogs in the coming months!

As you will know from previous blogs, we did the Beatitudes with two of the groups we worked with - quite an ambitious teaching programme!

I thought I’d let you know how the prayer activities worked.

The two groups were very different, and the selection of children within these groups was quite diverse as well! But all the activities seemed to work well in different ways.

The first group was a camp for 9 - 11 year olds (Our church camp, “Activate” at Hungarton), The children were from different backgrounds, with different abilities and many from totally unchurched backgrounds. We also had a couple of children on the autistic spectrum - so the challenge to explain everything clearly in a way they could connect with needed to be met.

The next was a group of well taught children from families who are involved in full time ministry. They were aged 5 - 13(!) Their ability was wide ranging, from a 5 year old who listened best when ‘sitting’ upside down on a chair with her legs in the air and head hanging, to a 13 year old who spoke English as her third language! Challenging in a lovely way.

Below are the links to each activity, and the update will be at the bottom of each of those pages.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Blessed are the Merciful - Talking Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
(Matthew 5 verse 7)

A popular children's song says: "Mercy is when God does NOT give us what we deserve"

God has shown us mercy. (Not going to explain that in this blog - if you're using this in your own children's work, I'm sure you can do that bit!)

In response to God's mercy, we too show mercy.

This can be forgiving people and not getting our own back. Some people also think this is being 'merciful' in what we do - that is, doing kind things for people who need help (Food banks, Raising money to get clean water into villages in Africa, raising awareness about the slave trade and lots more)

Showing mercy often starts by saying something, so we'll be using post it notes in the shape of speech bubbles to write or draw our prayers on. 

You may want to say thankyou for God's mercy. You may want to say "I forgive the person who upset me" or "help me to forgive".

Do one speech bubble about showing mercy to people in need - it could be anything, may be something you've seen on the news. 

I'll be praying about girls who live in countries where they not allowed to go to school - I want them to be able to learn.

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

Again - I wasn’t sure of the impact this would have on the children, but reading all the prayers afterwards - I was amazed at the insight in them. 

At the conference, we encouraged them to ask God if there was someone they should forgive or people they should show more mercy to. We also said not to name people!
One girl didn’t want us to see her prayer and threw it out of the window. We encouraged her to go and get it and put it in her bible, and re-assured her that we didn’t mind if she kept it between her and God.

For another child who was struggling with faith, it was a glimpse of a heart cry to God.

Some of the prayers from camp were far too personal to put here, but here are three of the ones we can show:

Blessed Are the Meek - An Explosive Prayer

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth 
(Matt 5 v 5)

Meek sounds like weak doesn't it?

But it isn't! It's all about having the power and the strength to hurt or destroy, but choosing not to. 

You've seen how some people always get angry or constantly grumbling about things haven't you? Or seen people always trying to 'get even'?  This is the opposite of meek

Part of being meek is being content in what ever situation we find ourselves in - especially when we can't change that situation, but instead relying on God for what we need. 
(There are some situations that we can and should change - especially if we are being hurt by someone. If this is the case, we should ask someone we trust for help. This isn't getting your own back, it's keeping ourselves and others safe.)

This is not about being a 'doormat'. It's about responding to people and situations in a way that makes God happy.

We're using Fun Snaps to pray about meekness!

These are amazing - if only the explosive part of them were in the packaging, it would be really dangerous and could hurt. But those who make them have put other things in them to make them safer - they are still effective (They go bang!) but they don't hurt you.

With God in our lives, we can be really effective - but we can choose not to hurt people. If everybody followed this beatitude - the results would be explosive!

Let pray about that - and then throw your fun snap on the floor.

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

The whole teaching for this went really well (What is written above is only a very small snapshot of the teaching) - mainly because the children on the camp had given me so many wonderful examples of the opposite to meek that I could use!!

You would think this prayer activity would cause a riot wouldn’t you?!
It had an enthusiastic response with both groups, and the children got what we were trying to do.

It was a military operation to get the 64 children on camp to throw them at the same time, but the majority did go off at the same time!

The only down side for the children at the conference was the strength needed to throw the snap hard enough - all of our 5 and 6 year olds had to try twice. (Plus one child with the ‘naggers’ who wanted to make a point by throwing it a few seconds after everyone else - but his bid for independence in this was over shadowed by the younger ones doing it twice!)

I gave the chemical compound for fun snaps as part of the teaching, (as given on a website), but having repeated the teaching at church on Sunday - I was corrected by someone who knows about these things. So, if you see a website that says Silver nitrate - it’s wrong, it’s actually silver fulminate (Thanks to Ray Smith for correcting me on this)

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn - Fizzy Prayers

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

(Matthew 5 verse 4)

This Beatitude is talking about being really sad for the wrong things we do. Along side that, it also means being really sad about the bad stuff in the world.

Use the dissolvable vitamin tablets to help you pray about the wrong stuff. 

Use the first tablet to say sorry for the wrong things you have done, watch it dissolve as you pray. The tablet will disappear - this represents the forgiveness God promises when we say sorry and mean it.

