If you’re in the business of (or generally interested in) church leadership, you might’ve seen floating around the interwebs the idea of take out boxes for faith. Sometimes they’re designed for liturgical seasons like Lent or Advent; other times they’re distributed for seasons like summer, when mayyyybe folks don’t get to church as often. The idea is that people can take the box home, and in it find supplies and instructions for practices to deepen their faith.
As I realized that I’d love to offer something like this to my college students, I also noticed that all the pre-made lists I’d found felt pretty specifically developed for families with kids. They either included activities obviously for children, or practices like baking bread that required time and tools many members of my college congregation don’t necessarily have. So after a lot of googling, some Facebook asking, Pinteresting, personal brainstorming, and a little doodling, we’ve arrived at this college-geared Prayer to Go. If this sounds up your alley, keep reading to find what I included in the boxes (all the goods for a daily practice and weekly ones), where I got the supplies, and a printable or three for good measure.
The examen is a reflective practice that invites participants to notice God’s presence in their day. There are a lot of ways to ask the questions — where you felt most and least fulfilled, where you felt it easiest and hardest to give love, where you felt closest and furthest from God… I drew this mini journal* to include in our boxes. There’s a page for every day in Lent and the prayer box’s instructions encourage doing it daily for the season. But I avoided putting specific dates on the pages because, you know, life happens.
If you’re in the market for a book that explains the examen (and has pictures), check out Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn.
*Tips for printing: The linked PDF file has six pages — print double sided (including the blank one) with short-edge binding. You’ll for sure need pages 1-4, then just make as many copies of pages 5-6 as you need for whatever season. (For Lent including Sundays, you’ll need 11 double-sided copies.) Don’t forget that one set of pages makes two booklets.
Designed with Lent in mind, our boxes include supplies and instructions for a different kind of prayer each Sunday during the season — seven, including Easter. Here’s a PDF of the booklet with guidelines for practicing each prayer. I also included in the box a schedule of church and campus ministry programming for the season and a suggested order in which to try the prayers.
But all the supplies are meant to be reusable, and really could go in any order. The rules are:
There are no rules! Pray in whatever way works for you.
First Sunday: Finger Labyrinth
Supplies: laminated labyrinth, dry erase marker.
I used this labyrinth, modeled after one in the floor of France’s Chartres Cathedral. Size-wise, I printed two to a page. Bonus fun fact: I have an irrational love of laminating things. Preparing this prayer brightened my day.
Second Sunday: Prayer Beads
Supplies: large beads, medium beads, string, and cross pendants.
A colleague in ministry suggested Kristen E. Vincent’s book A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads. It’s great! Vincent includes background on the use of Protestant prayer beads, practical instructions for making your own, and the bulk of the book is a multi-session devotional to use with the beads themselves. If all you’re looking for is the instructions for assembling the beads themselves, those are on her website here.
I did adjust the way I made the beads to better suit our purposes. The instructions in the book include seed beads, wire, and crimping beads to hold things together. For mostly economical reasons, I adapted by replacing the wire with string and the seed beads with knots (I ended up really liking the more rustic look!). A single knot will do for the three beads that go on both strands, but once you’re on a single strand, go for double knots (and like a quadruple one at the end). If you decide to do this, you’ll need 60″ of string instead of the 20-24″ of wire listed in Vincent’s directions.
I assembled the prayer beads prior to including them in our boxes, but another option would be to put all the supplies in a bag for pray-ers to assemble themselves. Full disclosure, even once I’d gotten the hang of making them, I was averaging about 20 minutes per prayer bead set. Depending on how many you’re making it can be a time commitment, but if you’re a fidgety maker like I am, it’s not the worst to have something to do while you watch Netflix.
Third Sunday: Play-Doh Prayer
I saw variations of Play-Doh prayers in several of the family-centered boxes I read about, and figured this is one that would translate just fine.
Fourth Sunday: Knot Prayer
Supplies: paracord or other thicker-than-string rope.
Y’all, there’s a lot to worry about these days. My hope with this prayer wasn’t to say “don’t worry at all, God loves us so everything is fine!” God does love us, but sometimes things just aren’t fine. My hope with this prayer is to help pray-ers remember that God is with us even when life is at its messiest.
The thickness of the cord ensures that the knots can be easily untied. The pieces I included in our boxes were probably about 18 inches long. If you use paracord, make sure to burn the ends so it doesn’t fray.
Fifth Sunday: Making Crosses
Supplies: sticks, and string or wire.
There’s another book to guide us here — it’s Ellen Morris Prewitt’s Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God.
The instructions in the guidelines booklet are way condensed/adapted from Prewitt’s book, but the TL;DR here is that making crosses from found objects and recycled materials can be a way to illuminate new insight into the meaning of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, and our own relationships with God.
Palm Sunday: Human Figure
Supplies: wooden human figure.
This is the other prayer I borrow/adapted from another take out box (specifically this one, which seems to originally have been shared during this webinar). With Holy Week approaching it seemed fitting to focus on Jesus’s humanity.
Easter Sunday: New Creation
Supplies: glass jar, and dirt.
At a recent retreat, one of my colleagues set up a prayer station that involved different smells — fresh pine needles, coffee, dirt, etc. I found myself particularly struck by the scent of the dirt, and wrote up these guidelines with the new life of Easter in mind.
In addition to the printed examen journal, prayer instruction booklet, and schedule of church/campus ministry Lenten events, here’s everything I included in our boxes. The links below are to the specific things I used, but feel free to adapt to whatever works for your group!
- Take out boxes
- Dry-erase markers
- Large (10-12mm) beads
- Medium (8-10mm) beads
- Wire or string for prayer beads
- Cross pendants (Shipping for two packs was about the same as the price of the crosses themselves, but I found a code for free shipping! It’s worth a google to see if there are any current deals when you’re ordering.)
- Paracord (This website has tons of color, size, and quantity options. With free shipping on orders $5.99 and up, it was cheaper to order 50ft — a bit more than we needed — than to order 25ft and pay shipping.)
- Sticks for making crosses (I used pieces of bamboo from a old sushi mat.)
- Wire or string for crosses (I used discarded Christmas-tree-wrapping twine and pieces of wire/string I had laying around my house.)
- Wooden human figures
- Tiny jars
- Dirt (it’s most fitting for the prayer if this comes from the actual ground instead of a bag).
Finally, if the labels on our boxes would be useful to you, Here’s the PDF of those too. (If they’re not but you want something similar, you can make your own by checking out the business card design templates on Canva.)
Phew! That’s it! If you end up using this stuff in your ministry, I’d love to know about it in the comments. 🙂