Q: How much space is needed to set up a prayer space? We don’t have much space available in the school…
A: With a bit of creativity and planning space can usually be made, even in the smallest of schools, to hold a prayer space. We have used the following spaces successfully:
- Classrooms- sometimes empty classrooms that are available or ones that can be made available with a few timetable changes. We have also used classrooms when older children are away on residential trips.
- Meeting rooms/ intervention rooms/ breakout rooms etc if meetings can be rescheduled for a week
- School hall- if it is a large enough hall or not used for school lunches or space can be made available (perhaps a second or third sitting for that week)
- Churches- if the local church is within walking distance and has space to set up a space this could be used but it is preferable to find space within the school. When you move prayer spaces into a church you can take away a bit from the point that prayer and reflection can happen anywhere and the purpose of building prayer and reflection into the life of the school.
- Marquee on a school field- if no other options can be found- this is obviously a more labour intensive prayer space and requires people able to set up and pack away which takes time and involves fairly heavy lifting
Q: What sort of activities or themes can be used?
A: Themes for prayer and reflection spaces can be developed on a whole range of topics from school values to something that is being explored in RE or collective worship. A prayer space could be set up around a general theme (e.g. light, identity) or a bible story or biblical theme (e.g. The Lord’s prayer, The Trinity). All themes should be discussed and decided upon with the school. We have a range of activity ideas that have been successfully used in prayer spaces and can help with ideas around other themes. We do recommend that a starting prayer space be kept very simple with a theme of “Exploring Prayer and Reflection” so students understand the concept and this can be built on over time.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: Our equipment, training and support is available free of charge to churches running prayer and reflection spaces in Oxfordshire. As a charity we rely on donations and grants from churches and organisations so that we can provide prayer spaces free of charge to schools. Our aim is to train the local church team so that they run subsequent prayer spaces independently with access to BeSpace equipment resources, advice and support.
Q: What about safeguarding?
A: The local church providing the volunteers may have a number of people who do not have current DBS checks. Most schools are happy to welcome visitors to the school under their usual safeguarding procedures for visitors and ensure that a member of staff accompanies the children when they are accessing the prayer space. We strongly advise any person running a prayer space to have a current DBS check and all schools we have worked with require the prayer space leader for each day to have a DBS check. Individual schools may have specific safeguarding requirements (E.g. filling out self disclosure forms, bringing photo ID etc) and these should be communicated to the prayer space volunteers so they are prepared. We provide some basic safeguarding guidelines that can be adapted to fit the school requirements and given out to all volunteers to read. It is the schools responsibility to ensure that the church volunteers do all they need to do to comply with school safeguarding policies and procedures.
Q: So what does my school need to do to make a prayer space happen?
A: We ask schools to find a suitable space where the prayer space can be set up and left for the duration of the event and to confirm the activities which will take place. We also ask for a timetable of when each class or half class will access the space. Finally we ask that schools read and check the safeguarding and risk assessment documents and ensure that these are in line with school policies and communicate anything the church volunteers need to do to be in line with safeguarding procedures. Schools may wish to send out a letter or add it to their school newsletter or website notices to inform parents that the prayer space is happening, perhaps also giving the opportunity for parents to visit the prayer space at the end of a day.
Q: How many volunteers does my church need to find?
A: For a primary school prayer space we ask the local church to find a volunteer for each activity area in the prayer space. This is typically 4 volunteers per session. Ideally volunteers will sign up for a morning or afternoon and in that time cover 2-3 sessions. We also ask the church to find a person for each session who will lead the introduction, manage the session and do the conclusion (with training and support). For a secondary school we ask the church to find a session leader and 2 other volunteers who will help to support the students in the space and answer questions.