It was all outside in God’s amazing already-set-up prayer space! We underestimated the power of this space.

16th June 2021

In May 2021, the local church hosted a pop-up prayer space for two days on the grounds of our local school.  It was a huge success, all of the children loved visiting the space, and the level of engagement exceeded all of our hopes and prayers!  Essentially it was like any other prayer space in school – the children visited the space in small, half-class sized groups (up to 15) and had 30 minutes to engage at their own pace with several prayer/reflection activities in a calm/reflective/quiet environment.  We had a team of 6 volunteers from the two local churches who hosted the space:  helping to create a calming/prayerful environment and helping the children to access the activities. But there were a couple of key differences with this prayer space:

  • It was all outside in God’s amazing already-set-up prayer space! We underestimated the power of this space – the sky, the trees, the grass, the weather, the birds, the bugs, the noises all around us, the fresh air, the list goes on! 
  • We made sure that this natural environment was used as much as possible as the stimulus for our prayer/reflection activities, rather than bringing in lots of resources or simply moving tried and tested prayer space activities outside

Essentially, we went super-simple with our resources, chiming in with the natural environment – and it worked! All the children in Years 1-6 visited the space and literally, every child loved being there and didn’t want to leave! So many of the school staff commented on how amazed they were at how the children were engaging with the space and the activities. One of the highlights was seeing children who struggle in other settings, really enjoying the peace and stillness, and visibly being calmed by this experience.  

Prayer activities: We set up 11 prayer activities in the quietest area on the school grounds – an area that was not going to be used at break and lunch time. Some of the activities were under a permanent wooden shelter, some were in the open, some were in a tipi tent, and some were under an open-sided gazebo tent. All the activities required minimal set up and could be done outside if the weather was dry.  We had the undercover option as the weather was forecast to be changeable.  At the start of each session, we gathered the whole group in a circle, either outside on the grass or inside the tipi tent.  We did a very brief introduction (5 mins max) to the session – explaining the vision of the space and how the children could access the activities. At the end of the session, we came back together and stood in a circle, and the children briefly shared what they had enjoyed or any comments about their time in the space.  

Watch the video to see how we set up the space and the activities we used here.

All the prayer activity cards we used are available to download here.

Wet weather top tips

  • All volunteers to wear suitable clothing and have waterproofs ready
  • Pupils to be encouraged to bring a coat/waterproofs – we ran a couple of sessions in the rain with years 1 and 2 in their school puddle suits – they loved it!
  • Think through which activities will go where if it rains – having a big tent space for the ones that involve writing on paper is a great plan
  • We used some foam mats for children to sit on the wet grass
  • Have a box of old towels ready to dry resources
  • Have a deluge plan! If there is a massive downpour, even the best gazebo/outdoor shelter won’t work effectively. Have an allocated indoor space where a few activities could be moved indoors at short notice – we were located near the door to the Staff Room and had permission to use this area if we needed to
  • Backup dates – have backup dates just in case the weather is awful, and you need to cancel

Covid safe procedures

  • Outside activities are fundamentally safer
  • Volunteers filled in the track and trace school form or used the QR code/NHS app in reception
  • All children sanitised their hands on arrival.
  • Volunteers could wear masks if they wanted to
  • Social distancing was promoted where possible