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Sep 05

Firm Foundation 1: prayer

My last post set out five firm foundations for a growing youth group. As promised, I now intend to expand on each foundation and to provide some ideas to show how easy it can be to see growth happen in our groups.
Our first foundation is the most essential, yet it can easily slip or be forgotten. Foundation one is Pray.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? If we want to see young people come closer to Jesus, then we need to be seeking God and asking for his guidance in all we do. Yet, for some strange reason, we can often find this hard to do. Read more … Whether we are not used to praying with others or whether the pressures and busyness of setting up everything before the young people arrive, it can be so easy to give prayer a backseat. Yet it is clear that prayer releases so much and will transform not just what we do, but how we do everything.

Here are five simple ways to make prayer have more prominence in your youth ministry:

1. Pray as leaders Make it a habit to pray together every time you meet as leaders. Praying before the young people arrive is as vital a task to do in preparing for the group as finding the keys to unlock the meeting room! Sometimes our set up is busy, leaders arrive later than hoped but we still make sure it’s a priority to pray. Don’t worry if you’re still praying when the young people arrive. I actually think it’s a good thing for them to see us doing it. It shows to them that we care about what goes on and that we want to seek God for his help. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Make sure there is a clear time when you agree to pray. We have it that as soon as all the leaders have arrived, we stop and pray, so we don’t miss it with all the setting up.

Then pray briefly at the end when the young people have gone. Ask someone to give thanks to God for all that has taken place.

Whenever you meet as leaders to plan, make sure there is time set aside to pray and seek God’s will for the ministry. It will be a very empowering moment.      2. Make prayer a natural part of the group sessions Just as it is vital for the leaders to form a habit of prayer, it is essential we model it to the young people. Start and end every session with prayer, nothing long or complicated, but just a recognition that we are a Christian group and we worship God.

If you know situations are coming up like exams or baptisms or a medical operation, then pray together as a group for that situation. We need to learn to model prayer which is natural and a part of our normal life, not something which needs special words or long periods of time (though of course there is a time and a place for both).

3. pray for the young people individually as leaders Make a list of all the young people connected to your group, including those who come every week and those who are only occasional visitors. Then divide the list up between the leaders and make a commitment that, as leaders, you will pray for all the group each week. This might mean you only have two or three to pray for, which makes it much easier to commit to pray! Then make sure you do pray for them and expect God to answer your prayers. There’s a helpful article on 10 things to pray for today’s teenager on our Growing as a leader page.

4. get others praying for the group Often the youth work can seem like an annex to church life, people know it happens but don’t really know anything about it. One way more of the church can have a sense of ownership is if you ask them to pray for you. Ask some adults if they would commit to praying for you, the leaders and the young people. Then make sure you give them regular updates and prayer requests.

5. set time aside to listen to God We are trying to model ourselves on Jesus. Jesus often took time away from all distractions to meet with his heavenly Father. We need to do the same. Don’t only present him with your prayer lists, but also make time to listen to God and to hear from him what he might want you to do and to seek his wisdom as you grow your group. If you haven’t taken a retreat, think about booking one in soon. See my post on The need to retreat to advance.

These simple steps will help us lead more in line with God, make us more dependent on him and will see our ministry deepen as a result. Give them a try!

What are some of the challenges you face in developing a foundation of prayer with your youth group? Leave a comment below.