Here’s where it all begins. Everything you need to get started.
You may be a parent, a children’s worker or a youth worker. You may be a pupil or a teacher, or maybe you’re involved in schools in some other way. Whoever you are, we’re delighted that you’re here, and that you’re about to start a(nother) prayer space adventure.
Please take your time to work through these nine steps. They’re based on the experience of more than 5000 prayer spaces, so we’re pretty confident that you’ll find what you need here.
Here are a few Getting Started tips:
1. Read some stories
Stories of prayer spaces in other places will inspire you and help you to imagine your own. Read some of the recent stories on this website, and maybe send a few to the friends and colleagues who you’re hoping will help you with your prayer space?
2. Explore this website and join us on social media
If you use social-media, follow these links to like our Facebook page, and follow us on Instagram. These pages are good for connecting with others who are hosting prayer spaces in their local schools. Come and join in the conversations. And watch a few prayer space videos on our YouTube channel too.
3. Go to a training workshop
Check our website regularly for upcoming workshops and training events that the Prayer Spaces in Schools team are involved in.
These events are always good, not only for the training content, but also for the opportunities to meet people who have hosted, or are hosting, prayer spaces in local schools.
4. Host a training workshop, or let’s have a coffee
If you can’t find a training workshop near you, perhaps you could organise one? We can deliver a wide range of seminar-style, discussion-based or interactive training events to fill a whole or half day, an hour-session or even a coffee-shop conversation, and we’d love to help you if we can. Get in touch and let’s talk.
5. Visit a prayer space
Perhaps the best way to get started with your first prayer space is to see one in action. Or at least to meet with someone who has hosted one near you.
One of the reasons that we try to keep track of all the prayer spaces as they happen is so that we can connect you with others who are hosting, or have hosted, one near you.
Lastly (or perhaps firstly?), it’s always good to pray. Talk with God about the school that you’re thinking about, the one that you have some connections with already, and listen to what God says. Ask God to guide you into the right conversations with the right people at the right time. And may the adventure continue.
Serving the School Community
Building a relationship that serves the whole school community.
Prayer spaces work best in the context of a good relationship between the school community, the religious counsellor and the parish.
- How is the connection between the school staff and the religious counsellor who might be also the parish priest in state primary schools?
- Do any of the pupils, or their parents, participate in the Parishes and other religious communities?
Always start with existing relationships if possible. Arrange to meet with those you know in the school or the church to discuss the next steps.
Meeting with the School
If you are from a parish, and together with the religious counsellor, you’re scheduled to meet with one of the school’s Senior Leadership Team, it’s important to prepare well. Think about what will be best to take with you – here are some suggestions:
- A short, single-page summary of how the prayer space could work, who would be involved, and how it could be followed up
- A couple of stories from prayer spaces in other schools, maybe with the contact details of the Head teachers
- An iPad/tablet with videos or photos of other prayer spaces
- Copies of any relevant Education Guides or Good Practice Guides
- Prayer Spaces in Schools brochures
- Connect with the National Prayer Spaces team for further information and support
If you do decide to plan a prayer space together, try and agree some of the details – here are some questions:
- When will the prayer space take place, and will it be open for a day or for a week? You will need a few weeks to recruit a good team and to plan everything well.
- What room/space is available? This will influence what prayer activities you use, and the size of team you’ll need. The sooner you know this, the better.
- Will the prayer space be open during lesson times, or just during break times? If classes will be coming for their lessons, will the team be expected to deliver any particular content?
- Are there any key themes that the school would like to include (e.g. exam stress, recovery, transition)? Are there any seasonal themes that could shape the style and content?
- What policies, guidelines and other expectations will the team need to be aware of and prepared for (e.g. Safeguarding, risk assessments)?
If you are from a parish, remember that you are there to serve the school community, to be ‘good news’. A well-hosted prayer space will enrich the spiritual and pastoral life of the school.
Registering your prayer space with Prayer Spaces in Schools
When you’ve agreed the dates of your prayer space, please let us know. It’s easy to do – just fill in the form below – and the details won’t appear anywhere publicly.
It’s good for you:
When you register your prayer space, it means that we can offer support, new resources, good advice, and any ‘hot tips’ that are being passed around at that time.
It also means that we can connect you with others in your area who are hosting prayer spaces. A bit of local support and encouragement is always a good thing.
It’s good for Prayer Spaces in Schools:
When you register your prayer space, it becomes part of the national data that we collect. Along with the stories and feedback from prayer spaces, these go into all sorts of reports and articles.
Most of all though, the registration system enables us to walk and work more closely with you, to connect with you, to learn with you and to share your learning and experiences with others. We’re in this thing together.
Choosing a Room
Finding a space that will work well for the school and the pupils.
