PRAYER MINISTRY FIRST STEPS
The FIRST YEAR Discovery Process
How do you begin a prayer process in your church?
Have an envisioning evening for the launch of a new level of prayer ministries in your church! Do some of these things:
- Share the stories of what God is doing through prayer.
- Show one of the shorter transformation videos.
- Talk about the need for prayer – and the joy of prayer.
- Describe your vision for prayer ministries in the church.
- Spend a good share of the time praying – pray individually, pray into the vision for prayer!
- SAY: We announced an evening to talk about prayer ministries, and I am delighted that you came. What brought you here? Let’s pray that to God! “God when I heard about this meeting … my heart leaped … I knew you were calling me to this …”
- SAY: What do you envision happening in our church by prayer? Let’s pray that to God! “God, the desire of my heart is to learn to pray … so many of us want a closer walk with you … Lord, would you teach us to pray?”
- You could ask these questions and get “shared” responses. But when the people pray their responses, the effect is different! Dramatically different.
After the meeting – Appoint a local church “prayer discovery task force.”
- Composition of the team – the team should be primarily composed of people who have a sense of “call” to prayer ministry. This is not your permanent prayer leadership team, although we would expect that some permanent prayer leadership team members would emerge from this group.
- Size of the task-force – probably about 12.
- The diversity of the task-force, if possible, should be comprised of young and old, male and female, single and married, black and white, Pentecostal background and non-Pentecostal background.
- Consider a staff liaison to the task force (although for purposes of vision, your involvement in the early stages will be very important). It would also be helpful if there was an elder as a part of the task force, or at least a liaison.
- Along with the prayer discovery task force, you will want to formally identify your “prayer council.”
- Function of the task force.
Create a prayer resource manual detailing all the prayer activities already exist. This would be in initial form a “ragged” notebook in which all the various activities and initiatives of and out of prayer were compiled in one volume. This notebook is NOT FOR PUBLIC consumption. It is a for-our-eyes-only compilation of existing prayer activities.
- Conduct a survey of prayer ministry interest in the congregation.
- Suggest and promote prayer learning/experience options in the next six months.
- Explore options for prayer ministry in these areas:
- Discover the appropriate “level” of intensity for the prayer ministry (note the various and intensifying levels):
- An aggressive, balance, integrated prayer process?
- … with a dedicated prayer room?
- … or with a prayer center?
- … with a 24/7 prayer process?
- … with a 24/7 center? 
- … with a 24/7 city-impact center?
- Function of intercessors.
- Discover the appropriate “level” of intensity for the prayer ministry (note the various and intensifying levels):
- Prayer support for ministries; and integration of prayer into ministries.
- Identifying prayer resources useful for Metro.
- Ways and Means to teach and encourage personal-devotional prayer.
- Development of a prayer discipleship, teaching-training plan.
- Structure of the task force …
- The Senior pastor serves as the “visionary leader” of the task force. You need a person with good strategic planning/thinking skills. Staff liaison. An elder (council) should be a part of the team or one appointed to serve as a liaison. The functional team leader should be appointed by the Senior pastor.
- Within this task-force we would create “focus-teams” where possible around the interest of the members of the team …
- Prayer-Evangelism focus team.
- Youth-Prayer focus team.
- Personal/Family Enrichment focus team.
- Prayer Ministry integration focus team.
- Schedule of the task force …
- Month One – appointment of the task force.
- Month Two – orientation of the task force …and structuring of the focus-teams.
- Month Three – addition of the “at-large” members to the focus group teams; specific assignments of the focus-teams.
- Month Four-to-Six – focus teams work, meeting as necessary; the task-force meets not less than monthly.
- Month Seven – Resource manual is compiled detailing all Metro prayer ministry activities; focus-group reports and recommendations are assembled.
- Month Eight-to-Nine – Task force translates focus-group recommendation into a 3-5 year prayer implementation plan.
- Process …
- The Senior Pastor must cast the vision for Church’s prayer ministry. A part of the discovery phase will be our prayer support for God to speak clearly to the Senior Pastor about Metro’s blueprint for prayer ministry.
- Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY (Or some other prayer coaching network) would serve at the pleasure of the Senior Pastor in the area of “architect” – helping to translate the vision for prayer into a strategic process in conjunction with the focus – discovery teams.
- At the end of the discovery phase, a permanent prayer leadership team would be appointed with a prayer-coordinator … and the prayer implementation plan would unfold.
Your prayer ministry advances on two legs – learning and doing. Most of our people have to be “taught” to pray, how to pray. Learning leads to doing. And doing reveals the “learning gaps,” the areas where more teaching is required. Low levels of participation are often indicators of fear. When people are invited to pray, they do not know what might be expected of them, so they avoid invitations to prayer. Teaching, especially experiential learning, helps them become accustomed to prayer.
- PRACTICUM – principles applied, how is this practiced?
- PICTURES – stories, examples, illustrations
- Where are you in your PROCESS – are you on track; on schedule? Ahead, behind? Has your response been what you thought it would be?
