Connecting Kids, Adults through Prayer

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We always have more fun when we put our heads together
We always have more fun when we put our heads together

This fall we bring back a new version of a program we haven’t done in a number of years.  It’s called “Prayer Buddies.”  We hope to share the vision for this program among our members and then invite our young people to find an adult they would like to ask to be their Prayer Buddy.  We hope you will be asked.  And we hope you will know what is involved in this fun, cross-generational prayer and support activity.

Here is a quick overview.  Attend a “Prayer Buddy” gathering event (usually will happen during other congregational activities). Talk with your Buddy about your hopes and dreams, needs and how life is going.  Do the Group activity; these will be things like:  have a picture taken together, do an art project, make prayer buttons, etc.  Then say “hi” each Sunday when you see each other in the halls or in Worship.  Make plans to meet up at the next Prayer Buddy activity (if it fits in your schedule) and enjoy knowing, seeing and praying for each other over the year to come.

Nancy Shoemaker will visit Sunday School on October 2 and 16 to talk about the Prayer Buddy Program.  Pastor will introduce the program during children’s time on Oct. 9 and 16.  We will have a kick off activity on October 23 during the Gifted and Giving event during education hour that day.  Be ready to say “yes,” when a young person comes to ask: “Will you be my prayer buddy?”

                 (The following is an article from an ELCA publication that will help fill out the vision for this program.)

BY VICKIE REYNOLDS, Comstock Park, Michigan, USAprayer-buddies-program

Inter-generational activities lead to improved relationships.

In 2005, I sat in a workshop at a youth-specialties conference titled, “Mentoring Children and Youth.” I signed up because another person and I had attempted—and failed—to establish a mentoring program in our congregation.

The value of mentoring seemed obvious, and we had worked hard to kick it off. Several adults attended our two informational meetings. But nobody signed up. Typical responses were, “I’m not sure I’m the best role model,” “I’m not familiar enough with scripture,” “I’m not comfortable praying with a child,” and “I’m not comfortable being with a teenager.”

So in 2005 about 60 youth leaders and I eagerly waited for the instructor to bless us with his wisdom.  sept 29 alongsideHe asked: “How many of you have worked at starting a mentoring program in your congregation?” About three-quarters of the hands went up. He continued: “How many of those programs succeeded?” Not one hand rose. The room erupted into uncomfortable, but relieved, laughter.  The speaker then shared ideas of creating mentoring relationships without…well, mentoring! Among his ideas were ways to decentralize children’s, youth, and adult ministries. Instead he focused on inter-generational activities and fellowship.

The easily used ideas focused on creating inter-generational bonds. The one he felt strongest about was the Prayer Sponsor program. I came home excited and worked to begin it the following spring.  We’re still going. It has created inter-generational bonds similar to what I felt as a child in my home church. Children at Union Avenue Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, know they are a part of a larger family. Adults in our congregation know their names and interests, and they love the kids.

A prayer sponsor differs from a prayer partner. To be a prayer partner means you regularly meet and pray. To be a prayer sponsor means you regularly pray for the child as though the child were your own.  We ask for two other commitments. We ask sponsors to say “hi” to the child every Sunday to start building a relationship. And we ask that they attend the annual Prayer Sponsor Tea. In this event, sponsors meet with their prayer kids at church, sit together for the refreshments, and join in inter-generational activities.

IMAG2492We always have a “photo booth” where a photographer takes photos of each sponsor-child pair. Both get a print to hang on the refrigerator for the next year.  We also ask parents to remind each child throughout the year that the sponsor is praying for the child. Parents are to remind children they may phone their sponsors whenever they have problems or worries.

What has happened since we started prayer sponsoring? Mentoring has happened. Kids pay more attention when their sponsor shares testimony, preaches, or is in the hospital. Sponsors pay more attention when “their kid” is in the Christmas play, a school play, or is sick.  Because prayer sponsors typically keep the same prayer child year after year, meaningful relationships form. One younger child, facing minor surgery, reminded his mom they needed to phone the prayer sponsor. One kid picked up a love of photography from his sponsor, and they did a few photo projects for the congregation. The sponsor eventually gave the boy his old camera.

One child (since moved) lost his mom at a young age. His sponsor honored his birthday every year by cooking the favorite meal the boy’s mom used to prepare on his birthday. His older sister’s sponsor took her Christmas shopping every year. And one little girl, whose family left our church when an older sister wanted to go elsewhere with school friends, encouraged her family to return. The reason: the annual contact of her sponsor, who continued to pray for her and send birthday and Christmas cards.

I would encourage every congregation to be intentional about being inter-generational. Pairing each child with a sponsor has changed the spirit of our fellowship and created a generation of teenagers who know this church is theirs.