This is a session plan for an alternative worship experience using the concept of a labyrinth. Basically a labyrinth is a maze-like path set-up in a large space where people walk along, stopping at various points to think about a particular idea. Unlike a maze they have only one path – there are no dead ends. People walk the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise, or as a form of pilgrimage.
Our use of the labyrinth in youth worship was inspired by the brilliant resources at Labyrinth.org.uk. On their site there is a full explanation of the ancient history behind the contemplative practice, and the way in which they have developed a contemporary version for use in cathedrals with an mp3 player.
For our young people, and we have run a number of different versions over the years but each requires a large space like a hall and a number of different stopping points or ‘stations’ with an activity at each one. It is important to set the right kind of atmosphere, so we have often used soft lighting, bean bags, cushions, drapes, candles, etc. to make the whole experience welcoming. We have also found it useful to mark out a physical path on the floor such as tape or footsteps to guide people around the labyrinth. A possible template is available here. You may also want to put up screens or barriers between the path to encourage participants to focus on the journey rather than spoil what is coming later, but it’s up to you how you choose to lay it out.
We decided to make our labyrinth as interactive as possible, while also retaining the concept of ‘journey’ and personal reflection that the larger-scale installations have. We narrowed the number of stations down to eight, as this seemed more manageable with our group, and put a practical activity at each one. Each station also has written instructions to explain what they must do.
The following are examples of stations we have used previously. They are fully adaptable and I would encourage you to develop your own ideas.
- Letting Go
- Holy Space
Text: Welcome to the labyrinth. Please â€œTake off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.â€ Exodus 3:5
Inside the hall is a pathway mapped out on the floor for you to follow. As you walk along, you will come to different sections where there is an activity for you to do. Spend as much time as you like at each one. They are designed to help you spend time with God.
Equipment: An iPod with static white noise on loop OR a detuned TV showing static, Pens, Paper, Notice board.
Text: Welcome to the first station. Sit down and put on the headphones/look at the TV.
Noise. What do you think when you hear this word? Dogs barking? People talking around you? Music?
In technical terms, noise means â€˜interference in a signalâ€™. Noise is the fuzzy sound when youâ€™re listening to the radio that stops you from hearing the music. Noise messes up the picture on your TV, and makes it go all blurry or jump around.
God wants to spend time with each and every one of us. However, often we do not spend time with God because there is too much â€œnoiseâ€ or interference in our lives. Think about what might distract you from spending time with God. Now write down what you can do to reduce these distractions and pin your ideas on the board.
Equipment: Bowl of water, Collection of stones, Washable Pens.
Text: Before you meet with God, itâ€™s a good idea to get rid of all the things that are bugging you. What are you upset about? Who has annoyed you today? What is making you angry?
Write these things on the stones, then place them in the water. Watch those worries wash away. Allow God to take them from you now. You can now focus on meeting with Him!
“Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honourable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.” Philippians 4:8
Equipment: A Large Mirror, The following verses printed on transparency and placed over the mirror OR written directly onto it: Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 10:29-31, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16.
Text: How does God see you? What makes you special?
Not sure? Look into the mirror and read what God has to say about you. How does it make you feel?
Equipment: A tent, gazebo or other structure to create an “inner sanctuary”, Curtains, drapes, cloths, Bean bags, Bibles.
Text: Imagine that this is the â€œHoly of Holiesâ€, the centre of the temple in the Old Testament where Godâ€™s presence rested. Only the high priest was able to come in here and meet with God. Read 1 Kings 6:14-38 to find out what it looked like.
Later Jesus changed all that. Everyone can now meet with God anywhere! That includes you! How do you feel being in this special place? Can you â€˜feelâ€™ God here? Take some time to just be with Him.
Equipment: Pens, Paper with the word THANKS written down the left hand side.
Text: This is your chance to say â€œThank Youâ€ to God for all the things heâ€™s done! Think about what you are thankful for today then take one of the sheets and write a poem. The word â€˜Thanksâ€™ is written down the side. Use each letter as the beginning of a line of your poem. When youâ€™re done, leave it for others to see!
Beautiful words fill my mind. I am speaking of royal things. My tongue is like the pen of a skilled writer. Psalms 45:1
Equipment: Candles/Tea-lights, Matches, Sturdy Table (or other safe place to leave candles), Fire-cloth, Water.
Text: This section is about praying for others. Spend some time thinking of someone you know who could use Godâ€™s help right now. Now take a candle and light it. The flame represents your prayer to God. Make sure you do spend some time in prayer asking God to help that person before you move on.
Equipment: Post-it notes, Pens, Bibles, Card
Text: This is your last stop on todayâ€™s journey. What have you learnt? What questions do you have? Have you met with God in a different way? How have you changed? Is there anything that you are going to do now? Write down your answers to some of these questions on the Post-Its and stick them to the walls.
Spend as long as you want in here. Pray, Read the bible, relax.
In the past we’ve also used paints, lego bricks, hand massages, fruit to taste, etc for different stations. The response from young people to the labyrinth has always been very positive, with people saying that it gave them an opportunity to avoid distractions and actually spend time with God. On our most recent installation, a number of non-Christians took part and commented on the amazing atmosphere and sense of peace they felt while doing it.
So has anyone else tried out a labyrinth with young people? What has been their response?
For more creative prayer and worship spaces, check out Breathe by Dare2Engage.