Lord’s Prayer Stations!

27 02 2012

my favorite station: "Forgive us our trespasses..."

Last night, as part of our Lenten series on prayer, we set up a series of small group stations to take an interactive look at the Lord’s Prayer.  I’m including our planning resource as a free download if you ever want to use it!

Download here: Lords Prayer Stations

Here’s what made this work (for us…of course, feel free to adapt with your own group!):

1. We did NOT have the students go to the stations in order. At each station, the youth received a foam puzzle piece, on which they re-wrote that section of the Lord’s prayer (in youth-friendly words!)  After completing all the stations, each small group put their puzzle together to see their final version of the prayer.

2. We gave each group a candle to take with them to each station, as a way of marking that space as sacred.  This simple technique helped keep the youth focused throughout the evening!

3. These stations really engaged all five senses (including smell and taste, which  I find notoriously hard to incorporate into Bible study!)

4. We paired a high school senior up with each of the middle school groups…and it worked great!  Our seniors stepped up to the challenge of leading their groups, and the middle schoolers loved having a “fun adult” at the stations with them.  Afterward, one of the seniors remarked, “My favorite part was at the end, when I had them put their puzzle together and read what they had written.  That’s when I realized: they got it.  It worked.”  

(And when he shared that, I thought the exact same thing!)

Taste and See: The Lord’s Prayer

13 09 2010

As the third lesson in our series on prayer, we focused on one of the most liturgically familiar prayers from Scripture: the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).  This particular prayer has been a part of Christian liturgy and tradition from the very beginning of Christendom; one of the earliest extant Christian documents, the Didache, instructs believers to pray three times a day.  It includes the text of the Lord’s prayer as an example.

Most of my students grew up attending traditional worship services, where this prayer is said every week.  As such, most of them learned the words out of repetition.  In the lesson, I hoped to capitalize on the familiarity of this prayer while also bringing them to a new understanding of the words.

Beforehand, I created giant signs out of construction paper (tied with yarn) that included short phrases from the Lord’s Prayer.  On the back of the signs, I included Scripture references (for use later in the lesson):

Our Father in heaven: Luke 11:11-13, Psalm 103:13

Hallowed be your name: Nehemiah 9:4-6, Isaiah 6:1-4

Your kingdom come: Mark 1:14-15, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 13:18-21

Your will be done: Psalm 139:15-16, Psalm 40:8, Isaiah 55:9-11

On earth as it is in heaven: Philippians 2:5-11, Revelation 5:13-14

Give us today our daily bread: Matthew 6:25, 31-34; Exodus 16:1-4

Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors: Colossians 2:13-15; Matthew 6:14-15, Leviticus 25:39-41

Lead us not into temptation: James 1:12-15; Matthew 4:1-2

Deliver us from the evil one: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Acts 2:18-21

I hung one signs on each student’s back (so they could not read what they had); then, in total silence, they had to get themselves in order.  Only after they finished did they get to see what sign they had, and read the prayer together.  Then we talked about their own personal experience with this prayer (Is this familiar to you? How did you learn it? What does it mean to you? Do you have any particular memories of this prayer? etc.)

We looked up the original text of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and then I invited the youth to split off by themselves and silently read and reflect on the Scripture references on the back of their signs (if we had had  a really big group, I would have had them do this in small groups).  Then we came back together, and I had each student share their portion of the Lord’s Prayer, with a paraphrase or explanation based on the Scripture passages that they had just read.  (The main question here was, “Why is this  particular phrase important to the prayer as a whole?”)

Then, we took a step back and read Matthew 6:5-13, focusing in especially on verses 6-8. How does Jesus’ sample prayer actually fulfill the instructions about prayer that he gives during the Sermon on the Mount?

Appropriately enough, we closed our session with the Lord’s Prayer!

Prophetic Imagination and the Lord’s Prayer

23 08 2009

(Just in case you’ve lost track along the way — I almost did 🙂 — I’m in the midst of reading Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination and am blogging my thoughts, one chapter at a time.  This entry is inspired by chapter 5: “Criticism and Pathos in Jesus of Nazareth.”  Click for more food for thought about chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, or chapter 4)

Brueggemann opens his chapter about Jesus of Nazareth with a disclaimer: “Clearly Jesus cannot be understood simply as a prophet, for that designation, like every other, is inadequate for the historical reality of Jesus.  Nevertheless, among his other functions it is clear that Jesus functioned as a prophet.”  Brueggemann’s study give us the tools and language to understand that particular function of his ministry, and I have a feeling I’ll be referring to this book in my Bible studies for years to come.  Obviously, Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven are a huge part of that prophetic ministry, and his ushering in the kingdom can be seen a radical criticism of the status quo.

