That New Guy #5 : Night of Prayer & Worship

prayer stations youth ministry

I was sitting on a barstool in our lobby, looking at a map where our church body has written prayers for the nations.  Then I felt God saying FSM was to have a night of prayer and worship.  If we’re being honest, I didn’t buy it at first.  I felt like it would crash and burn.  A lot of our students have a hard time not needing to pee in the 40-60 minutes we’re “in our service.”  Many of our students are either new believers, or are fairly young.  We hadn’t ever tried something like this in my time at this campus.  I was doubtful.

The more I prayed about it, the more excited I got about it.  I cut a week off the end of our series UNSPEAKABLE and slated an entire midweek service for a night of creative prayer and worship.  I wanted ideas, so I Skyped, Starbucksed, and Sat-in-their-officed with a few pastors and creatives to help me brainstorm.  I wanted to try to gather as many ideas as I could, so that I could weed out as I prayed for the week.  Before moving forward, I want to voice my concerns that Wednesday afternoon, hours before the service started

  • I was doing a night dedicated to only prayer and worship at a crowd-level event.  It’d been a couple weeks since a new student had come, but what if they did come and they were weirded out!  Turns out, the first 4 students in the door were new or hadn’t been there since August.
  • One student would say, “This is dumb, I’m out.”  It only takes one pushing back to ruin it for others.
  • Students wouldn’t take it seriously.
Here’s a general schedule for the night.  We went a little over, because explaining each section to the students took longer than I’d anticipated.
  • 5 Minutes – Students enter worship center.  As they enter, a volunteer gives each one a number 1-5.  This way, students aren’t going to end up grouped with people they would be tempted to talk to, and it’s “fair”.  There’s only 5-8 rows of chairs left, off to the side.  Students find a seat and talk/chat/predict-why-chairs-and-r0om-is-weird until countdown ends.
  • 3 Minutes – I get up, recognize the weirdness, and give them a few announcements about the rest of the week.
  • 5 Minutes (went long) – Walk to each area, explain what is happening there, why it’s important, and what to do.  This way, they see the space they’ll occupy, they hear the vision and reason why we’re doing it, and they know the steps for each one.
  • 2 Minutes – Ask for questions.  Recognize that this is going to be awkward at times, and that it’s okay for it to feel awkward, just push through.  I also asked that they refrain from bathroom breaks and small talk.  “Even if somehow perusing through the lobby and maybe going to the bathroom doesn’t distract you, it could really throw of people around you.”
  • 1 Minute – Pray and dismiss to their first area.
  • 5 Minutes – Prayer Section 1.  We had our worship leader on keys and an acoustic guitar player.  They just picked to fill in the background noise so it wouldn’t be awkward silence or distracting music.  I signal the end of each prayer time with a short prayer of my own into the mic.  Each time, I ended with a prayer based off of one of the areas the students were in.
  • 2 Minutes – Everyone comes back to the front near the stage and we sing the chorus of a worship song they’re familiar with.  This lets them move around a little more, and breaks up the monontony of “Pray here…pray here….now pray here…..pray harder.”   I don’t remember what all songs we did.  Cannons, Our God, Forever Reign, and a couple more throughout the night.
  • 5 Minutes – Prayer Section 2
  • 2 Minutes – Gather at the front for familiar chorus.
  • 5 Minutes – Prayer Section 3
  • 2 Minutes – Gather at the front for familiar chorus.
  • 5 Minutes – Prayer Section 4
  • 2 Minutes – Gather at the front for familiar chorus.
  • 5 Minutes – Prayer Section 5
  • 4 Minutes – End at the front with a full song of worship.
  • 2 Minutes – Dismiss
Here’s a video walk through of each of our stations, and below you’ll find a few points on each one!

