Chaplain’s Toolbox

This is a list of resources shared by chaplains who attended the 2017 National Chaplains Association for Youth at Risk conference.

​Art and Crafts


  • Crafting Calm Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation by Maggie Oman Shannon
  • Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth (Paraclete Press)
  • Sacredspace (multisensory worship experiences for youth) by Dan Kimball and Lilly Lewin
  • The Big Book of Therapeutic Activity Ideas for Children and Teens by Lindsey Joiner
  • Fun Science That Teaches God’s Word
  • Zentangle for Kids by Jane Marbaix



  • Doodle Prayer- in the center of a piece of paper write your favorite name for God; put names of people on other parts of the page; color; share names and situations
  • Scribble Pictures – close eyes and scribble with a pencil; what picture is coming to you; color in; explain God Created Us to Create- give everyone a paper with the shape of a quarter piece of a circle; have each one create something in that space that represents them.  Put it all the pieces together on a large poster board to make a beautiful design of diversity and connectedness.
  • Finger Labyrinth- print a labyrinth on paper; youth may color; as your finger travels the path: a)quiet your mind b)pray for yourself or someone else c)keep a question in mind and listen for an answer d) at the center pause and take several breaths--here you are closest to the center of your spirit  e)retrace the path out being grateful for the opportunity to bring insight back with you into your daily life.
  • Self Collage- create a collage about yourself using pictures
  • Kintsugi Craft- in Japan broken objects are often repaired with gold. Brokenness doesn’t mean tossed aside.  The flaws are seen as a unique piece of the object’s history.   Buy a plate at Dollar Tree; break plate; have youth write how they are broken on sides of the broken pieces.  Glue together with gold hot glue. 
  • Balloon Ball- using plaster of paris strips, have youth write on a strip something they want to let go of, or be released from; cover the balloon with the strips; let dry  
  • What’s Going On-  On a paper have youth write a word or phrase about what’s currently going on in their life, for example: holding on.  Have them decorate around the word with colors; talk about how the phrase and colors describe them today.
  • Boats on the Water- cut out pictures of different boats, some with people in them, some without.  Cut out waves of different shapes.  Read Psalm 93:4 “The Lord is mightier than the waters,” (paraphrased).  Each person picks out a boat and waves and creates a collage picture; then talk about pictures.
  • Hands around the Cross- Cut out a hand to mid-arm piece for each person; let each one decorate their piece to represent them; on a poster board with a cross in the center have each one glue their piece on surrounding the cross.  Display in group/worship space.
  • Butterflies- On a piece of paper glue two butterfly wings cut out from colorful scrapbook paper; in between the two wings youth create a butterfly “body” using words that describe themselves.  Antennae can be added.

​​Chapel Ideas

  • Prayer Well- a wishing well with a bucket with kneelers around it; youth can get up in worship and kneel and write a prayer on paper and put it in the bucket; at the end of the service take the prayer bucket outside and burn the papers
  • Sin Tree- in a corner of the chapel set up a cross in the corner called a “sin tree;” provide a hammer and nails; youth can hammer a nail into the cross to represent their sins; use bandaids if it is not safe to have hammer and nails
  • Welcome signs- when expecting the arrival of a new youth, have current youth design welcome signs and put in the windows of the chapel W-E-L-C-O-M-E  and T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G letters-  We live between welcome and thanksgiving. When expecting the arrival of a new youth, have current youth write messages of welcome on the individual pages of the letter making the word “welcome;”  when a young person leaves have other youth write words of thanks on the individual “thanksgiving” letter pages.
  • ​Prayer Board- a wooden board with slots labelled gratitude, comfort, love, joy, wisdom, etc.  Youth put prayers  in the slot of the word they wish to “take with them.”   The chaplain holds the prayer for them and checks back in with them.  It is a good “welcome” activity for them, and a tool for a final “goodbye” evaluation. 
  • Offering of Gifts and Talents- youth sign up to share a talent or gift; chaplain chooses 3 people per week; youth can sing, praise dance, play drums, do gymnastics, etc.
  • Gifts from the Altar- have a variety of small gifts on the worship table; put a question on the screen such as “when did you experience forgiveness;”  youth write about it on a slip of paper and the papers are put in a basket; a slip is drawn out and read, and that person gets a gift off the altar
  • Play bells- purchase a set of colorful hand bells and select songs from; each song comes with color-coded cards and fully orchestrated music CD. This requires no rehearsal and can be played by everyone.  Sounds great and even the older youth love it.
  • ​Science Experiments with Spiritual Connections- have a series of stations set up around the room; small groups of staff/youth move around the room trying each experiment; example: a bowl of white rice and small safety pins; blindfold the person and have them pick up the rice without getting the pins; looks easy but it is difficult; without being focused on God we can pick up bad habits.   For complete list contact
  • Prayer Stations for the Lord’s Prayer- experience each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer; idea from Sacredspace (multisensory worship experiences for youth) by Dan Kimball and Lilly Lewin
  • Tibetian Bowl- have the youth make the bowl “sing” as a sign of the start of a group or worship time
  • Faith Sharing Hints for Speaking with Clients-  a guideline for those outside the agency in talking with clients about spiritual issues.  Available from
  • Guest Speaker Topics and Guidelines for Presentations- a suggested list of helpful topics for chapel guests andSome parameters for guests to be aware of.  Available from
  • Prayer Planes- youth write a name or situation they want to share with God; fold the papers into airplanes and fly the prayers upward to God!
  • Advent Acts of Kindness Prayer Station- set up a wooden box to represent the manger; provide a basket of raffia straw-like pieces;  each time someone does an act of kindness they may put a raffia straw in the box.