One thing that stuck out to me was the radical prayer that Jesus offers his disciples in Matthew 6.  On the surface, it may not seem immediately radical to us, especially for those of us who grew up in liturgical traditions and prayed this prayer every single week.  But some of the phrases stuck out to me for their rhetorical power in building up that alternative consciousness, which God has been establishing from the beginning:

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

Prophetic messages are empty if they are removed from God.  For prophets who proclaim social justice or religious freedom, it is essential to know the reason for that social justice and freedom and compassion.  And within the Judaic context, the prophet had a whole rich history of religion — the religion of a people in covenant relationship with their God — to use in his message.

Part of the prophetic message is about setting God apart from the gods of other religions.  Moses’ message declared that our  God — YHWH — is free to love and reach out and show compassion to the broken-hearted and oppressed (as opposed to the stagnant gods of Egypt, who served Pharaoh).  Second Isaiah’s message declared that God called the weary-hearted people near to him to carry them and save them.

Jesus’ ministry attested to both of these prophetic messages.  And in this prayer he sets this God apart, as hallowed in heaven.  This God is greater than any other god we could ever dream up.

Your kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

Brueggemann makes the great point that the kingdom of God was radical for everyone, in one way or another.  In true prophetic form, Jesus’ kingdom message offered both mercy and criticism simultaneously.  For example … his ministry to the poor radically challenged the status quo of economic justice, and directly criticized those who profited from others’ poverty.  His ministry to the oppressed also implied that their was another class of people, the oppressors, who would be threatened by his message.  And so on.

So what did this kingdom look like on earth?  Jesus gave us some idea by the way in which he lived out his life, crossing social boundaries with his radical love and compassion.  He broke the Sabbath law, he ate with sinners, he touched the outcasts and the lepers, he crossed gender boundaries in allowing women to join his ministry, he criticized the temple.  Nothing was “safe.”  This kingdom on earth instituted a new social order and thus affected every aspect of life.  And today, we can learn both from the hope and the criticism, as we embody this kingdom-living in our own lives.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Earlier, Brueggemann established that the image of bread was used by Isaiah to symbolize the sustenance offered by God.  Jesus takes the image of bread several steps further: first he recalls Isaiah’s words as he declares that he is the bread of life, and later he breaks bread at the Last Supper to symbolize his own death.   In the first instance, he establishes himself as the daily bread referenced in the prayer; he is all we need for sustenance.  In the second instance, he shows how the process works — through his death and resurrection.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Stay with me here — this is the coolest part of the prayer.  Jesus’ ministry certainly demonstrated radical forgiveness, and we should never underestimate the power of forgiveness.  It has the potential to dismantle societies (in a good way — in a modern context, I’m thinking of initiatives like As We Forgive and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in various countries).  And notice the past tense of the second phrase — “as we have [already] forgiven.”  As Jesus instructed us during his Sermon on the Mount, we are expected to make our amends and be reconciled to our neighbors before we come to God in prayer or worship.

But it’s not just about forgiving sins — although that’s important.  The most literal translations use the word “debts.”  As in money.  As in, this prayer has radical social, political, and economic implications.  We often interpret Jesus’ debt-forgiveness parablesmetaphorically, forgetting how literally he speaks about money elsewhere in the gospels.   And in fact, the concept of debt forgiveness, among other things, had deep roots in Levitical law.  Leviticus 25 talks about a year of Jubilee, which proclaimed economic freedom for the poor of Israel, to be celebrated every 50 years.  This is the economic order as ordained by God.

So what a promise and blessing that must be for all of us, to know that we are living in the year of the Lord’s favor, as proclaimed by that radical prophet, Jesus of Nazareth!!

Youth Ministry

20 08 2013

Feel free to use or steal any of my ideas! However, I’d love to hear about how you’re using them and how they’re working out for you. Leave a comment or send me an email to tell me about what you’re doing!

Lesson Plans

10 Commandments (5 lessons)
The Walking Dead (4 lessons)
The Lord’s Prayer (1 lesson)

Art Projects

Mirror Etching
Mosaic Crosses
Pallet Art: Worship Background

Creative Prayer and Worship

All Saints’ Day Prayer Stations
Lord’s Prayer Stations
Sidewalk Chalk Prayers
Stations of the Cross (Year 1)


The Silly Bandz Post

24 05 2010

This is the story of my Silly Bandz…and about how God works in mysterious, and sometimes downright weird, ways.

