Try this creative mandala project as a way to help youth explore a variety of topics or as a contemplative prayer experience.
Mandala is the Sanskrit word for "circle." In some faith traditions, the mandala represents the sacred, wholeness, and unity. The creation of a mandala is often used as a contemplative or prayerful practice with the focus on the process and not the end product. (I have seen video of Buddhist monks who spend hours creating elaborate mandala designs using colored sand, only to wipe them completely away as soon as they are completed).
In the activity pictured above, the mandalas were created using cardboard rounds. You can find these in craft stores or get them donated by your local pizza place. Participants were asked to contemplate the themes of brokenness and wholeness related to the practice of communion. In communion, we come to the table in our brokenness, knowing that God welcomes us as we are. We literally break the bread. And then, we share the bread as one community, one body, and celebrate our wholeness and unity in God's love. To explore this understanding, participants selected an image from a magazine that represented brokenness to them and glued those images to the center of their mandala. Group members chose images of war, hunger, natural devastation, and so on.
We then passed our mandalas to the person next to us and that person responded to our image of brokenness by finding a related image that they felt represented "wholeness" and gluing it to the outer edge of the mandala. We continued this process, passing the mandalas around the circle, each person adding a wholeness image to everyone else's mandalas, until they came back around to the original creator. For a real challenge, do this entire process in prayerful silence. Finish by inviting conversation about the original images of brokenness and how each person responded to those images. Consider how we are called as Christians to both acknowledge our brokenness and work together to bring wholeness to a fragmented world. (Note: It was interesting in this experience to see how participants often had a different interpretation of the "brokenness" images and how this affected the image of wholeness they chose for each mandala. Reflecting on these different interpretations added to the richness of our closing discussion).
There are many ways to adapt this activity. Instead of using magazines, youth could draw or paint images or write words on their mandalas. You could create mandalas that reflect prayer concerns of the group, things for which you are thankful, as a way to reflect on global needs, or as a response to a scriptural passage or story. Another approach is to have each person complete their mandalas individually and then talk together about the process of praying through this visual and hands-on experience.