Today’s guest blogger is C.J. Stephens, Small Groups Minister at Northeast Christian Church. Because I lead a Northeast small group, I receive C.J.’s monthly newsletter called “Leader Connect.” This past month, C.J. wrote about prayer in groups, an important topic for leaders, and I thought he hit the nail on the head.
GUEST POST by C.J. Stephens, Small Groups Minister at Northeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky
One of the most difficult, yet rewarding parts of group life is prayer.
It’s something that is incredibly difficult for some of our people. Maybe you’re one of those people. Some of us have never learned to pray. Some of us make it harder on ourselves than we need to. And most of all, we don’t know how to incorporate it into our group time in a healthy way.
What is Prayer?
For me, this has been a question that I’ve been asking myself as I’m raising my kids. Right now we have our kids say prayers before bed and before meals. However, like most parents I’m struggling with the concept of teaching them what prayer really is. As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of what some friends of mine use when they are teaching their children. When it is meal time, they simply say “OK, it’s time to talk to God.”
It’s really that simple. Prayer is really just talking to God. When I’m discussing these things with people in groups, that’s the way I try to frame it. God knows everything about you, but He wants you to talk to Him. He wants to know what is on your heart and your mind. He wants to hear from you.
For some of us, this is tough. So many people I know are honesty afraid to be too frank with God. They don’t want to upset Him, I guess. But the Bible is full of all kinds of prayers. Some are prayers of thankfulness. Some are prayers asking God for something. Some are prayers of anger or lament. God knows your heart. He simply wants to hear from you.
How Does Prayer Fit into My Group?
So how does this fit into my group? How does prayer affect group life?
In most of our groups, we have a time for prayer requests. As you are well aware, this can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes people in your group honestly share their hearts with the others in the group. It can be a time where people really grow closer to each other. It can be a time for vulnerability and leaning one another. That’s the point to prayer time in group.
However, you also know that it can be a time for endless requests. It can seem like a litany of dismay coming from the people in your group. It can also honestly just go too long. That’s the downside.
Despite all of that, I am a big believer in corporate prayer in your group. I think that the benefits can far outweigh the negatives. Where else do our people have the opportunity to share the difficult and challenging things in their life with people who care for them? Where else will you find out about the things the people in your group have weighing on them.
That being said, there are opportunities for improvement. If you find that this time if beginning to be stale or rote, change it up. Ask everyone for the top issue you can pray for. Do a popcorn style prayer where you pray as a group and challenge your people to say a short request. Do prayer time at a different time in your group. Sometimes putting as the first thing you do can shorten it up.
I would also suggest changing who is doing the praying. As the group leader, it is often your role to get things rolling. However, if everyone knows they are in a safe environment, they should feel comfortable to pray. If you want someone else to pray, I’d suggest talking to them ahead of time and getting their permission. No one likes to be put on the spot!
Lastly, I want to encourage you to be in prayer for your group members in between your meetings. Sometimes this is something that we let go by the wayside as leaders. However, praying for your group between sessions can be powerful. Take some time during your week to pray for them and their family. I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. This can draw you together and strengthen your group.
“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” – Oswald Chambers
Join the discussion about this post. What would you add to C.J.’s suggestions on improving group prayer? What has worked for your group? What other questions or comments do you have about this? Scroll down and click to comment!