Prayers of confession for teenagers

1. Bath bombs

Water splashingWrite or draw on bath bombs something that has gone wrong or is broken - eg, a heart, the name of someone you have fallen out with. Then watch the bath bombs effervesce and dissolve in a pool of water.

You will need: a children's paddling pool, water, a jumbo bath bomb for each person, permanent writing markers.

This is a little more adventurous and needs a little supervision! Blow up a children's paddling pool and half fill it with water, making sure there is plenty of room for effervescing bath bombs not to overflow the top. Make the area atmospheric with low lighting or strategically placed candles. Give everyone a 'bath bomb' and invite them to draw on it with a permanent marker a very simple picture to represent something that has gone wrong or is broken - eg, a heart, the name of someone they have fallen out with, a tree for the state of the planet, and so on.

Spend some time reflecting together, maybe with some instrumental music playing quietly in the background. Allow prayers of confession to emerge naturally, and lead prayers of confession from one of the many liturgical worship books or books containing anthologies of prayers, such as The Book of Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin (Zondervan, 2002) or A Wee Worship Book by Wild Goose Worship Group (Wild Goose Publications, 2004).

Then, invite people one at a time to drop their bath bomb (symbolically identifying their mistake/brokenness/sin) into the water and watch it effervesce and melt away. As each bath bomb is dropped in the water, lead a prayer or pronounce the assurance of forgiveness for each person individually.

2. Sand confession (based on John 8.1-11)

A heart drawn in sandYou will need: trays of dry sand, tealight candles, a metal tray, a second tray or candle stand.

This would also work really well if you are fortunate enough to be close to a beach!

Draw in the sand a symbol that represents something that has gone wrong or is broken - eg, a heart, the name of someone somebody has fallen out with, and so on. Then watch the drawings disappear when the trays are gently shaken. Place a lighted tealight candle on the sand to symbolise your acceptance of forgiveness.

More info

Depending on how well your group knows John 8.1-11 (the story of the woman caught in adultery), you may wish to read the story from the Bible first.

Invite people to visualise or imagine that you have all travelled back to the time of Jesus. Spend some time describing what it might smell like, sound like, what you can see and the bustle of the town. You find yourself being dragged by a crowd of people in front of Jesus. They hold you there and you can't run away and you are very scared. Kneeling before God, you are faced with all the rubbish in your life, the dark secrets and the knowledge that he knows everything you have done and said. He knows all about...  (imagine some scenarios appropriate for the age group you're with).

Pause the story to invite each person to take a moment to remember the things they have done wrong or said, or not done, and then draw in the trays of sand a symbol that represents something that has gone wrong or is broken - eg, a heart, the name of someone they have fallen out with, a tree for the state of the planet, and so on.

Continuing the story, imagine someone shouting your sins to God and to the crowd and you feel ashamed and guilty. You feel you cannot meet God's eyes, but God reaches out to you and raises your head so you have to meet eyes. Without his eyes leaving yours, he reaches down to brush over the sand where you drew or wrote your confessions.

(Gently shake the tray of sand so the imprints disappear.)

God turns to the crowd. 'Are any of you perfect or have never sinned? Do you have the right to judge? No. Leave judgement to God in heaven and try to live out the faith you have, rather than condemning others.'

As the crowd slowly disappears, you realise that you have been released. God looks at you, kneels next to you and sees beyond your sins to your laughter, smiles and tears, looking straight into your heart. Before, you could only see your sins, but now there is beauty hidden and tears fall from God's eyes as he sees your pain. Silently, he wraps his arms around you, holds you tightly and leads you to a safer place. Before you leave, you may wish to light a candle to symbolise your acceptance of the forgiveness offered to you.

For more information and other creative ideas see Sue Wallace, Multi-Sensory Scripture, Scripture Union, 2005.

3. Film clip: The Mission

A tall waterfall with a bridge at the top

You will need: The Mission (Warner Home Video, VHS/DVD, 1986/2006, PG rating), DVD player, TV screen or projector, speakers for sound.

Scene 11:
Longer length clip: start from 30:30 to 40:50 (10 mins 20 secs)
Medium length clip: start from 34:50 to 40:50 (6 mins)
Shorter length clip: start from 36:50 to 40:50 (4 mins)

Rodrigo Mendoza, played by Robert de Niro, makes his living kidnapping Guaranis and other indigenous people and selling them to the nearby plantations. He is shown to have a human side, however, caring deeply both for his brother and fiancée. However, when he finds his brother in bed with his fiancée, Mendoza stabs him in a jealous rage and then spirals into extreme guilt and depression over what he has done. Seeking repentance from the Jesuit missionaries, he begs them not to make his penance too light.

He carries his penance in the form of a literal very heavy load up the waterfall.  Eventually, his load is cut from him as he watches his burden roll away. Forgiveness has come.

After watching the scene, keep a moment of silence and invite people to share whether they can identify with the novice monk. Invite them to wonder how it might feel, or to know their burdens being removed or stripped away like the heavy load rolling down the waterfall.

Allow prayers of confession to emerge naturally, and/or lead a prayer that contains the assurance of forgiveness from one of the many liturgical worship books or books containing anthologies of prayers.