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Creating an Opening Ritual

June 9, 2010

There are lots of good reasons for creating an opening prayer ritual in your Sunday School, even if your attendance is a little…spotty. Here are a few:

  • it will help provide the lesson that is to follow with a sacred, attentive atmosphere;
  • it gives participants a kind of shortcut back into the spirit of the Sunday School if they have been absent for a while;
  • it gives teachers a few moments when everyone knows what to expect and they do not have to be thinking faster than the students.

Your opening ritual should be short and very simple – maybe as short and simple as saying the same prayer of thanksgiving and intent each time. Children do, however, respond well to a little ceremony.

If at all possible, always begin your lessons in the same place and with the furniture arranged in the same way. Consider creating a little prayer space to one side of the area in which you do your activities with a covered table and a plant/vase of flowers/candle.  Post the words to your opening prayers/songs on the wall so that older students and teachers who are unfamiliar with the routine can participate.

Gather in this space, or simply in a circle in the centre of the room, at the beginning of each lesson and take a moment for the group to quiet down from the excitement of moving from the church to the Sunday School (or of arriving from home, if they have not been in the church yet).

Try combining two or three of the following elements into a ritual that feels right in your context and that all your teachers will be able to maintain regularly:

  • light a candle
  • sing a simple song (please leave suggestions in the comments!)
  • sit in silence for 30-60 seconds (that will take practice)
  • say the Lord’s Prayer
  • say a short litany in which the kids give the responses (e.g. Hear our prayer.)
  • pray in thanksgiving for the Sunday School and request the gifts of focus and learning; giving thanks for each person by name is a lovely way to welcome everyone into the group

The whole ritual should not take more than three or four minutes and could well take even less time than that but it should be done in a calm, prayerful, as-quiet-as-possible fashion.  Moving directly from your opening ritual into the day’s lesson, even staying in the prayer space for the story and discussion,  will help carry that tone along for at least a little while longer.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Maida permalink
    June 28, 2010 2:54 pm

    I really like this information – very helpful! Could you include some song suggestions? I’m not quite sure what you have in mind when you write “simple song”.

    • June 28, 2010 3:39 pm

      Songs are, sadly, not my strong suit but I’ll put some thought into coming with a list of suggestions. Anyone with ideas, please make suggestions in the comments!

  2. July 19, 2010 11:24 am

    I’m not much of a musician, but “This little light of mine” is nice–can be easily adapted with more or fewer verses, etc. One easy one that my husband’s church sings, which I don’t like, is “Jesus loves me,” “We are weak but he is strong–” cringe.

  3. June 21, 2012 3:21 pm

    I like “This is the Day” and “Hallelujah! Praise Ye the Lord”

    I also have a song book with a song I don’t know the tune for called “Two Little Eyes” that seems like it could be good as well.

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