15 Nov, 2023 A unity reflection: What if we were more strategic in our PRAYER
What if we were more strategic in our PRAYER?
It’s hard to break free from the traditions we’ve been discipled into!
Sometimes we do things just because that is the way they have been done. But what if it is actually OFTEN that we do this?
What if we aren’t actually aware of how conditioned we are by our environments and prior experiences?
Why do one thing for one outcome – when you could acheive five?
As a principle of leadership, a level of ‘economy’ in what we do makes sense.
- If I’m walking from the letterbox to the back yard to get a spade – and see rubbish that needs picking up on the way, why not put it in the bin – while walking to get the spade?
To apply this to the unity space, we are all short on energy and time for this area of ministry. We have our local churches to run also – and personal family lives. So, what if we were to approach things we do more purposefully?
THREE areas of our united PRAYER life
that could be approached more strategically
- Prayer breakfast TO START THE YEAR
- United prayer IN SYNCH WITH THE SCHOOL TERM
- Primary prayer goal: WEEKLY PRAYER IN EVERY WORKPLACE AND SCHOOL
It is important to note that our chruches already have a lot of prayer.
- Local church prayer meetings
- Small group prayer
- Pastors’ group prayer
- Every street prayer (achieved in partnership with Hope Project annually in 100 cities and towns)
- Pre-service prayer on Sundays
The question here is specific to prayer IN THE UNITY SPACE – with THE CITY AND ITS PEOPLE in view, beyond the efforts of any one individual congregation.
The topic is specific to considering how we might engage more sensibly – or ‘strategically’ – to deliver better results.
Please consider these options – which sit OUTSIDE the scope of what most have usually done.
1. Church leaders prayer breakfast TO START THE YEAR
This is modelled off an annual prayer breakfast pastors in the Hutt Valley (Wellington) have been having for years – with some ideas added.
Most pastors won’t attend monthly pastors’ meetings in a bigger city. However, most WILL attend a special breakfast put on for them at the start of the year. This is known, because pastors in the Hutt Valley do this!
With pastors and spouses gathered (and possibly with one key leader from each church invited also), consider these ideas:
- WELCOMING: Ask all pastors who are new to the city to stand – and to then state their name, where they have moved from, and church they are now in.Then state that you welcome them and have one longer-standing local pastor pray for all of these new pastors.
- AWARENESS / SUPPORTING: Ask all pastors with building projects happening in the coming year to stand – and to state in just 2 sentences or less what the project is. Then pray for these pastors.
- VISION: Have a list already prepared of united acitivites that exist in the community. Read it out – while applauding (encouraging) the churches on their already-existing high level of unity, as proven in this list. Encourage that united efforts be supported by as many as possible.
- As a platform for all other unity matters (as not all can be mentioned), note the monthly pastors’ group meetings that exists – also including the various DIFFERENT pastors’ groups. (Sometimes 3 pastors have their own gathering in their suburbs, separate to the wider part of the city they are in.) Encourage attendance, while making it clear that for those who feel they cannot – we all understand and there is no judgement.
- Not all pastors are called to serve the city in all seasons of their ministry lives.
- The great thing is that God, at all times, enables some to serve it – so our united function can exist.
- Then let the pastors’ each share a need and a hope they have for the coming year at their tables – to then pray together.
To note what would have been achieved
- A sense of togetherness
- A connection point – noting most (in a city) will not attend the monthly pastors’ group meeting
- Vision for half a dozen united endeavours
- An invitation to togetherness – while respecting boundaries, individuality and capacity limits.
Pastors in the Hutt Valley have done this for years. I suggest their idea of a prayer breakfast at the start of the year is STRATEGIC – as comapared to a pastors prayer breakfast or similar at a different time of the year.
Leadership of a unity group / pastors’ group is alwahs about balancing two things
This lays clear foundations for these each year – and does that with an open hand and a spirit of generosity.
2. United prayer IN SYNCH WITH THE SCHOOL TERM
For many decades now churches of many towns (and some cities) have had combined church services / prayer gatherings whenever there is a fifth Sunday in a month.
As a simple thought – what if these were changed to be the first Sunday of each School Term (though maybe week 3 of Term 1, noting the busyness of early February in our culture). It is a simple idea.
- School terms are the natural ‘flow’ of our society. Most families, work places and churches plan around them.
- From a leadership point of view, prayer items could be shaped by considering what is coming up in the next 12 weeks.
- Local church leadership patterns are logically the same – casting vision for outreach and other opportunities at the start of each school term.