It is not always easy to find a location for a prayer space in a busy school, but it’s not impossible. Somewhere in your school, at some time during the school year, there will be space. Perhaps when pupils are away on a trip, or on study leave? Perhaps in a mobile classroom or a hall, in a tent outside, or even in a large cupboard?
Here are a few potential locations, and the pros and cons that you need to consider:
Most prayer spaces take place in classrooms. You will want to transform the room, so check that you have got permission to move furniture, cover displays, blackout windows, etc. Take photos of the room beforehand so that you can put everything back where it belongs afterwards.
Pros – Classrooms are easy to find. Pupils can usually visit during break times as well.
Cons – Re-timetabling classrooms can be difficult.
If a classroom is not available, you could use a break-out room, or even an unused cupboard. (Honestly, it has already been done a few times.)
Pros – It can be a cosy space for 3 or 4 pupils. It will only take a couple of team members to host it.
Cons – You will be limited to 3 or 4 prayer activities. Pupils will probably only visit for a few minutes.
Some prayer spaces take place in a school hall, using screens or gazebos to break up the large space into different zones.
Pros – Whole classes can fit in easily. Most schools have a hall.
Cons – Halls can be difficult to ‘transform’. Halls are sometimes passageways to other parts of the school.
Some prayer spaces take place outdoors, again using gazebos, tents.
Pros – There are lots of great outdoor-themed prayer activities. Pupils often respond in a more informal way because the prayer space is in a different place.
Cons – The weather can be tricky. Electrical items are difficult to use. Security and safety issues.
Some prayer spaces are set up in a nearby church building, with classes walking to and from it for their lesson-times in the prayer space.
Pros – You do not have to re-timetable a school classroom. Several schools can visit the prayer space during a week. You have more time to set up and pack down. Recruiting volunteers is often easier.
Cons – It reinforces the idea that prayer belongs in ‘sacred buildings’. It is off-site, so it may be harder for the whole school community to visit. Re-visiting at break times can be more difficult too.
A local church building can be a good place to host your first prayer space, but if it all possible, host your next one in the school. In our experience, prayer spaces work best in school.
Whatever location you choose to use for your prayer space, be sure to visit beforehand and maybe draw up a floor plan. You will need to consider things like:
- The size and shape of the room. What will fit in it?
- Plug sockets. Which prayer activities require electricity?
- Security. Will it be locked at night?
- Access (and emergency exits). How will pupils come in and out?
- Windows and lighting. What atmosphere do you want to create?
Choosing the Prayer Activities
Getting the right mix of prayer activities.
It’s important to choose and organise the prayer activities carefully, so that the prayer space best serves, and meets the needs of the whole school community.
Themes and Seasons
Some schools like to host prayer spaces at particular times of year, e.g. Advent & Christmas, Lent & Easter, at the end of the year to support transition, before exams/tests, etc.
Use a range of activities
The UK nationwide research project (2017) into the impact of prayer spaces on the spiritual lives of children and young people reflected the findings of David Haye’s ‘Spirit of the Child’ study ten years previous – that their spiritual lives were expressed in four ways:
- Me and myself. Self identity and self worth
- Me and others. Relationships and reconciliation
- Me and the world. Other people and cultures. Peace and justice.
- Me and the ‘divine Other’. Faith and God
As you explore the activities in our resource library, you will find that they represent all of these four areas. Try to select a couple of prayer activities from each area for your prayer space.
Creating prayer activities
Creating your own prayer activities is easy, and it’s a good exercise for pupils. We’d recommend using the ‘Why they work’ guidelines on our How to use webpage to get started.
If you do create some new prayer activities or adapt some of the ones from our resource library, and once you’ve tried-and-tested them, please send them to us so that we can share them.
Justice and injustice
We try to encourage every prayer space to include at least one prayer activity that focuses on an issue of injustice, either something local or something global. As pupils use these prayer activities, and as they express their questions and their hopes for things to change, some begin to consider ways that they might become part of the answer to their own prayers. Ask the school if they have an adopted charity or project. Maybe you could find or create a prayer activity that connects with it?
How much will a prayer space cost?
Borrow items if you can. Beg for them if you need to. Buy them if you must. Prayer spaces don’t need to be expensive. (You don’t have to buy a bubble tube!) Some parish communities, the Spiritual Development in Schools Unit and Christian schools-work projects have already collected a stock of prayer space resources that they will loan out to those hosting new prayer spaces in the area.
The Spiritual Development in Schools unit within the Archdiocese of Malta have also already collected a stock of prayer space resources that they will loan out to those hosting new prayer spaces in schools and need to make use of these resources.
Create a floor plan
Using the floor plan that you drew when you first visited the school, try to fit your prayer activities into the space you have available. Here are a few things to consider:
- Some activities can be clustered into ‘zones’, e.g. World, Friendship, Please, etc.