 

  • I want students to recognize their school is a huge ministry for them. Giving them a visual, tangible expression was important.
  • For the displays, I went to GOOGLE EARTH, screen captured their schools, traced the buildings as best I could, and used BLOCK POSTERS to create them.  They’re just taped on the walls!
  • Used ballpoint pens.  Sharpies or markers would have left a cooler look, but also could have ended up on the walls!
  • I was upfront with them in telling them (here, as well as station #3), “I want you to realize that this building, these buildings, are your battlefield.  I want you looking at your school, teachers, and friends with the understanding that YOU are their pastor, THEY are who you’re called to minister to!”
  • If I could do it again, I’d make sure students knew to use the time to pray for their area after they signed it, as well as putting a sticker on the front entrance of each.  Students spent a long time trying to figure out which building was which.

 

  • Crayons + Construction Paper + Tape + Colored Pencils + Glue + Scissors.
  • Remember to give several examples of how students can do this!  Some I gave were “Think of a major blessing in your life and draw that scene.”   “Read your favorite Psalm and use that as inspiration.”  They’re easy to come up with, and students LOVE this, but they just need some guidence in it.
  • Make sure there’s enough light for them to see!
  • I should have given them a little more space to spread out and not be all up in Area #1’s business.

 

  • This was the easiest, but the most memorable.
  • Make sure if you only have 4 chairs, you don’t have 5+ people in a group.
  • THIS station is why up front, I addressed the awkwardness.  I knew they’d try and address it themselves by giggling, etc, if I didn’t address and recognize it for them!
  • I wanted them to pray for their table here, but just like #1, I more importantly wanted them going to lunch the next day with a different perspective.
  • Originally, I thought about adding lunch trays, cups, silverware, etc, to be “environmental.”  Turns out, one of the biggest advantages was that this was the only station where there was nothing they could fidget with, they were forced to simply pray.

 

  • Without question, this station took the longest to prepare.  Listing all of our missionaries, organizations, and church plants took the better part of a morning.  It was a humbling experience for me, though!
  • I wanted students to realize God and life exists outside of our little town.
  • Looking back, I didn’t do a great job expressing to my students what to actually do here.  Most got it, but some junior highers just stood there looking around the room.

 

  • Overall, students probably engaged best with this time.  Like I mentioned in the video, they were encouraged to first ask God what quarter (something that has taken their top priority) has taken their attention, and then write a letter asking God to forgive them, and help them as they seek to pursue him, and drop their quarters.
  • They were spread out on the floor, so clip boards were important.
  • I was sure to stress that their letters would not be read and didn’t even need to be signed.
  • Make sure you don’t read their letters.  It was very tempting, but I didn’t!
  • If anyone wants some context, I could possibly shoot you a link to the sermon on quarters, or at least the manuscript or outline for it.

 

OVERALL, the night was a huge win.  It was a LOT of work for me, even just emptying out the worship area of the chairs, but it was totally worth it.  We’ll probably do something along these lines each semester.  Some of the stations, like ART, are easily repeated.  Others, like OWN YOUR SCHOOL, will not have the same impact if repeated.  I’ve got a running list in my office, so when next semester comes, I won’t be reinventing the wheel.

 

What about you?  Have you ever done an evening like this with your students?  What worked?  What didn’t work?  If you have any questions about how I did any of mine, let me know in the comments!

PS.  As far as my first concern at the very top?  I told God I was freaking out about that…and felt a very specific, pointed response.  “Austin, am I not bigger than your perceived oversights?”

 

Comments

  1. Katy Johnston

     This sounds awesome. I’d love to host this at our church for all the churches in our community and have them go back in as a united force. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Marcus Byrd

    This is an amazing idea! I think you have created a way to make prayer not about ourselves! I struggle to get our youth to see that when they talk to God it doesn’t have to be about them. I love that you have recreated scenes in their own life to help them see perspective as well as pulling things a part from them that they can pray for. Thank you for sharing and having courage to go through with it despite preconceived doubts.

  3. Marcus Byrd

    This is an amazing idea! I think you have created a way to make prayer not about ourselves! I struggle to get our youth to see that when they talk to God it doesn’t have to be about them. I love that you have recreated scenes in their own life to help them see perspective as well as pulling things a part from them that they can pray for. Thank you for sharing and having courage to go through with it despite preconceived doubts.

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