Paint, candles, disco lights, Starbucks cups, a double-decker bus-in recent years, prayer among British Isles South District (BISD) youth has taken on a whole new life. While decorating a bus or constructing a faux coffee shop for prayer may seem unconventional, an emphasis on prayer has revitalized youth ministry throughout England and Wales.
Seven years ago, for Nazarene Youth International (NYI) on the BISD, leadership structures had dissolved and the future was questionable. A handful of Nazarenes decided their only chance was to restructure NYI.
During a planning weekend, Helen Lawson, former NYI Prayer Ministry Coordinator, brought a call to prayer for the youth of the district. Prayer became central to all council meetings, members were committed to regular prayer partners, and prayer became the primary focus among BISD youth.
When Lawson set up a prayer room at the next event, the result was a deepening of young people's faith.
"The event was on fire with this prayer room at the heart of it," she said. "Never before had I learned how easy it is to bring young people to God." The council established prayer rooms on mission trips, leadership weekends, camps, and retreats. Rooms have been filled with a myriad of creative prayers: written, spoken, paintings representing pain, joy, confession, and requests.
One year, the walls of a classroom were covered in white paper, fabric, and Scripture banners. Lamps illuminated stations for various types of meditation including areas for individuals or groups.
One quiet girl at camp spent a lot of time in the prayer room. "Near the end of the week she came to me and said that she had been having counseling for years but that week had done more for her than all of that put together," Lawson said.
Carl McCann, NYI president on the BISD, remembers announcing an optional early morning shift and prayer walk at another event. "We got up not expecting people to join us, but 15 youth, 13 to 15-year-olds, were there," he said. "Half weren't Christians. Many had never prayed. We climbed to the top of a nearby hill and prayed for the camp and surrounding chalets. Several prayed for the first time."