- As an idea, if 2 or 3 ‘spheres of influence’ are discussed amongst pastors in a discussion each term (1 out of every 3 meetings), for term one the things churches and their members are doing in the city in the areas of (1) education, (2) biculturalism and (3) Easter and evangelism coudl be highlighted – to be prayed for.
There is a natural rhythm to this.
This is outlined each quarter in the ‘pastors’ gropu convenors updates’ – sent out 2 or 3 weeks before the start of each new school term.
To consider a natural rhythm
– including the spheres of influence
- Calendar: Note year planning / vision
- IWI – The bicultural dynamic / Treaty of Waitangi / connection with local Iwi
- RELIGION – noting the season we remember Christ’s death and resurrection – considering gospel equipping and outreach efforts in churches, youth groups and churches together.
- EDUCATION – being the start of the school year.
- Calendar: ANZAC and Matariki.
- GOVERNMENT including both civic and national government – a common connection point being a Mayoral Prayer Breakfast.
- SPORTS and other recreational activities – being thes tart of the winter sporting season.
- BUSINESS – noting that spring is both the start of the new agricultural season, and the lead into the primary sales season of the year
- FAMILY – National Marriage Week is in this period of time – where we consider how churches can serve families, including possibly uniting to provide courses in all communities cover marriages, pre-marriage, parenting (babies, toddlers, children, teens), divorce care, grief care and more.
- Calendar: Consider thanksgiving for the past year
- Calendar: Christmas
- ENTERTAINMENT AND MEDIA – and the whole creative arts space.
This approach makes strong sense from a vision / leadership point of view – if seeing God’s people pro-actively engaged in the city is the goal.
The above could also catalyse a brief discussion in each pastor’ group every third month. What is happening amongst us in these three areas? Ideas discussed raise awareness, enable prayer, enable blessing, enable promotion and can enhance collaboration / cohesion amongst churches.
When taken to the combined church prayer gathering – the same vision and effect begins to take place for the members, who hear about the various things THEIR churches are doing.
Our current model – for the contrast – leaves city engagement to chance. This is worthy of reflection – to consider the new way of thinking that is being proposed.
Restructuring to create a ‘four term’ pattern in the unity of churches like this
- …is congenial to vision and intentionality.
- It’s also not hard to do.
- It would be catalytic, bringing benefits not yet imagined, because thinking always eventually leads to behaviour
3. Primary prayer goal: WEEKLY PRAYER IN EVERY WORKPLACE AND SCHOOL
What is surprising about this third idea is
(a) how significant the benefits of this would be and
(b) the fact that our churches don’t already promote it!
Why haven’t we thought of this – and why don’t we promote it?
- We all had a culture – and we’ve all been ‘en-culturated’ into a way of seeing, understanding and doing ‘church’
- This idea doesn’t sit under the oversight or immediate ‘job scope’ of any individual pastor – noting we get employed to serve the wellbeing of individual congregations.
However, if we were pause, to consider more the reality that – in God’s view – we are servants in his whole Church (of which there is only one in each city) – rather than just of one congregation, I suspect it might then be comprehended that this is actually one of the most simple and profound unity ideas we have ever heard!
(That’s a big statement.)
What do we encourage our members to do?
- Unite – connecting with other believers in their workplace / school
- Pray – for each other, the workplace / school and their colleagues / other students
- Do – ask God for ideas as to how they might better serve that place together.
This idea therefore POSITIONS our members to SEE their workplace and community differently – then TAKING RESPONSIBILITY to bring greater good within it!
To reiterate – the challenge of this idea for us as local church leaders is that it doesn’t sit under our ‘control’ or oversight – so it’s easily forgotten.
It remains that, were we to give consistent encouragement to our members to unite and pray with other Christians once a week before work or school, we could see HUNDREDS of members becoming INCREASINGLY ENGAGED in their communities, taking INITIATIVE to bring positive change!
The effort required of a church leader to remember to consistently promote and value this idea would not even measure in comparison to the activity it’s application would generate!
Culture reproduces after its own kind. Because we have all been discipled within a denominational framework there are ways of thinking from it that are within us. We therefore don’t always see the Church as a whole, or think in a way that is logical – were we to see who we are as one Church.
So – how about it? There are leaders amongst us with a true passion for prayer, unity and mission. These three ideas are each simple – and highly strategic. They are potentially even profound in their implications – and especially-so when their simplicity is considered.
New actions are not easy. These things aren’t difficult – but how many years might it take for these simple ideas to become our norm?
- Well – I think the true questions is – will some lead?
Leaders bring change.
May God raise up leaders with vision, who can see the city, and who will then be released and aided by God to serve the city.
DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.