9 Ways to Strengthen Prayer in Your Church

  • 14 March 2017
  • Randy Wollf

man looking at horizonIt’s five years from now. Amazingly, your church has grown incredibly in the area of prayer. People are setting aside time each day to pray. They’re worshipping Him throughout the day. You see life groups and ministry groups making prayer a central part of their group time. You see a church where God is doing amazing things as He responds to the prayers of His people.

Sound exciting? How do we realize this kind of vision? Here are nine ways to strengthen prayer in your church:

#1 – Enlarge People’s Vision for Prayer

How do we challenge people to grow deeper in prayer? Preaching and teaching on prayer can definitely help. In addition, here is an idea that can blow away people’s conceptions about how God can respond to prayer today. Tell people about some of the spiritual revivals that have happened over the past 300 years (for starters, see The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening video or text version). Knowing how God has responded to concerted, extraordinary prayer in the recent past can inspire us to pray in focused and persistent ways today.

#2 – Equip People to Pray

Most Christians know how to ask God for stuff. Yet, do we truly practice thankfulness, confession, and adoration of God? Do we realize deep down that the goal is not just to pray for a set period each day (as good as that is), but to develop a lifestyle of prayer?

We can teach about prayer through sermons and workshops, but there is nothing quite like combining training with practice. One of the most powerful equipping times for my church leadership team was when we went on a two-day prayer retreat (see 5 Reasons to go on a Prayer Retreat for more on prayer retreats). We all read a book on prayer prior to the retreat, had some training sessions, and then spent time in prayer. It was powerful!

#3 – Build on What is Already Happening

Why Most People Don’t Want to Lead Small Groups

  • 13 February 2017
  • Keith Reed

Small GroupsI’ve never heard of a church that has too many small group leaders. Too many ushers? Maybe. Too many musicians? Possibly. Too many small group leaders? Highly unlikely.

And yet, I know many churches that have grand visions for their small group ministry. Statements like, “we want to be a church of small groups” or “we want everyone to be in a small group.” All of them? Wouldn’t this require a massive influx of group leaders?

Herein lies the problem—you can’t multiply small groups if you don’t have small group leaders. For as motivated as some people may be to join a small group, their ambition will come to a screeching halt when they discover that the bus they’re about to board is missing its driver. 

Small group leaders don’t just appear—they must be developed.

But developing small group leaders comes with a set of challenges. Beyond the obvious task of equipping individuals for this position is another hurdle you might have to clear—most people don’t want to lead small groups. And the reason they don’t want to lead is directly tied to the expectations they believe a small group leader needs to fulfill. Many people feel that leading a small group:

    • Is categorially different than participating in a small group
    • Requires significant biblical knowledge and theological training 
    • Requires a lot of preparation time 
    • Is an unending commitment
    • Is a solo act 

Expectations of small group leaders may extend beyond this list, but these five make a sufficient point—there are many valid reasons why people don’t want to lead small groups. And these objections don’t necessarily mean that a person is less committed to discipleship. They’re simply considering if the role is a good fit (to which they should be commended).

Depending on how your small group ministry is structured, you might be able to lessen the objections that potential leaders might have. Maybe group leaders are provided with teaching curriculum to follow or maybe there’s a designated time for groups to break or disband.

It’s possible that you can convince people to lead small groups and that you can develop creative ways to limit the obstacles. But this approach will leave you wondering if these groups will be led with the appropriate amount of passion that comes when the right people are leading from the right positions. 

How Monopoly Helps Me Make Better Decisions

  • 19 January 2017
  • Keith Reed

Take a walk on the boardwalkThe game of Monopoly forces players to deal with the unexpected. The board offers several safe spaces, but it’s mostly packed with dangerous alternatives. Seven is the most commonly rolled number—my friend loved to repeat this stat throughout our games—but players must ready themselves for the worst possible scenario, even if the chances of this happening are low. If they don’t, they face the unfortunate task of choosing what to liquidate to pay off an overwhelming debt. 

In Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book called Decisive, they explain that people are more often wrong than right when it comes to their guesses about the future. The reason? We are naturally overconfident. Instead of preparing our game piece for the likelihood of landing on New York Avenue or Indiana Avenue, we envision the triumph of landing on Free Parking! Our decision-making process is clouded by misguided optimism. 

A helpful tool to reverse this trend is offered by researchers J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Schoemaker (this is highlighted in a section of Decisive called "Prepare to be Wrong"). They have discovered that when people work backward from a certain future they are better equipped to create explanations for why the event may have happened. This approach is called “prospective hindsight.”

Why does this method work? The Heath brothers explain that prospective hindsight generates more insights "because it forces us to fill in the blanks between today and a certain future event." When we cease to wonder whether an event will or won’t happen, we can focus entirely on the task of considering why a future event would happen. This approach can be used to identify factors that might influence positive outcomes or factors that might lead to negative outcomes.

In Monopoly, the negative factors are easy to spot. You are destined to land on Boardwalk if your dice create the right combination or if you draw the dreaded Community Chess card. There’s not much you can do to withstand either situation besides stocking the appropriate amount of cash and hoping that luck is on your side.

But when prospective hindsight is used in real-life scenarios, we can generate many reasons for why a given situation might happen. Even better, we can identify the factors that pose the greatest threats to our goals and allocate resources to stall these out.