Special Guest Ideas

  • Scott Harris, Christian pop singer/songwriter does free concerts each year
  • Misty Wallace and Keith Blackburn, do a presentation together.  Misty was shot by Keith and lived to forgive him.  Now they both work in restorative justice and prison ministry.



  • What’s In the Bible DVD series by Veggie Tale creator Phil Vischer
  • NBC news clips
  • TED talk by Sean Stephenson “The Prison of your Mind”​
  • TED talk by Michaela DePrince “From Devil’s Child to Star Ballerina”
  • Jeromy Darling song “In Their Absence”
  • YouTube presentations by Nick Vujicic, an inspirational speaker with no arms or legs
  •   movie clips for illustrations
  •   tech assistance for non-profits
  •  mini-movies, video backgrounds, etc.
  • YouTube  The Shoe – Stella Tomiolo
  • My Shoes – Inspirational Video by Skyline Productions

Small Group Resources

  • Poetry Dog Tags-  visit and purchase on Amazon; youth string together dog tags with words they choose to fit their feelings/situation;  can string together words that go with a song they are singing; these also work well in grief groups
  • Journal Lessons- 11 topics combining the use of scriptures with journaling questions relating the verse(s) to your life.  Topics: Encouraging words, Light Overcoming Darkness; Storms of Life, God’s Protection, Worry, Perseverance, etc.   Contact if you would like a copy.
  • Mindful Games Activity Cards: 55 Fun Ways to Share Mindfulness with Kids and Teens by Susan Kaiser Greenland and Annaka Harris
  • A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh (meditation)
  • Soularium- a set of color photos, comes with ideas about how to get people to relate pictures to their spiritual journey.  Available at
  • Chiji Processing Cards (They also have processing dice)  Available through Institute for Experiential Education,


Movies with an asterick have lesson plans for dividing the movie into a 4-6 week series.  Contact if you would like any of the lesson plan outlines.

  • Chasing Mavericks *
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham *
  • Girl Rising *
  • Black Nativity *
  • From the Rough *
  • Lion
  • The Bible (PBS series)  ½ hour segments
  • Band of Brothers (for boys)   10 part series, 1 hour segments; chaplain who used this gave boys a dog tag with scripture at the end of the series
  • ​Yellow Roses (for girls)  8 week film series and student book; deals with beauty, bullying, pressure, abuse; chaplain who used this gave girls a charm to add to a bracelet each week


