What is Prayer Spaces in Schools?
It’s a project of 24-7 Prayer which is accountable to 24-7 Prayer’s oversight team and Trustees. It’s a resource hub to support, resource and encourage the rapidly growing network of prayer space practitioners who run prayer or reflective spiritual spaces in schools. A small team manages the website, encourages the sharing of resources, supports local networks and training workshops, and keeps the prayer space community connected.
What is a prayer space?
Prayer spaces enable children and young people, whether or not they have a faith, to explore the big questions relating to their identity and the purpose, meaning and experiences of their lives. A prayer space usually pops up in a classroom or similar space for a few days. Activities encourage those who are taking part to reflect on issues such as forgiveness, injustice and thankfulness. Some schools bring classes to a prayer space for a lesson, while other schools offer the opportunity as a voluntary time and space for personal and spiritual reflection.
The website is the best place to start exploring what prayer spaces are and how they are organised – it includes an excellent section on Values and a video in which chaplains, students and staff explain how a prayer space can support spiritual life.
How have students responded to prayer spaces?
With great enthusiasm! They comment on the peace, the stillness and the chance to reflect. They sometimes surprise themselves by their reflections and the realisation of how many different ways there are to pray. They are willing to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and often children want to take their parents to the prayer space, too, so that they can share in the experience. Above all, they value the personal time and the safe emotional space that is so lacking in other areas of their lives.
Are Heads and staff happy to host a prayer space?
Feedback from heads and teachers is overwhelmingly positive. They talk about the quality of the interaction between adults and children, the opportunity for children to find a voice, the value in bringing the school community together in a shared experience and the benefit of time to be still and reflect. Some staff have noticed the difference it is making to individual pupils and several schools have benefited so much that they want to create a permanent prayer space.
The contribution to the RE and PSHE curricula (RME and Health and Wellbeing in Scotland) is valued by teachers, parents and governors of all faiths and none as activities are in line with government guidelines and meet the statutory requirement to support the spiritual, moral and social development of pupils.
Can anyone run a prayer space?
Yes, if you want to serve your local school community and contribute to the spiritual and pastoral development of students. Talking to a local support network would be a good idea if you want to know more. Check out the Getting Started page of the website and read some of the stories to get a feel for how prayer spaces work.
So how would I go about starting one?
Prayer spaces work best when they are part of the ongoing spiritual and pastoral life of a school, so if you want to start a prayer space, you need to think about any relationships that already exist – maybe your church with a local school, or you with staff or governors. To facilitate a prayer space, you will need to meet with someone in the school who has responsibility either for RE or school leadership. That’s where any connections you, or your church or youth worker have with a school comes in. When you have arranged a meeting, check out the Serving the School Community section of the Prayer Spaces website, which gives you detailed information about what to take to an initial meeting and what to talk about.
What do I do next if the school wants to go ahead?
The Prayer Spaces in Schools website is an amazing resource. It’s crammed full of the advice and support you will need as you embark on all the hard work and planning, including Choosing the Prayer Activities Recruiting and Training a Team and Publicity and Preparation. There’s a section on the exciting bit – Running your Prayer Space and finally What Next? – supporting the ongoing spiritual life of the school community with which you are in relationship through your prayer space.
Finally, don’t forget to register your prayer space. It’s easy to overlook but it’s a very important step. Not only will it keep you in touch with resources and stories from others, it will allow the organisation to track where prayer spaces are popping up around the world and to keep you connected with others, maybe in your area, who are involved in their schools. Registration is all about getting, and staying, connected in the prayer space community.