Worship is bigger than music. Even when we know that statement is true, our ministries can be very focused on worshipping God only through music. Often times this is because it can be such a powerful medium in which to worship God. However, when we allow ourselves to move outside our comfort zone, we can often learn something new about God. These stations allow students to gain a new perspective on worship as well as interacting with God in the common place.
The hope with these stations is that it will open students to worshipping God in their everyday lives and that these visual reminders will be indications of God’s constant and unfailing love.
These prayer stations were done with our middle school students at one of Birmingham’s historic landmarks, Vulcan Park & Museum which hosts the world’s largest cast iron statue.http://visitvulcan.com. Of course you probably won’t be bringing your youth group over to Birmingham just for this (although it’s a great city so you should come visit) but perhaps there is something like this in your community that can serve the same visual teaching purpose. Feel free to rearrange, change and make better these stations!
Begin by having two to three adult leaders at each station, each with their element’s talking points printed out.
As I stated before, this activity was at Vulcan Park so we made use of the statue itself for this station. Consider what you could use in a similar fashion!
Bowls of mud! Try to have only two (at most three) students per bowl. Depending on the size of your group and the amount of students in each group moving around on that night, consider this with regards to how many bowls of mud you’ll need!
You’ll also want to have towels
Similar to the mud, have multiple bowls and pitchers of water. You’ll want to have extra large water bottles to ensure you don’t run out!
You’ll want a few spare towels around at this station as well.
You’ll want enough pinecones for everyone in the largest group. (AKA if the largest group has seven students, have 8-9 pinecones at this station).
For us, we were fortunate that there is a large wall at the park covered in vines. I trust you in all your creativity can find/come up with something similar!
Pray for a nice breeze and you’ll be good to go!
Once all groups have gone through all stations, I suggest you close in a time of worship and encourage students to share where and how they experienced God in these prayer stations.
PRAYER STATIONS ARE BELOW!
Everyone, take a minute to look at the foundation that Vulcan sits on. Go ahead and touch the rock, look up and see how big this structure really is! (about 30 seconds)
Invite a student to read Matthew 7:24-27, “Building on a Solid Foundation”
In this parable, Jesus shows us how we are to structure our lives as a house built on a firm foundation. Looking up at Vulcan, I think we can all agree that Vulcan is definitely built on a firm foundation!
Now, all this is easy to say if our life is going pretty good. But what about those times when our lives are really hard? What if our “house” feels like it is built on sand? How are we suppose to get to a place where our life is built on a firm foundation? The answer is simple. You can’t. Not by yourself anyway. Many people came together to provide this structure for Vulcan to stand upon. Its wasn’t as if one person threw all this together. There were many meetings, made up of different people who specialized in different fields who, together, made this foundation.
In the same way, Jesus in this parable is telling us that we are to build our lives on a firm foundation. What are some ways that we can build a firm foundation for our lives? Allow the students to respond
What are some dangers in having a “house built on sand” that is to say, why does Jesus tell us that building our faith on something weak is dangerous? Allow students to answer
Now, I am going to invite each of you to join me in prayer, but before we pray, take a few moments to think about two things: What are the things in your life that will help build a firm foundation? What are the things in your life that might turn it to sand? Who are the people in your life that can help build your firm foundation?
Take one full minute to allow them to meditate, then close in prayer
Read John 9:1-11
This story is a messy one. It is one that is gross in a lot of ways! Can you imagine someone coming up to you and rubbing salvia-wet dirt on your eyes?
It appears though, that this story is about much more than just dirt, and even more than the miracle of healing the blind! This is a story about what happens when we get messy!
Invite the students to reach into the bowl of mud **Make sure they don’t have any rings on though** 🙂
In this messy story, Jesus shows us how the bad things in life, the unfair and the messy can actually strengthen each of us, and provide us the opportunity to share with others how, through the messy, God can work in our lives in great ways!
Invite them to hold the mud, “play with it” and reflect on times in their life that have been messy (about 30-45 seconds)
Notice how the mud gets on your hands, and how it runs in between your fingers. it can get everywhere! Mud doesn’t have to stay a bad thing. Certainly when we are wearing nice clothes and get it on them, it can be bad but mud can also be renewing. Mud can work as a cleanser to wipe away the stickiness on us, and a glue to hold us together. If we allow it, we can turn the mud into an awesome mess!
Circle up around the bowl, locking hands, with mud in each of the hands
Close in prayer, and then allow the students to wipe off their hands
My hope tonight is that you begin to look at the messy and muddy places in your life and look at them in new ways. Look at them as an opportunity to Let God grow and strengthen you, and then, like the blind man in the story, share your story with others.
