With new small group events right around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the “I” dotting and “T” crossing of our current season. For those of us who fish for group leaders, group members and community builders this time of year, the forest is easily lost in the trees.
We’ve all heard the term “power of prayer” more times than we can likely count. But when it comes to group building and group leader building, prayer is an often overlooked tool. Everyone knows praying is an integral part of groups, but it can often become an afterthought, instead of a leading effort.
Several years ago, a national study of small group attenders asked why they found their group so enjoyable. What was it about the group that had them coming back again and again? The answer to this question is worth it’s weight in gold.
New group leaders often ask, “what can I do to make my group irresistible?”
In fact, if you’re reading this, you’ve likely had one or more group leaders under your care ask you a variation of this question.
Does a perfect environment where people can grow and learn and share and care take center stage?
Does the perfect balance of study and fellowship mean more than anything else?
Does the perfect amount and type of food provided, if any, have a huge impact on attendance?
All these things are often very important, but also very earthly. You may have guessed by now, however, that none of them came close to the top answer in the survey.
The number one thing responders cited as to why they love their group, by a long shot, was the power of prayer.
Pray for your Group Members
Knowing their group leader prayed for them regularly meant more than where they met, what they studied, who they built relationships with, how their faith grew, what yummy food they ate or any of the other measurable things we humans often put too much value in when hosting groups.
If you already have prayer deeply embedded in your groups culture: way to go! Your ministry is likely thriving and viewed as a huge blessing to most, if not all, who participate.
If not, the upcoming event you’re currently planning is a great place to start.
Pray with your Group Leaders
When you meet with your leaders, pray with them – specifically and individually – on the spot. Make sure to elaborate that you are praying with them, not for them. This simple difference in wording invites them to take an active role, instead of remaining passive with an expectation of someone else taking their needs before God as they sit on the sidelines.
When preparing for this, listen to what they have to say, hear their needs and then when you’ve heard what’s weighing on their hearts and minds, ask them if you can pray with them.
Some leaders are very transparent and come right out and tell you about their current battles. Others simply drop clues in what they say and how they say it. And we’ve all had the ones who are almost unreadable. There is no one-size-fits-all way of knowing what to pray about, and if you aren’t confidant about a prayer request, there’s no shame in just asking them what they need prayer for in their current life.
Like most things, it’s always a great idea to have a plan first. Count the cost, as they say. Don’t just open your mouth and ramble on for as long as it takes to lose your voice. Pray specifically. Pray concisely. Pray efficiently and most important of all, pray from a place of true love.
Start by thanking God for fearfully and wonderfully making them. Then, give gratitude for their obedience to God’s call on their life. Offer specific examples of things you’ve seen in them that honor God and serve others. Ask our Lord to help them with their burdens, clear their paths and give them wisdom for the things laid out in front of them. Finish by asking our Father to bless them in ways that only He can do and in a manner that manifests in a way that only He can take the credit.
And, feel free to leave some room in their for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Once you’ve led by example, coach them on doing the same thing for everyone in their small group. It’s all too easy to take prayer requests as a routine part of the group time, and simply tell the group members you’ll be praying for them. Instead, pray with them, on the spot. Knowing someone they view as a spiritual leader is praying with them will keep them coming back.