Other Ideas

  • See you at the Pole- provide “See You at the Pole” wristbands for youth who gather to pray at the agency flagpole
  • Picture Directory- let the youth take a selfie on an iPad and put their first name on it; this helps with remembering the names of the youth
  • Weighted turtle blankets- make weighted turtle-shaped blankets for youth to use during chapel and group times; Contact  if you want the pattern.  If you would like to purchase a completed turtle blanket the suggested donation is $100.  Proceeds go to Catholic Charities, Spiritual Care Department.  Approximate size 36” x 24”, weight 7-9 pounds, made of fleece, pea gravel and fiberfill.
  • Youth with Room and Chapel Restrictions- when youth don’t get to participate in spiritual activities meet with them later for a one on one; do a Bible study, a coloring page, a worksheet, etc. with them
  • Give a Cross- when a young person arrives give them a cross as a sign of welcome
  • Youth Committee-  choose a youth from each house; meet once a week to get their ideas and involvement in chapel planning
  • Coffee House- a time of fellowship/social hour following Chapel when youth can talk and enjoy non-caffeine drinks
  • Outside Chapel- participate with youth in some activity other than chapel; let them see you in a different setting
  • Cookies and Blanket- college students make and bring blankets for youth; youth get to pick a blanket and talk and have cookies with the college students​
  • Labyrinth- make a labyrinth by using a canvas paint tarp and paint the labyrinth design on the tarp.  One way to use this is as a farewell ritual.  The young person walks the labyrinth on their last night in chapel; others gather around holding battery candles; as the person walks into the labyrinth people reflect on the life and gifts of that person; when they reach the center the chaplain leads everyone in a responsive prayer; then the group sings a song as the person walks out of the labyrinth into a new chapter in their life.  For a sample of the wording used contact 
  • Tree Rings- tree rings tell the age of the tree and what kind of life the tree has had.  Give youth a tree ring slab to look at. (tree ring slabs can be purchased through Amazon)  Talk about how the small rings show bad years and the larger rings indicate good years.  Like the tree we are going to survive and grow.  Read Psalm 147:3.  Talk about how Jesus helped people going through bad times.  Give youth a paper with a tree ring on it.  Have them write something for each year in their life.  If too painful to write about it.  Color the rings with colors denoting good and bad years.​
  • Tea for the Soul- a time is offered for staff to drop in after a major event, trauma, or just a long month.  Aroma therapy, stress relief hand lotion, assortment of teas, treats such as fresh fruit and oat and honey bars, relaxing cd music, coloring sheets, or word finds related to the season.  Staff come to relax, refresh, and renew  in the chapel for 30 minutes to an hour.



  • Extreme Faith Edition
  • NIrV  New International reader’s Version (easier to read than the NIV)
  • Children’s Action Bible  (comic book style)
  •  has a wide variety of Bibles, bulk rates and great sales!
  • Youth really like it when they have a Bible imprinted with their name (invest in an imprinter or maybe someone would like to donate one!)


Other Books

  • 365 Day to Knowing God for Girls and 365 Days to Knowing God for Guys; short daily devotions, can be purchased from Christian Book Distributors or Amazon
  • Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean; for younger kids; about how to be still and meditate
  • How to Pray when You’re Pissed at God by Ian Punnett
  • Prayer for People Who Can’t Sit Still by William Tenny-Brittian
  • Healing the Ravaged Soul by Sue Magrath
  • Reading the Bible with the Damned by Bob Ekblad
  • Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation by Maggie Oman Shannon
  • Multi-Sensory Church by Sue Wallace
  • Multi-Sensory Scripture by Sue Wallace



Mission Ideas

  • Have a mission week or do an activity occasionally:
  • Make fall door decorations  for a local nursing home
  • Go caroling at Christmas time
  • Play bingo or do puzzles with residents at a nursing home
  • Do weeding, planting, and gardening for people in the community



  •  seminars and online courses dealing with mental health issues;  for example Integrating your client’s spirituality in Clinical Practice


Free Stuff

  • Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and other stores have to give away a set amount to local agencies each month.   For example, Lowe’s or Home Depot helped one agency by donating the building supplies and labor for building an outdoor labyrinth.   Don’t be afraid to ask for something you need! 
  • Craigslist is another place to find free items for your ministry setting.


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National Chaplain Association for Youth at  Risk

The National Chaplains’ Association for Youth at Risk (NCAYR) is in its 59th year of support for ministers to youth in youth-serving agencies throughout the nation. NCAYR began in Chicago in 1948 with a small conference of chaplains from training schools in New York, Michigan and Chicago. Four chaplains began the association that grew into a network of approximately 150 members over the years and annual conferences were held in 15 different States. We seek out ministers from every youth-serving agency in the nation to join our Association and to increase our sharing of support and ideas for our common mission to advocate for quality spiritual