Running Your Prayer Space
Making sure that your prayer space is the Best One Ever.
A TYPICAL PRAYER SPACE WEEK
You’ve probably realised by now that there is no typical prayer space week (or day, or fortnight, or however long your prayer space runs for). Prayer spaces have been hosted in almost every type of school, with every age group.
Prayer spaces have been hosted in all kinds of rooms and spaces - in classrooms and corridors, cupboards and chapels, in huge halls and tiny foyer areas, in caravans and under tents in the playground, even in church buildings next door to the school - and they can all work well.
Most prayer spaces in secondary schools open for a full timetable of lessons (usually, but not only, R.E. lessons). In a few secondary schools, however, the prayer spaces have only been open for break-times and lunch-times and after-school slots. Prayer spaces in primary schools are usually opened to the whole school, and not just for R.E. lessons.
MANAGING THE PRAYER SPACE WELL
Setting-up (and packing-down) a classroom-sized prayer spaces usually takes up to three hours. Don’t forget to take some photos on your mobile phone of the classroom layout before you start moving things around, as this will help when you attempt to return everything to its proper place afterwards.
Other great tips from those who have hosted prayer spaces include:
- Keep it tidy. After every lesson, try to recover cushions, replenish Post-it notes, re-lid pens and generally restore the prayer space, so that the next class experience the best that it has to offer.
- ‘Curate the content’. When the Post-it note Prayer Wall is full or the Big Questions strings are over-loaded, move some or thin them out, so that there’s space for the next class.
- Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not working. Maybe a prayer activity needs moving somewhere else? Maybe an explanation isn’t clear enough? Maybe that new prayer activity you designed with the Othello board and the Star Wars figurines just isn’t working the way you’d imagined? Don’t hesitate to change things if you need to, or even remove a prayer activity completely.
- Watch for trends. For example, if the Prayer Wall is being over-run by R.I.P. messages, do what chaplain, Jason Taylor, did in Hull and create a separate R.I.P./Thanks Wall. Watch for trends and don’t hesitate to respond to them.
- Dot the prayers. At the end of every lesson, ask your team to take a felt-tip pen and quickly ‘dot’ all of the new Post-it note/written prayers, removing any that are inappropriate or ‘of concern’ (these can be discussed with the class teacher).
If you have any other great tips for managing a prayer space well, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEAM BRIEFINGS AND DEBRIEFINGS
An important part of leading your team will be hosting short meetings - daily briefings and debriefings - at the start and the end of the day. These might only last for 5-10 minutes, but they will help your team to start well and end well, and to do well in between.
A morning briefing might include:
- Introductions, especially if the team are from different churches and haven’t met before.
- A short summary of how the prayer space has been going so far.
- A run-through of the lessons scheduled for the day, and who is leading each of them.
- An explanation of any new or adapted prayer activities.
- A reminder of the in-between lesson tasks; tidying up, ‘dotting’ the prayers, etc.
- A reminder that nothing is confidential, and that any concerns need to be reported back to you first, and then maybe to the teacher.
- ...any questions?
An afternoon debriefing might include:
- How is everyone doing?
- Feedback on the good things. What did you see or hear that encouraged you today? What were your memorable conversations with students and staff?
- Feedback on the bad/sad things. What did you see or hear that concerned you today? Is there anything that we need to pass onto school staff?
- Any suggestions for improving the prayer space, ready for tomorrow.
- Thanks to everyone for participating.
FEEDBACK AND EVALUATION
Inviting feedback from the students (and staff) who experience prayer spaces is very important, for a number of reasons;
- It helps the students to reflect on what they’ve been doing in the prayer space, and to begin to process any new thoughts or experiences.
- It helps you and your team to understand more about what’s been going on.
- It helps you and your team to identify things in the prayer space that can be improved.
- It provides you with comments and content that you might want to include in reports that you write for the school, your church or organisation, or for the Prayer Spaces in Schools website.
Most prayer spaces include a way for students (and staff) to offer their thoughts and feelings as feedback. It could be verbal, reflective feedback, all together, at the end of a lesson. Or it could be drawn or written feedback throughout the lesson, onto a large sheet of lining paper in one corner of the prayer space. Some schools have asked students to fill in evaluation forms, which they have reviewed afterwards. One school interviewed students on camera to ask them what they thought, and how they felt, about the prayer space, and then turned this into a short DVD. It’s important to invite feedback, however you do it.
If you’re going to take photos in the prayer space, check the school for their policy on photos first. Please refer to our photography policy for more about the use of photos in prayer spaces.