CHOOSING A ROOM
Finding a space that will work well for the school and the students.
In most schools, every room is used for teaching and therefore it is hard to imagine where a prayer space could fit. So, finding space for a prayer space is the first challenge, but it’s not as difficult as it seems.
There’s always space. Somewhere, at some time in the school year, there will be space. Maybe when classes or whole year groups go away on school trips. Maybe when secondary school pupils are on study leave. Maybe in a less-used and more-available mobile classroom. Louise Hargreaves and her team hosted their first prayer space in East Bierley Primary School in Bradford in a tiny, odd-shaped cupboard, and it was amazing.
Prayer spaces have been hosted in tents in the main hall, or on the stage with the curtains closed. Prayer spaces have been hosted in libraries, lobbies or in corridor recesses. Prayer spaces have been hosted outside (weather/season-permitting) - in tents and even in a caravan in a primary school playground.
Think creatively. There’s always space.
SIZE AND SHAPE
Try and make the space feel less cluttered and chaotic, especially when it’s full of participants. You could do this by: clearing out the furniture and using prayer activities that are smaller or wall-mounted, or sectioning off certain areas (sheer fabric can be hung from the ceiling) and marking them quiet/chill-out zones, or limiting the number of participants at any one time, etc.
If you’ve got a huge open space, such as a main hall, try to make it feel more hospitable and comfortable. You could do this by: including unusual furniture - sofas, chairs, carpets, etc., or using prayer activities that follow a journey around the prayer space (like a labyrinth), or by putting up gazebos around the hall, each containing a cluster of prayer activities.
ACCESSIBILITY AND VISIBILITY
Try to make sure that when the prayer space is open it is easy for students to get to, and that they can get permission (if needed) to visit during break and lunchtimes.
Some prayer spaces benefit from being visible to passers-by, from adjacent corridors and from outside. Being visible keeps the prayer space in student’s minds, and increases the chances that they might drop in for a visit. However, busy corridors can also make a prayer space noisier, leaving some students reluctant to drop in.
Some prayer spaces seem to benefit from being hidden from view (with blacked-out windows, etc.), until the students actually step through the door.
Consider which approach will best serve your prayer space.
FLEXIBILITY AND SECURITY
If you are taking over a teacher’s classroom for the day or for the week, check what furniture you can move (and where you can move it to), and what displays you can take down or cover with lining paper or sheets. It sometimes helps to take a few photos on a mobile phone of the room beforehand so that you can check them afterwards and return everything to it’s proper place.
Is the room secure? If you are running a whole-week prayer space and you’ll be leaving equipment there overnight, how safe will it be? You might feel that it is sufficient to take higher value equipment (mp3 players, projector, laptops) home each night. Make sure that you reserve a safe area, maybe behind the teacher’s desk or under a table, for your team to store their bags while the prayer space is open.
During a prayer space week in Wakefield, the team were asked to pack down all of the prayer activities at the end of a school day and then set them up again the following morning to allow for a parent’s evening which was due to take place in the same classroom. We would recommend that you make sure that your space isn’t going to be used for anything else while the prayer space is there.
CREATING A FLOOR PLAN
Once you’ve agreed where the prayer space is going to be, arrange to (re)visit as soon as you can so that you can examine the room/space in more detail. While you’re there, draw an accurate plan of the room/space, and mark the following;
- Doors (and which way they open) and emergency exits.
- Carpeted areas (if any).
- Power points.
- Sinks (if any).
- Displays that will have to stay.
- Furniture (tables, chairs, shelving, lockers, etc), again noting those that will have to stay.
- Any hooks or mountings on walls or ceilings that you might be able to attach things to.
- Any other items that you think might be useful to you.
And then begin to imagine your prayer space. Let the fun begin!