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Refreshed: A service for the new school year

An opportunity to explore hopes and concerns for the coming year

Introduction


Many things start afresh in September giving an opportunity to explore, as a group, our hopes and concerns for the coming year. This worship works around three prayer activities that pupils are invited to move to at the relevant point in the worship. The service might be used in a church setting to mark the beginning of a new school year. It could be used in a whole school situation and each of the worship suggestions may be done at the front of the assembled pupils. Class-size groups might celebrate this service and have the three worship areas available for smaller groups to rotate around at the same time. The suggestions are flexible and should be adapted to best meet the needs of your group.

 

Beforehand

You will need: a Bible or a print-out of the Bible references: John 18.15-17; John 21.15-19; Revelation 21.5; Luke 9.1-6; Jeremiah 18.1-3; Jeremiah 18.4.

Prepare the three worship areas. Set these up at different points around the room or across the front of your worship area:

 

Clean slate prayer

On a table, set out acetate sheets and washable pens. On a separate table, place a bowl of water containing washing-up liquid.

 

Sweet and sour prayer

Set out a table with a nice cloth, bread sticks or crackers, honey, slices of lemon or sour sweets and plates.

 

Clay prayer

Set out a table with modelling clay, play dough, paper plates, people-shaped cutters or blunt knife and template (attached).

 

Gather

You may wish to light a candle as you say this Gathering prayer.


Welcome everyone to the start of a new year!
Thank you, God, that you meet with us today.
As we gather at the start of a new year
you are with us.
As we start new schools and new classes
you are with us.
As we make a new start
you are with us.
Amen
.

 

Word & Response

We offer here a selection of worship areas that children or young people may visit in small groups on a carousel model, or select one or two activities for all to do together as part of a simple service.

 

Make a new start

  • Explain to the children that the new year is a good time for us to make a new start. We all have to make new starts – even the first followers of Jesus!
  • First read John 18.15-17. Peter says he doesn’t know who Jesus is and then goes on to say this twice more.
  • Ask the pupils how they think Peter might have felt when he realised what he had done.
  • Ask them to think about the times they might have denied Jesus.
  • Then read John 21.15-19. After Jesus has been raised from the dead he meets with Peter. But Jesus doesn’t get cross and angry with Peter. Instead he lets him make a new start.
  • Remind the children that in September there are lots of new starts – new term, new school or new class, new teacher, new uniform or clothes and maybe a new group at church. It is a good time to remember the good things that happened last year and to put behind them the things that were difficult, things they are sorry for, things that went wrong.
  • At the start of a new term, teachers may talk of starting with a ‘clean slate’ – allowing the mistakes of the past to be forgotten and moving on. This prayer activity focuses on this idea.

 

Clean slate prayer

  • Set out the pens and acetate sheets on a table. On a separate table, place the bowl of water.
  • Give everyone an acetate sheet and an acetate pen or felt pen.
  • Ask each pupil to write on the sheet anything they want to move on from, either something they are sorry for, or something that was difficult.
  • Invite each pupil to take a turn at dipping the sheet into the water.
  • As they pull out the acetate sheet, the words will disappear: the old will go and the sheet will be new.
  • Read Revelation 21.5: ‘I am making all things new’.
  • Look together at the ‘clean slates’ and say:


Thank you, God,
that you forgive us for the past and help us to make a new start.
Amen.

 

With younger children

Write ‘Moving on’ onto the acetate slips and give each child a slip. Again allow them to dip this into the water as a reminder of the new start they are making.

 

Starting out

  • Explain to the children that Jesus called his disciples together so that they could help him in telling others about God, but also so that they could go out on their own and tell others about God’s love. After Jesus went back to heaven it was the disciples who built the Church.
  • Read Luke 9.1-6. Jesus sends out the 12 disciples to tell everyone about God’s Kingdom. It is the start of a new and important time in their lives. Jesus tells them that sometimes their work will be good (verse 4), but sometimes people will not welcome them (verse 5).
  • In the same way as the children start a new year there will be good times and difficult times. Use the prayer activity below to emphasise that  God will be with them through it all.

 

Sweet and sour prayer

You will need: table, bread sticks or crackers, honey, slices of lemon or sour sweets, plates. (You will need to be aware of food allergies for this activity.)

 

  • Set up a table with bread sticks or crackers, honey, slices of lemon or sour sweets.
  • Invite the pupils to stand around the table. Ask everyone to take a breadstick or cracker and dip it into the honey. As they eat the honey,  suggest that they think of the things they are looking forward to this year. Invite them to thank God that he will be with them in the good times.

 

Then invite them to take a slice of lemon or a sour sweet. As they eat this encourage them to think of the things they are worried about this year or think may be difficult. Invite them to ask God to be with them in these times and to know that he will be.

 

With younger children

Use the two prayer activities (above) in the same order, but as the children eat the honey say:

Thank you, God,
that you are with us when we are happy and having fun.


As they eat the lemon or sour sweet say:

Thank you, God,
that you are with us when we are sad or worried.

 

New Year Me!

  • Read the passage from Jeremiah 18.1-3. As you are doing this, ask another leader to take a piece of clay or dough and mould it into a simple pot. Make sure the whole group can see this.
  • Then read Jeremiah 18.4. As you read this, ask the other leader to crush the pot and then reform it into a new pot.
  • Explain that as we start a new year we will all have ideas of who we want to be, what we want to achieve and how we want to behave. But God also knows the person he wants us to be. He will help us to become that person if we ask him.

 

Clay prayer

You will need: modelling clay, play dough, paper plates, people-shaped cutters, or blunt knife and template (attached).

 

  • Lay out a table with clay or play dough, plates and cutters. You will also need some wet wipes or hand-washing facilities.
  • Give everyone a lump of modelling clay. Ask the children to think about the person God wants them to be as they mould the clay into a person shape.
  • Ask them to place the person onto a paper plate and write their name next to it.
  • When all the clay people are made, lay them out on the table. Look at them together as you say:


Thank you, God,
that you make and shape us into the person you want us to be.
Thank you that we can make a new beginning here today.
Amen.

 

With younger children

Give everyone a piece of play dough and help them to roll it flat. Use the person-shaped cutter, or a blunt knife and the template, and cut out a person shape. Place the person onto the paper plate and write their name next to it

 

Send out

If you lit a candle in the Gathering prayer, look at it again now.


Go on into the new year!
Let’s thank God for being with us every day.
As we start a new year
thank you that you are with us.
As we start new schools and new classes
thank you that you are with us.
As we make a new start
thank you that you are with us.
Amen.

First published in Issue 48 in 2010, pages 8-9

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