If you do not know what a Silly Band is, I feel so sorry for you: either you have been living under a rock lately, or you are a grown-up who lives in the real world.  In either case, I will try to enlighten you: Silly Bandz are the newest craze in fashion.  They are silicone rubber bands that have been molded into various shapes: dollar signs, toucans, magic wands, guitars, etc.  Kids wear them as bracelets, use them as rubber bands, show them off, trade them, etc.  You can buy them at Wal-Mart, dollar stores, online…

My encounter with Silly Bandz began a few weeks ago.  One of my youth counselors had bought the “Holy” set of bandz, and she presented me with two of my very own: a cross and a dove.  I have to admit, my first reaction was one of annoyance: this was yet another example of a cultural fad being co-opted by the Christian-consumerism machine.

But then I wore them around for a few weeks.  And I found that these two little pieces of silicone were the best conversation-starters I could have ever dreamed up.  Every time I met a new middle schooler (at church or outside of church), our conversation began in one of two ways:  1. “Oh, you have Silly Bandz too!” or 2. “Which Silly Bandz do you have?  Look, I’ve got these…”

Yesterday, I taught our high school Sunday School class.  In celebration of Pentecost Sunday, our lesson focused on the Holy Spirit.  However, the five high schoolers who showed up were less than enthused about being awake at 9:30 a.m., much less about having to talk and think about God.  After several minutes of crickets chirping, I took off my orange Silly Band and decided to try something new.

“Look,” I said.  “This Silly band represents the Holy Spirit, for me.  It’s shaped like a dove, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  But it’s also orange, and it kind of looks like a tongue of fire.  Fire’s another symbol of the Holy Spirit.  I also think it kind of looks like a hat, although I’m not sure how that relates…no wait, yes I do!” (I was getting more excited by the second)  “On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles, so it was like they were wearing a hat of the Holy Spirit!”

My students were smiling now.  Probably they were making fun of my dorkiness, but I like to believe I had given them an image to remember. “What’s your other Silly Band?” asked one of the girls.

I showed them the yellow cross. “Obviously this one represents Jesus.  So it seems I’m just missing one that will be a symbol of God the Father, so if any of you have a Silly Band that might complete my trinity, let me know.”

Believe it or not, that actually led into a mildly interesting discussion about the nature of the Trinity.  (“Is it really one God if there are three different forms?”)  And our Sunday School lesson carried on.

This afternoon, I taught violin lessons up at the Noel Community Arts Program.  Alice, one of my six-year-old students, was wearing about 15 Silly Bandz on one arm.  The first thing she said as she entered her lesson was, “Do you really only have two Silly Bandz?”

She felt sorry for me, apparently, and asked her mom if she could give me one of hers.  Her mom said yes, and so she began the process of picking one to give away.  In the end, she gave me a Silly Band from her “Princess” set; I suspect she chose it because it was gray, and thus the least interesting band on her arm.  Nonetheless, when she handed it to me, I could hardly believe my eyes:

Unwittingly, she had picked the perfect symbol to complete my Trinity.  My mind started racing through the stories of the Bible: from YHWH’s role as the “first king” of Israel, through that wonderful phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come.”  The entire story of our faith, it seems, can be summed up by three colorful silicone bands.  (And two of them glow in the dark!  That’s a whole other good piece of symbolism, for some other day)

I suppose I'm wearing my theology on my wrist now!


21 02 2010

Just wanted to share a poem by Frederick Ohler that spoke to me today:


Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy —
neither “the Great and Powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Your visitation

At our Ash Wednesday service last week, Ashley talked about the spiritual practice of confession. She made the point that we often we get into the habit of thinking that the Protestant Reformation did away with the necessity for confession. But that’s not the case! It only did away with the necessity for an intermediary (the priest). It still is an important part of Christian practice to recognize the ways in which we fall short, and then to confess them to God and/or other people.

And sometimes we think that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer — forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us — that we are making some sort of blanket statement to absolve ourselves from everything, all at once. It’s not that we need to be keeping tallies of our sins in our heads…but true confession requires us to search our souls and notice the specific ways in which we have missed the mark. Ohler’s poem employs a sort of linguistic precision that speaks directly into my own heart:

Forgive us for slouching into Your presence…

Let this be my prayer today…