- What are your current PROBLEMS/SUCCESSES?
Sustaining the Plan
A 3-5 year transformational process should be planned and carefully laid out! Each of the above team members should be looking to build their teams in each of their areas.
The first phase of building a prayer ministry is “discovery.” Develop a plan. That plan should include all four dimensions on two legs. The two legs are “learning” and “doing.” Prayer is better caught than taught. The doing events give expression to the learning events, and test the depth of interest in prayer in the church and your capacity to mobilize. The doing events show the gaps in learning – and the learning should always be tested by the doing!
If the leadership team is not a praying team and is not open to learn – the prayer ministry will fail. If the leadership team does not become a team – if they pursue their “pieces” of the prayer ministry without a seamless approach to prayer, without regard for the whole, without a sense of where the prayer ministry is to take the church, namely to revival, then the prayer ministry will fail and competitive prayer options will emerge. Humility is an essential! Prayer should change the ethos of the whole church.
 There are a number of stories that I shared regarding prayer in the leadership seminar. You can replay them as video or simply retell them. Here are some websites from which you can often pull inspirational stories. Be careful, not all “Prayer Stories” sites are Biblically sound. And not all stories true. I often check out stories on this site: http://www.truthorfiction.com/index-prayers.htm A reliable story site is http://www.guideposts.com/request_prayer.asp Another site is www.inspirationalprayer.com as well as http://www.brethren.org/ac/CallToPrayer/Stories.html
 The video I use is “Transformation II – Preview clip.” It is shorter than either Transformation I or II and contains excerpts from both. Available from: www.sentinelgroup.org or by calling 800-668-5657 They have a number of excellent videos documenting the work of the Holy Spirit around the world out of prayer.
 The “prayer council” would be comprised of all the leaders for every prayer ministry already in existence. These people are the backbone of the current prayer stream of any church but they have rarely been convened. Sometimes their interests in prayer are so specific in focus that they have not connected with other people of prayer in the same church. By bringing these people to the table, we will advance the discovery process. Some members of the discovery task force should be drawn from this group, but not exclusively. The discovery task force may interface with this group several times. And when the task force is transitioned into a prayer leadership team, that prayer leadership team will continue to relate to this prayer council. As new prayer ministries are launched, the leaders of those ministries are added to this council. The goal is a non-competitive seamless prayer process in the local church.
 This is probably a 2 – 3 month project. The manual would list each “prayer ministry,” the person designated as the leader. The purpose of the prayer ministry – its focus, its target participants, the frequency and duration of its meetings, the length of time in existence, a vitality rating, a projection for its future including ministry expansion plans and maximum number of participants anticipated. See attached sheet – sample prayer ministry profile sheet – for more information.
 The creation of a 24-7 center requires 168 man-hour volunteers. I would not recommend that as an immediate step. Further, without 24 hour on-site security, you have additional complications. At this point, I would recommend that your team consider a prayer center which is staffed during certain peak-use hours, open for use during certain other daylight hours. Around this day-time function, you can begin to build a continuous 24 hour prayer stream combining prayer-center activity with at-home prayer chains. Again, I would not make the “24 hour” model my top priority. CAUTION: You want to launch a prayer process that is sustainable given the amount of manpower which the church can allocate to it presently. That is a decision which we can wade into as we determine the level of interest and test commitment with church-wide prayer exercises during this discovery phase.
 At some point, we may want to convene just those who feel called to do the work of intercession. And as a part of the discovery process, we will want to look at “teaming intercessors.”
 Al VanderGriend has combined a 3-word phrase which is a blueprint for prayer evangelism – prayer, care, share. These three words reference the connection between the “great commitment – prayer,” the “great commandment – love,” and the “great commission – sharing the gospel.” Much of our “great commission” work in America as evangelicals has been without a “deeds of kindness” social interface. As we pray for our community, the neighbor around our church and the city, God wakes up in our people unique ways to express his love – thus prayer translates to our being available for God to love our city through us; and such sincere prayer for our city, combined with loving acts of kindness, opens doors for the gospel.
 This includes, but is not limited to the way the prayer ministry connects with the city-church.
 This may be anything from bulletin inserts to additional congregational prayer exercises; it may also include prayer experiences, continued teaching of prayer both at the church-wide level, and in the discipleship arena.
 These additional team members would be drawn from the pool of people expressing interest in prayer at meetings such as the one we had last evening.
 With 6 “focus teams” and a 12-member discovery team – each focus team leader would serve on only one “focus team (exceptions could be made) and each team member would serve on two focus groups (allowing for some cross pollination of ideas). These teams would be given assignments
 Somewhere in the Month 2 – 4 period, an overnight retreat for this leadership team would be helpful; or at least a full-day in-town planning meeting to prepare it for the next 3 months of activity.
 This does not mean that no prayer implementation will take place before that time. In fact, a part of discovery will be prayer learning and doing experiences along with the affirmation and reshaping of existing prayer ministries. We want to avoid running head-long into piece-meal implementation without a long-term understanding of the Church’s prayer needs.