- Some activities work well in sequence, so you may want to position them as such.
- Activities that require pupils to sit down and listen to an MP3 narration will be best located in a corner, away from noisier, discussion-based activities.
- Some activities invite pupils to reflect on their self-image, their relationships, or other things that may be difficult in their lives – make sure that these activities are located in ‘safe’ areas, where pupils aren’t going to be interrupted or embarrassed.
- Where an activity requires students to take turns, make sure there is space for a short queue.
- If you’re using an activity that require a gazebo, think carefully about it’s size (and height!), and about where pupils will enter/exit.
If this is your first prayer space, you may like to set up your prayer activities in a hall a couple of days before the start date, just for practice. This will be a good opportunity for your team to see what the prayer activities look like, and it will give you the opportunity to rearrange them if they don’t seem to fit together as well as you’d imagined.
Recruiting and Training a Great Prayer Space Team
The ‘magic’ of any prayer space is not really in the prayer activities; it is in the people who host it. Therefore, careful recruitment and thorough preparation/training are essential.
Who will you need?
You need people who are:
- Inclusive – welcoming towards pupils with differing needs, abilities, beliefs, and backgrounds.
- Reflective – able to listen, ask careful questions and be alongside the pupils.
- Professional – in the sense that you are confident they will work to the school policies and maintain an appropriate confidentiality level.
- Safe – being a safe person and ensuring that the prayer space is safe for the pupils to use.
Where will you find your team?
Do not advertise for volunteers. Hand-pick your ‘dream team’. Ask people who already part of the chaplaincy team. Ask also ex-teachers, parents and especially grandparents. You can take risks with a couple of prayer activities that might or might not work, but you must not take any risks with your prayer space team.
How many people will you need?
You do not need a large team to host a prayer space, regardless of how long it lasts. A team leader plus 3-4 other adults are sufficient for most prayer spaces (we would recommend having an adult for every prayer activity) for Kindergarten children. Hosting a prayer space with fewer people makes it harder to be fully aware and responsive to what is going on, and the risks increase. It is possible, of course, to host a prayer space with a much bigger team, but it does not necessarily make it better – just busier. Too many team members can sometimes ‘crowd’ a prayer space and discourage pupils from participating.
All team members should have the Safeguarding clearance and should be familiar with the school’s safeguarding policies and procedures.
Preparing/training your team
Your prayer space teams may include all kinds of people… children’s workers and youth workers, church ministers and members, parents and grandparents, teaching staff and even pupils. Regardless, if they have not already been involved in a prayer space team, it’s essential that you prepare and train them well. To do this, you could:
- Encourage them to explore this website and read the stories from other prayer spaces.
- Show them some of the videos from other prayer spaces.
- If possible, take them to visit another local prayer space.
- If possible, take them along to one of our workshops, or host one yourself.
Caring for your team
During the prayer space itself, please remember to look out for your team. Ask them how they’re doing every now and again. It is good to pray together at the start and the end of every day.
Publicity and Preparation
Getting things (and people) ready for your prayer space.
In the build-up to your prayer space, remember that it won’t just be pupils who are affected by it. The school community is wide and varied, including; pupils, teaching staff, parents and families at home, school visitors, even local church members. And you will want to communicate with each of these groups in different ways. For example:
In the case of schools, communicate with the religious counsellor and let them know the dates of the prayer space. Ask them to pray, and give them a few prayer requests. If you’re hosting an open evening during the prayer space, invite them to visit – to come and see.
Some schools (primary more than secondary) like to write a short letter to parents about their upcoming prayer space. You could offer to draft this letter with them, explaining what a prayer space is, and how yours is going to work. If you’re hosting an open evening during the prayer space (which we’d recommend) invite them to visit with their child. Have refreshments available.
You could offer to prepare a short briefing for staff, to explain what a prayer space is and how theirs is going to work. If possible, present this to the staff team in person. If it’s not, print it onto one sheet of A4 and include a couple of good photos of prayer activities, along with your contact details. You may like to include a link to this website as well. Invite staff to visit the prayer space, either during a special session before it ‘officially’ opens, or throughout the week.
Some schools like pupils to know about the prayer space in advance. In which case, you could create a simple ‘coming soon’ poster, or offer to do a short assembly on ‘What is prayer?’ to dispel some myths and stir interest.
Running your Prayer Space
Making sure that your prayer space is the Best One Ever.
In the build-up to running your prayer space, you will need to discuss the following with the school:
Setting up and packing down. If you have a team of volunteers, it usually takes about 3 hours to set up a prayer space, and about 2 hours to pack it down again. When can you do this?
