Saturday, January 24, 2009
Children and Prayer and I'm off to a Conference!!
I ran a training morning today on "praying with and for children".
I did a little recap on Westerhoff's stages of faith development, in order that we might think a little bit about the type of language we use when we pray with and for children. I think a number of us realised that we can easily "get stuck" when teaching children how to pray by:-
(a) thinking that we actually know all the answers about how to pray (!)
(b) "dumbing down" prayer with children
(c) holding children back to one stage of praying "thank you" prayers, for example; when actually some children may be ready to learn about intercession
(d) holding children back by teaching about prayer when we have limited expectancy ourselves.
Ivy Beckwith, in her book Postmodern Children's Ministry, speaks about the difference between Baby Boomers/Busters and Millenials - basically - what has been our practice in the past doesn't cut it for the future - something is afoot within the younger generations; no longer is passive acceptance of the status quo acceptable - nor desirable!
Beckwith states that children born since the year 2000 are seeking an experiential relationship with God. We looked this morning at "phileo" love - demonstrated natural affection, which God shows to his children; and we looked at the place of prayer in young lives which seek to (need to?) know the demonstrated affection of God. I challenged folks to think about how our own practice and experience of prayer can be challenged to the core when we hear children pray (which could be why we reign it in at times??)
She says (on page 31) "they want to experience something before they learn about it. They want to experience God, not just learn about God. They want mystery and mysticism. They don't just want to be entertained".
[glad about that last line. I hate puppets]
Here are some steps on how to move children on in prayer. Steps 1 to 5 are suggestions by John and Chris Leach, in "And For Your Children".
Step 6 is my own suggestion.
Step 1 – leader does everything – chooses a prayer subject, prays about it and says “amen” at the end. Subjects need to be simple and relevant, linked to the teaching. The leader models short jargon-free prayers. Eventually the children join in with “amen”.
Step 2 – the children repeat prayers phrase by phrase with the leader.
Step 3 – the children are asked to suggest items for prayer, then back to step 2.
Step 4 – children suggest items for prayer and the leader suggests how they might pray. This could be a set formula like “dear Lord, please look after ________ this week. Amen.”
Step 5 – Children think of an issue and pray out loud.
Step 6 – (my suggestion/practice) – children lay hands on one another and pray simple prayers for them, are able to deliver words and pictures, and ask God to intervene in situations. Their boldness grows the more they practise this.
I'm off to Englandshire on Monday to a three day conference with these folks. Specially for children's pastors/leaders. Can't wait! Will report back.