With each new class, I start off the
same way, by getting the children to go through a simple routine. I
say "God is good." The children have to reply "All
the time." I then say "All the time," and the
children say "God is good."
When the children are used to this (just one or two weeks), I get
different children to do the leading instead of myself. Then after
one or two more weeks, I get the children who want to lead to think
up their own words to describe God, i.e. "God is wonderful,
awesome, powerful, marvellous" etc. etc.
When the children are used to this routine, I say "Today,
instead of starting by talking about God, I want you to start by
talking to God, by saying God, you're good, wonderful, awesome etc.
We won't do the 'All the time' part, but as many of you as want to
can participate." Usually there is no shortage of volunteers,
and the children have actually started to pray in public.
A few weeks later, I invite the children, if they wish, to make
their prayers a little longer, by thanking God for something. So
they may pray "God, you're wonderful, and I thank you for
sending Jesus." "God you're awesome, and thank you for my
mum." etc. To encourage the children, I often compliment them
on their prayers. "What a great prayer." "That was a
wonderful thing to pray for." etc.
Using this procedure, I find that most children are eager to
participate in our opening prayer to God. I have had one or two
classes where only a few children would volunteer to pray, but this
was easily overcome by offering an incentive. I say, "I have a
piece of paper in my pocket, with a number on it. If the number is
1, the first person who prays will get a little prize (e.g. a
bookmark), if the number is 10, the tenth person to pray will get
the prize, etc." I have never needed an incentive for the
following week. Once children "take the plunge" and pray
out loud for the first time, they are eager to keep doing it. I
usually find that after a few weeks, whenever I enter a class, the
hands of about half the children shoot up, indicating that they want
to participate in the opening prayer!