The Strategic Power of Prayer (and Prayer Requests) for Sunday School and Group Leaders

Prayer-webIf you want your class to grow, both numerically and spiritually, then you have to be a leader who prays.  Prayer helps us to realize that we cannot do what we’re called to do all on our own.  Prayer helps us to admit to ourselves and confess to God that the ministry we need to do cannot be done without his intervening power and work.  We need Him to work for our ministry to be what He wants it to be.

Here are a few prayer strategies that will help you minister to your class.  You may already do some of these things.  If so, be encouraged by these good reminders:

  1. Take prayer requests in class, and write them down.

The chances of you remembering to pray for their requests later go way up when you commit to write them down every week.

  1. Commit to regular prayer for your class.

Once you’ve written them down you’ll be able to pray for them later on in the week.  Choose at least one day a week to pray for those requests.  It would be best to pray for them every day, but doing something is better than doing nothing.  Set a reminder somewhere and pray!  You can’t take people to places you have never been.  If you want a praying class, then you need to be a praying leader.

  1. Follow up on the requests.

Remembering prayer requests that the people in your class have, praying for them, and then following up with them regarding their prayer requests can be an incredible way to say to those in your class that you care about them.  Have you ever had someone come up to you and ask you about a specific prayer need that you had previously mentioned?  Have you ever caught someone praying for you?  There are very few people who would not be encouraged by knowing that someone had been praying for them and thinking about them.  You may be amazed at what a 5 minute phone call would do to encourage someone.  A text or an email asking them about their job search, a sickness, or the lost son or daughter, can speak volumes about your love for them.  It may be difficult to do this with everyone in the class, but picking out one or two people a week follow up with can have a profound effect on the class.

  1. Pray one-on-one.

Did you know that you can pray with someone over the phone?  You can also pray with them in between the rows between services, or before class in your room.  When someone tells you, “Hey, please pray for my _____________…”, one way you can respond is, “Let’s pray right now!”  I have been blessed by hearing people I love pray for me by name and out loud.  You will be a blessing to others when you do that for them.

  1. Pray for the lost in your class.

One way you can tell that a class has an inward or outward focus is to listen to their prayer requests.  One of the ways that you can help begin to foster an evangelistic spirit in your class is to pray for those who need Christ.  Periodically, try a week of only taking prayer requests regarding people your class knows who are lost.  If they won’t pray for lost people you’ll have a hard time convincing them to talk to lost people about the gospel.

  1. Celebrate answered prayer.

Prayer works!  When you see God work make sure to communicate it to the class.  Thank God publically through prayer each week for what He has done!  It will help the faith of your class to recognize God working among you.

Do any of you have any other ideas in regards to prayer and your classes?  Please share!

Want your group to grow? Try Open Groups!

open_door-t2Church Growth Researcher Thom Ranier posted on his blog his findings after over 25 years of research the most common pattern among churches in decline.
“Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.”
The same thing that causes whole churches to decline also causes Sunday School classes to decline as well. That is why I believe that every church that does Sunday School should have a goal of having an open group philosophy when it comes to every Sunday School class.
You may be asking, “What is an open group?”
Open Groups….

…Expect new people every time they meet.
If you were having guests over to your house for dinner, how would you prepare?  Would your house be clean? Would you make sure they knew how to get there?  Would you be warm and welcoming?  Would you talk over your guests head or speak to them where they are?  Open groups expect that guests are coming and are completely prepared to meet them, make them feel welcome, and to help them be a part of the group.

…Take the Great Commission as a group and individual mandate.
When Jesus gave the great commission to go and make disciples to his disciples He gave it to them as a group.  They understood that although it was a personal commission it was best done together.  It’s easier to reach people when you do it with others, and open groups leverage this to reach people.

…View their enrollment as a ministry and prayer list.
So many Sunday School classes view their enrollment as a list of people who could possibly come.  Often, if a person doesn’t come for a while they are taking off a list.  Also, they don’t add people to their list until they come a few times.  This is not a good idea if you want to grow.  Think about it–>They make it difficult to be a part of the group, and easy for them to stop being a part of the group.  Open groups view their enrollment as a list of people to which they minister.  They plan what ministry needs to be done on a weekly basis based on this list.  Leaders of open groups pray for their people and lead their groups to pray for each other as well.  Open groups cultivate prospect lists that they pray for as a group.

…Look for ways to invite new people.
If a group is open they will be disappointed and think that something is wrong if there was no one new attending when they met.  They are always looking for people to invite.  They are constantly looking to create a culture of invitation in their group.  Activities and fellowships are not just for people who already belong, but are also opportunities to invite new people to connect to the group.

…Allow people to belong before they believe.
People may not agree with everything we believe, but they should feel loved, accepted, and cared for the moment they come to the class, if not before.  They come back because they are loved and ministered to, and this gives the opportunity for the person who doesn’t believe to be under the practical teaching of God’s Word.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

…Realize that it takes effort to stay open.
The natural tendency of every group is to become closed.  It takes effort, vision, focus- leadership-  to stay open.

What are some other ways that your Sunday School group could be more open?