Invitations to parents and staff. Some schools like to schedule a session in the prayer space just for staff. And some schools like to invite parents to visit them when they come to pick their children up after school, or during an open evening. Plan this towards the end of the prayer space.
The timetable. Which classes will visit the prayer space each day? Is the space large enough to host whole classes, or in half-class groups? If they come in half-classes, how will they be accompanied? How long will each session be? And have any of the classes visited a prayer space before?
Breaks and lunchtimes. Some schools are happy for pupils to return to the prayer space during breaks to continue using the prayer activities or talk with the team. (Keep in mind that your team may also need a break. And ask which toilets they can use!)
During the week itself, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Set the scene each day. Ask your team to arrive at least 15 minutes before the first class so that you have time to check that everyone’s OK. Pray together.
Keep it tidy. After every class, restock the Post-it notes, reposition the cushions, re-lid the pens and generally restore the prayer space so that the next class will experience the very best that it has to offer. While they are tidying, ask your team to check for anything (Post-it notes, etc.) that is ‘of concern’ and give it to you.
Check if each prayer activity is working. Maybe an activity needs moving somewhere else? Perhaps 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.
Care for your team. Again, check regularly with your team for any concerns. Sometimes, themes in a prayer space can bring things to the surface in adult’s lives too.
Feedback and story-telling. Gather feedback, stories and essential moments throughout the week. These will help you write a good report afterwards and help you improve any future prayer spaces.
Photographs. It’s good to take some photos of the prayer space for your report and your records. However, always ask the Senior Leadership Team before taking any photos in school or asking the school to take pictures for you. If you take photos, make sure that the school has checked them before you use any of them. If it’s not appropriate to take any pictures with pupils in them, photos of the prayer activities can still be very effective at the end of prayer space.
Running a prayer space lesson
When classes visit your prayer space, use the first 10-15 minutes to talk with them about it. A good prayer space lesson will include:
Introduction. Tell the pupils who you are, which church(es) you are all from, and which member of staff you’ve been working with.
Discussion. Ask the pupils a few questions about reflection and prayer. What is prayer? Who might pray? Where and why, and how might people pray?
Describe the prayer activities. Briefly explain the themes and a bit about how each activity works.
Disclaimer. Ensure that pupils understand that they are free to use the activities in a meaningful way. Or not to use them at all. (Don’t spoil it for others.)
Explore. Encourage the pupils to explore the activities on their own or with friends. You may want to divide the class into groups in primary schools and carousel them around the activities/zones.
Summary. Gather the pupils back together for 5 minutes at the end of the lesson and ask them a few questions. Which activities did they like? Why? Which activities did they find difficult? Ask if they have any questions too.
Supporting the ongoing spiritual life of the school community.
You can make use of exit notes so that the children could write a sentence or two on their favourite prayer space and why they liked it or not.
Sometimes the children are also encouraged to take a creative prayer with them at home during the prayer space. In doing so, they will be able to remember this simple yet profound prayer experience and share what they did during the prayer space with other family members.
Ending well is just as (or perhaps even more) important than starting well. Ending well determines how well you move on into what’s next.
1. Gather feedback
After saying a huge thank you to everyone who has been part of your prayer space team, ask them for some feedback. Send them a short set of questions via email, or get them back together the following week to swap feedback and stories together. For example:
- What worked well?
- What didn’t work so well? What could be improved next time?
- What was your favourite prayer activity? Why?
- What themes or behaviour caught your attention?
- What was your favourite moment or conversation?
- What did the pupils say about the prayer space?
- What did the staff say about the prayer space?
- What did the parents say about the prayer space?
Ask some of the school staff for feedback and observations too. Maybe send them the same email, but with just three or four questions.
Ask someone to check through all of the Post-it and torn-up cardboard prayers from the prayer activities and transcribe them into a Word document (this is a big but fascinating task) so that you can identify themes and pull out a few particular quotes.
2. Write a report
Use all of the above to write a summary report, including a couple of stories, the feedback from pupils and staff, the common themes from the pupil’s responses, and a few photos of the prayer space.
At the end of this report, make some recommendations:
- How could any future prayer spaces be improved?
- In what ways could the local church(es) and parishes continue to serve the school community?
- Having seen the themes from the pupil’s responses, what further resources and services might be helpful for the school?
In our experience, prayer spaces can open up all sorts of new ways for churches to serve the pastoral and spiritual life of their school communities. Here are a few examples:
- Further prayer spaces, timetabled or permanent
- After-school provision
- Lunchtime workshops
- Chaplaincy projects
- Youth groups
- Mentoring programmes
- Input into RE lessons and assemblies
- Prayer gardens
- … and much more.
We hope and pray that your prayer space will open up new ways for you to serve your local school community. Please stay in touch and let us know how you get on.