We needed to make prayer more meaningful for the students in our ministry. Sure, our students were bowing their heads as we prayed during worship, but were we giving them the opportunity to take it any further than that? Were we helping them connect to the life changing power of God in a personal way or were we expecting them to figure that out on their own?
After a bit of brainstorming and research, we found four great ways to help unleash the power of prayer for our students.
Make Prayer Interactive
It is easier for our students to participate, focus and connect when they were doing something creative and hands on during prayer. Prayer stations help meet this need. We incorporate stations at our spring retreat and for special worship experiences.
In addition to the myriad of online sources we also found the book, “Sacred Space”, by Lilly Lewin and Dan Kimball to be a great resource. Prayer Stations are a simple way to help students connect to God in a powerful way and also to connect to the scripture in a way that really sticks. We also found that adding small interactive response times to worship encouraged the students to prayerfully consider the message. This could be something as simple as having them come to a cross and hammer in a nail while reflecting on and thanking God for the gift in the sacrifice of Jesus.
Provide Opportunities for Solitude
In today’s world of constant, instant connection, students are rarely given the opportunity to spend time in solitude with Jesus. Most of the time, they don’t even know what that means, or why it is important.
We have done this is by creating a prayer room in our youth area. Our youth room is one large, open area, so we had to get creative about where to put it. Our solution was to use a pop up canopy and cover the outside with sheets to create a “room”. We added rugs, sheer fabric, christmas lights, lanterns, large pillows and bean bags to create a prayerful environment. Our prayer room is open before and after worship every Sunday night for students to use. Whatever way you decide on, providing them an opportunity for quiet Jesus time is essential.
Incorporate Traditional Elements
Sometimes we try to shy away from traditional worship elements in youth ministry for fear that the students will find them boring. I have found that many students crave more traditional ways of worshipping, since it is something not frequently offered to them.
We have been working on ways to incorporate traditional prayers and creeds, with a modern twist, into our youth worship experiences. We used the stations of the cross from the United Methodist Book of Worship to create an interactive Easter prayer journey. We turned each station into a stop on an interactive prayer walk that we set up around our gym. Students were able to walk through the story of Christ’s sacrifice and experience his love and grace at each stop. Each station included a hands on component, a personal prayer component and a reflection item to take home. It was one of the most powerful Easter celebrations we have had for our teens. I encourage you to find ways to incorporate tradition into your youth ministry. You won’t regret it.
Give Them Opportunities to Pray for Each Other
We found that our students desired to lift each other up in prayer and began to seek ways to make that happen. We tried a variety of things, including sharing concerns during worship, which totally freaked our students out. After trial and error, we finally settled on a prayer board in our room where students can post prayer concerns and other students can read the concerns and pray for them. Finding ways to encourage your students to pray for one another not only improves their prayer lives, but it also brings them closer together as a group.
I firmly believe that students who are connected to God through prayer will experience his power, love and grace in life changing, world changing ways. If you seek to see the face of your student ministry change, and the face of your community changed as a result, it begins and ends with prayer, and not just yours.