Read John 4:5-14
Water is such a refreshing drink. It is sustaining and refuels us. Jesus points out in this story that even though it is refreshing and good for us, eventually we will become thirsty again.
While water is a good thing for us, I think Jesus is actually hinting to us the importance of realizing that water alone, is not enough. However, often in our busy lives we begin to settle for what is easiest.
What I mean by this, is that in our spiritual lives we can get in the routine of thinking that going to church will be enough. Like water, this is NOT a bad thing, but eventually it ends. The service is over, or its Monday morning again and often we forget to talk to God in our daily lives and rely on Him.
In this story, Jesus is actually challenging the woman to seek out more than just water. He invites her to drink in something better.
To invite God into her heart and not only to connect with God once a week but in her everyday life, so that even in the midst of good and bad things, she will be filled up with God and lean on Him to guide her everyday.
I’d like to invite each of you now to place your hand inside this bowl. I am going to start out with a prayer and once I close, I invite you to lead each of us in a prayer as well. Pray about whatever you want! Do not feel like you need to be poetic or make it sound good, I want you to simply open yourself to God through talking to him. Of course, you do not have to, but I encourage each of you to talk with our father during this time of prayer.
Take the pitcher of water and pour it over the students hands in the bowl as everyone prays. Make sure that they all remove anything that could get messed up from the water!
Tonight as we pray together, let this be an opportunity to know that God is our living and renewing water. He is everlasting and alive in us. Take this time as a way of truly feeling this water move on you and from now on, know that God is the one thing that can guide us in our everyday life.
Once you feel like each student has had the opportunity to pray, close in prayer
Read Mark 4:3-8, then invite the students to pick up a pinecone from the stack. Ask the students to examine the pinecones and list some characteristics of it. Note, to tell them not to mention the size, rather the texture, color etc.
Pinecones are rough. They have prickly points and once they fall from the pine tree, they even begin to turn gray in color! Honestly, its a sad process in a lot of ways. It falls and withers away, just like some of the plants in this parable.
However, pinecones have seeds inside them. Seeds that, given the chance, will fall onto fertile ground and one day become a HUGE pine tree like some of the ones around us.
Our lives are pretty noisy, wouldn’t you agree? What are some of the things in your daily life that can be really noisy and distracting? Allow students to respond
Often, we are told by many sources who we are, and who we are suppose to be. We are told what to wear and what to say. We are even told what to think!
I think this parable is talking about more than just where to plant a seed. This parable teaches us that there is a place for us to look at, when we wonder and question who we are and who we are suppose to be. Let’s read this passage again, only this time, consider the seed to be you. Ask a student to read
Now, back to this pinecone. The pinecone in your hand fell at some point, and when it did seeds fell from it, trying to reach fertile ground. Some were eaten up by birds and bugs; others tried to grow on ground that just wasn’t meant to help grow anything. Some though, found the right kind of place to grow.
At some point in your life, if not already, you are going to experience a time of falling. Whether its from something you did, or had done to you, or perhaps even the loss of a loved one, there will be times of falling in your life. I don’t say this to scare you, but rather to prepare you.
I wish I knew how to prevent us from messing up and could stop bad things from happening; or at least know why they happen, but the truth is I doubt any of us ever will.
But I think Jesus through this parable, teaches us how to make it through these falling times. By placing ourselves around people who will nurture us and care for us, we can grow our faith and come out stronger and grow in a way that helps others, too!
You know, those pinecones do fall, but by them falling, they can turn back into great trees that can help the environment around them. Whenever you begin to fall, remember to reach out to the kinds of people that will nurture and care for you. Your parents, the volunteers in the youth group, are all here because we love you and want to be here for you in the falling times, as people have done for each of us in the past. Never be afraid to ask for help and remember that only you can decide where you will land.
Close in prayer
Read John 15:4-17
Look at the vines around this wall. Do you see how they grow and move and twist? They all started at some origin and have grown and moved all over this wall and will continue to move past it in every direction. Their branches, too, are reaching out trying to grab on to more places to move and grow.
