Worship Workshop: Prayers & Pajamas Party for Preschoolers
Prayer is the way we talk with God. Prayer helps to shape our hearts to be more like God’s heart and to love and see the world the way God does. Prayer is also a beautiful way to remind children God loves them and wants to be included in their lives, their thoughts, and their hopes. Most of the time we think of prayers with kids as the ones we memorize like the Lord’s Prayer, the ones we say before dinner or bedtime, and the ones when we ask for God’s help with whatever is going on in our lives. These are all great practices of prayer and should be a regular part of discipleship with kids. This Worship Workshop on prayer is meant to expand the prayer practices of children and families and invite them into various kinds of active and contemplative styles of prayer. After all, prayer can be so much more than something we do while sitting still with our eyes closed! It certainly is a whole lot more than just asking God for stuff which is what we tend to do. This practice of prayer falls short of the intention of prayer and leaves kiddos (and adults) with big questions when God does not answer their prayers.
This family event is geared particularly toward families with preschoolers. Kiddos are invited to come to church in their pajamas at evening time (what could be more fun!), enjoy story time, milk and cookies, learn about practices of prayer, make a prayer pillowcase, and go home with a toothbrush goody bag and information about upcoming programs. We did this as an evening event with preschoolers and their families. Families went around to different stations with their kids and did activities together based on various practices of prayer. We gathered together for a mini lesson on prayer and a bit of story time and then spread out to make prayer pillowcases pre-printed with the children’s names. This event could certainly be done with elementary age children, broken up into separate lessons for Sunday School, or as ideas for families to practice at home together. I hope these ideas inspire you to explore the practice of prayer with children!
Prayer Station Ideas:
Prayer Ideas Book: When families arrive, they are given page one of a little booklet made with hole punched cardstock and a binder ring. They are encouraged to add several pre-printed prayers for their children to read or memorize and then make their way to all the other stations on prayer in any order they prefer. Families assemble their own book by walking around to the other stations, experiencing the practice of prayer, and adding an instruction card to their prayer idea book. By the end of the night, families should have experienced various kinds of prayer and left with a booklet of instructions to guide them for future practice. TIP: To avoid carpal tunnel from hole punching a million cards, use a drill with a large bit instead of a hole puncher to pre-punch all the cards.
Bubble Map Prayers: Bubble maps are generally a tool used at school to make associations in preparation for writing. We used this tool as a guide for adoration prayers for God. Ask your kids what God is like to them. Is God strong like “The Hulk” or loving like Grandma? Adoration prayers help us to see God’s work around us and put God first in our prayers and in our life. To make a bubble map prayer for this event, we used black construction paper and white crayons and added sparkly star stickers for fun. Kids can draw pictures or write words to depict their prayers.
Gratitude Jar: Gratitude or Thank You Jars are a great tool for prayers of thanksgiving. Kids were invited to get a large jar, colorful small papers, and pencils. They could write or draw something they are thankful for on each paper. Gratitude prayers are helpful to remember the many ways we are blessed by God and the ways God is working in our lives. Sometimes thanksgiving prayers remind us of the blessings we tend to forget when we’re busy and distracted. Most people think of this activity at Thanksgiving. But, it can be a quick way of daily prayer which can turn into an intentional time of thanksgiving when there is time to open the jar and read each prayer together. This would be great to do monthly or perhaps weekly as a way to celebrate the Sabbath.
Sand Prayers: Sand prayers are a beautiful way to pray prayers of confession. Children are invited to draw or write something they’d like to confess to God and then wipe over their drawing as a symbol of God’s forgiveness. Similar to erasing chalkboard prayers or tearing up written prayers, the physical change present in this prayer is helpful to children in their concrete manner thinking. They have the opportunity to confess and repent from whatever is on their heart. For this station, we took large cookie sheets and filled them with colored beach sand. Children used their fingers to draw their prayers.
Pipe Cleaner Prayers: Pipe cleaners and glow in the dark beads are used for these prayers of petition for people and things we have on our hearts. Children are invited to add a bead to a pipe cleaner to symbolize different people or things they are praying for. They can turn their pipe cleaner into a bracelet or another shape. We used glow in the dark pony beads for fun! WARNING: People of all ages love beads. Be prepared for the entire table to be filled with adults making a pipe cleaner prayer.
Calm Down Corner: Prayer can also be a form of contemplation and meditation. For this kind of prayer, all that is truly needed is a quiet space. We made it more kid friendly with a cute little tent, bean bag chairs, and several calm down jars made with mason jars and bottles filled with colored water, glitter, and oil. Coloring sheets with Bible verses and a few colored pencils are another way to pray in this manner.
Sand Paper Prayers: Just like adults, kids forget that our prayers don’t always have to be happy. We can also pray when we are angry, bothered, or upset. A simple piece of sand paper was used in this prayer station to touch and think about what is feeling rough and in need of God’s soothing.
Bubble Wrap Prayers: In full disclosure, this prayer station didn’t turn out the way I hoped. The temptation of popping and stomping bubble wrap gave this station more giggles and less thoughtfulness than I had hoped for. But, who says that silence and reverence has to be a part of releasing our worries to God? In that spirit, perhaps it was a success. For this station, sheets of bubble wrap were piled on the table.
Lesson Time: After sufficient time to allow for everyone to make it around to the stations, we gathered for a short lesson and story time. I asked the children if anyone knew particular prayers and had many volunteers to demonstrate their knowledge of the Lord’s Prayer and even a few who knew Psalm 23. I read a short book about God with a helpful line that repeated which I asked everyone to say aloud to keep their attention. We also used this time as I had everyone’s attention to highlight a few upcoming events and programs at our church for families.
Prayer Pillowcases: I’m not going to lie… This part of the evening is a little labor intensive and a tad pricey. But, it was a good chance to learn how to use my new Cricut and an opportunity for the kids to leave with a really nice takeaway to put prayer into daily practice. I made an iron on with my cricut and ironed each child’s name onto a plain pillowcase. Families were invited to spread out around the room and use fabric markers to write prayers or people they pray for on their pillowcases. The visual of a whole room of people spread out on the floor praying in this way was worth all the work.
Treats & Goodie Bags: No family event would be complete without a little treat. So, we finished the night with cookies and cute mini coffee cups of milk. We asked a local dentist for toothbrushes and toothpaste and filled up goodie bags with a little toy and information about upcoming programming.
So, that is Prayers and Pajamas night! I hope the ideas in this event are a blessing to you and your community!