Use the other tablet to pray about something that is bad in the world (That might be slavery, hunger, bullying - anything that you are passionate about stopping). As the tablet dissolves, pray that the bad stuff you are talking to God about would end. But remember - you may be part of the answer to that prayer!

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

This worked to a point, but the novelty factor took over a little. On the camp, trying to make it work for 64 kids was a challenge. Using 6 stations helped, and they certainly got what we were doing. One of our boys who had ASD pointed  out the left over scum on the top of the water, saying that although God forgets when He forgives, there is always something left over (The consequences). Quite profound! I think he ‘got it’.

For the other group, I had used a different brand of vitamin tablet that had no scum, but a very strong orange smell. A great sensory experience for most, but a little too much for one child who backed away quite quickly. (In the process of being tested for ASD - so not a surprise)

For those doing this - The Wilkinson’s brand leaves scum, but not such a strong smell. The Superdrug brand is the one with a very strong smell.

NOTE: I came across this idea when working with the amazing Orison and Prayer Spaces In Schools. I just added the "pray for the bad stuff in the world" bit. 
Do check them out!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit - Zip Prayers

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5 v 3

Being poor in spirit is all about knowing you need God - the opposite is being arrogant, ‘full of yourself’, and thinking you can do things on your own and in your own way.

In this prayer activity, the zip represents where we are with God.

Zips pull things close together, so a completely closed zip means we are close to Him and fully reliant on Him. (Remember the ‘Frog’ bracelets!)

If the Zip is completely open - then that means are fully reliant on ourselves and God doesn’t get a look in.

Using the zip, think about how you rely on God.

There are lots of degrees of this - you may believe in God but still live as though you can do life without Him - so your zip could be at any point in between.

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

Because this was a bit of a tenuous link I was doubtful that all would get it, but they seemed to. Whilst I was talking about it on camp and summarising the talk with the zip, something occurred to me. Zips on jeans have a ‘lock’ mechanism - if the tab is pushed all the way down, it locks the zip at the top. So I used this to talk about staying close to God and recognising how much we need to stay close to God. 

How do you lock your “Spiritual” zip? Keep talking to Him and reading the Bible are just two things you can do!

I took great care in explaining this activity - and all, with a couple of exceptions, seemed to get it. 

The couple of exceptions were children who were over tired and grumpy. The first night on camps and conferences are always bad for children! But even they got it by the middle of the week.

On camp, there was an added bonus……

We had a some children who were bordering on ADHD. Having told the campers to keep the zip in their Bibles, I noticed that for the rest of the week they would sit and fiddle with it during the ‘talky’ bits in the meetings thus helping them to listen. I also noticed a few leaders doing the same during the day - it appeared to be a good stress reliever too!

For the conference, I was worried if our 5 and 6 year olds would get it, but on chatting to parents it seems the children managed to explain it to them word for word!

There is always the problem of zips left behind - but I hope that getting dressed in the morning and ready for bed at night will bring this teaching to mind.

This had the unusual novelty factor of using a trouser fly zip to teach about God!

(Do Check out the other prayer activities, and the introductory blog to this series)

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness - Scrabble prayers

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5 v 6)

In the prayer activity we'll be looking at our response to the righteousness given to us. In in a world where it's not fashionable to have right attitudes - what right attitudes are you most passionate about improving/having?
The campers will be putting the words they choose onto some card - scrabble style.

END OF SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

This prayer activity went better than I could have hoped! Even those with poor reading skills could join in by saying words and getting others to spell them with the scrabble blocks. We had great words, and some unique ways of using letters so they could say what they wanted (An upside-down ‘u’ used when the ‘n’ blocks ran out etc)

I actually had to call time on this activity because the children in both groups became so engrossed in what they were doing!

Here’s a couple of examples for you:

(I bought the scrabble sets from ebay - buy 6 sets and get one free. You may want to get some extra ‘n’ squares for each set!)

Beatitude Prayer Activities

Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will have seen my comments on purchasing strange things for creative prayer activities.

When we teach, we like to do a creative prayer that causes the children to stop and think about what they have heard and pray about how they can apply the teaching in their own lives.
We like these activities to be memorable, either using things the children will come across regularly or are so outrageous - they'll just recall them in those quiet moments when their minds wander.

I'm going to put some of them on here - just to spark a few ideas with folk who are (like me) keen to encourage both prayer and the application of Bible truth.

On camp this year we'll be looking at the Beatitudes. 
It's been tough preparing as I believe we often dumb down what these verses mean - turning them into a very light weight idea with wishy washy terminology. It's been tough because I want the children to have to full picture - not the 'pretty' version I was given as a child.

In our desire to make them understandable to children we have been guilty in watering them down by using words that culturally mean different things today - we've made them 'nice' rather than revolutionary.

The fact is - these words are hard hitting, active words that tell us how to live a Godly life. They are counter cultural and when applied will cause a revolution. There is nothing weak about them - they show strength in every area of our lives.

I'm up for starting a God revolution...... what about you? Care to join me?

Note: I won't be sharing them in order - I'm writing them up in the order the props arrive in the post!

Enjoy :o)