Jesus says in verse 5 “Yes, I am the vine; are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing”
Think back to a time when you were trying to accomplish something, but needed help doing it. Whether in sports or school or whatever. What was one of those times for you? Why couldn’t you do it alone? Allow students to share
In this passage Jesus is telling each of us that we are to do two things:
We are to stay rooted in God, to stay attached and connected to Him, knowing that only through God’s help, can we grow in our faith and love of God. Life can be very hard sometimes, but here Jesus gives us a way of looking at God as the divine gardner who will help grow us in the everyday. The key however, is to allow God to grow us. What I mean by this, is look at the way in which the vines grow. Each move in a unique way. They do not all move the same exact direction and each have different shaped branches, widths, and textures. Christ as the vine, is moving in each of us in unique and special ways. The way in which God can grow us, is by trusting in God to grow us just as we are. If these vines and branches all went the same way, then all they would be do is copying each other, providing no real beauty or intricacy. God has made each of you in a unique and special way. He has created you to be the branches of this world, to grow it and reach others in it.
As the branches then, it is our job to grow as God would want us to, and reach out to those who do not know the love of God. Look again at the vine and branches. They are not yelling at us and telling us who they are, and that we should follow them. They are simply being what they are called by God to be. The vine and branches this world.
Likewise, we are to show God’s love to ALL people. Regardless of what they do, say or believe, God calls us to love them fully with every bit of strength and love that God provides us with.
The last verse, reads “This is my command: Love each other.” There is a lot of room for interpretation in many places within the Bible. This is one of those places, however that can’t be interpreted any more than Jesus laid it out to be. Love each other.
Like I said earlier, each branch is unique, so as you leave this place tonight, my prayer and challenge to you is that when you go back to school tomorrow morning, you look at yourself as a branch of God, called to SHOW love to everyone you see and meet. And never forget that each of us is uniquely made by God and even if we don’t see the beauty in us and others, God does.
Close in Prayer
Invite the students to sit with you in a circle.
Do you feel the wind blowing on you? Can you see the wind moving other things around us? The wind is one of the most powerful natural occurring things in this world. The wind also provides an outlet for us to see God. Perhaps you have never thought about God in the wind, but now in this time we are going to look at seeing God in the wind. Before we continue, let’s take some time now, to breath. To relax, and as we do, feel the wind moving through you.
Take one minute to do this, and tell the students that it will be about a min. of silence, and instruct them to take in deep breaths, fully relaxing themselves. Encourage them to lay down if they want, even.
Have you ever questioned where God is? If he even exists? Don’t feel like this is a bad thing or that you should feel ashamed for it, but if you do and feel comfortable, share a time when you have wondered about God’s existence. Perhaps even now you are. Again, here me when I say that it is OKAY to question is God exists or at least if He is really a part of our lives.
After they have had time to respond, Do you have question the existence of the wind? (pause) I mean, we cannot see the wind really. We can’t hold it nor does it really talk to us, yet I bet none of us here have ever questioned if the wind is real.
Tonight, I want to give you an opportunity to feel and KNOW God in a new way.
It can be very easy sometimes to believe that God is not real. Honestly, people can probably list more ways to disprove God than to prove Him. However, I don’t think that this is because of “lack of evidence” that God leaves, rather I believe that we put God in a box, a box that has a list of criteria that will prove God’s existence and when that list is not filled and the box is not filled, we decide that God must not be real.
Like I said, we often put God is a box, by putting human expectations on the manner in which God should reveal Himself. Tonight, my hope is for us to begin to look at God, not even outside the box, but without one at all!
Think back to a time in your life when you needed God. When you cried out to Him, or simply just needed some reassurance that He is with you and loves you. Now, maybe in those times you were able to see God working, but perhaps you didn’t. Consider this, what if God works like the wind? Always present, always moving. Like the wind, we cannot see God, nor can we reach out and grab Him. However, like the wind, God moves in a way, that moves others. He shifts and bends and guides so that other things do so.
Have you ever gotten a text message or a phone call, or even a facebook message where someone said something to you that was exactly what you needed to hear. Or had a friend or mentor show up in the midst of a hard time where you just needed to know someone cared.
What if every one of those times were ways in which God was moving. You see, like the wind, God doesn’t have to show up in a physical, tangible way for us to know He is there. The wind will move the trees, and the flowers and the plants and the leaves, even when we can’t see the wind.
God moves like the wind, using others to reach out to us in the midst of our brightest and darkest times. My prayer for you tonight, is that you begin to examine the ways God has moved in you and for you in your life, and that you will now be looking for those ways in which God moves like the wind for you. The next time you feel the wind, my prayer is that you know that God is like the wind, and that He has never and will never leave your side.
Now I invite to take another minute to breath and reflect on where God is blowing in your life. Breath in deep, and know that God is with you always.
Close In Prayer