How Important is Praying Together, Corporately and as Small Groups?

Group Praying

I am going to answer two questions that I don’t often see asked together: How important is praying together as a church (“corporate prayer”), and how important is small group prayer?

First Question: How Important is Corporate Prayer for a Church?

Twice a year, preceding Christmas and Easter, we ask ministries and small groups to suspend their regular activities to instead pray corporately at our “Concerts of Prayer.” Why do we do that? How important is all-church, corporate prayer?

One of Pastor Jim’s longtime mentors, Pastor Dee Duke, from Jefferson, OR, leads an annual prayer conference which covers much ground on many topics including biblical benefits of corporate prayer. The importance of gathering corporately for prayer is plainly and powerfully seen in his points. Here are some of my favorite:

The more corporate praying that a church does…

  • The more people in the church will know God, and the greater the sense of His presence will be in their lives. (Acts 4:31; Matthew 18:20)
  • The more joy, confidence, security, faith and peace they will experience. (Psalm 16:11; Ephesians 1:18-23; Philippians 4:6-7)
  • The more people will grow spiritually. (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 3:14-16)
  • The more boldness, courage and passion the people will have to reach their lost friends, neighbors, and relatives for Christ. (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 6:19)
  • The more desire there will be in the hearts of people in the church do the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:16; Matthew 9:37-38)
  • The less influence Satan will have on the people in church and for those being prayed for outside the church. (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4:4; John 17:15; Ephesians 6:12, 18; Exodus 17:9-13; Luke 22:31-32)
  • The more opportunities there will be to serve the Lord, and to be used by Him to advance the Kingdom of God. The opportunities will come because God is opening doors, and because of the increased vision in the life of Pastor and lay people. (Colossians 4:2-3; 1 Corinthians 16:9; Acts 14:27; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Revelation 3:7-8). We serve God when he opens a door. He opens doors when we’re close to him. He brings vision.
  • The stronger the marriages and families in the church will become. (Ephesians 3:14-16)

Our Immediate Opportunity for Corporate Prayer

One of the great blessings of LC3 is having a praying senior pastor who models and teaches us regularly on this topic. So, most people at LC3 probably know all the answers, intellectually. But, have you learned them experientially? Have you witnessed God break through hardened hearts after praying corporately? This is a blessing that you, your family, and your group should not miss.

The Christmas corporate prayer schedule is as follows. Bring your group to any of them. Maybe include a meal or party before or after.

November 26-29 Christmas Prayer Events

1) Sunday Concert of Prayer, 1:00PM, in the Gym, with lunch (with childcare)
2) Monday, 10AM
3) Monday, 7PM (with childcare)
4) Tuesday, 10AM
5) Tuesday, 7PM (with childcare)
6) Wednesday, 10AM

Second Question: “How Important is Prayer to Your Small Group?”

You know prayer is important to your small group. But, HOW important? What, for instance, would well-researched, doctoral-level, empirical data demonstrate on this topic?

Read this excerpt about the findings of such a Ph.D. project which set out to determine the most important factor in leading a small group.  (Not to give the answer away or anything, haha.) [Full article found here.]

A religious expert wanting to cut through the confusion of 613 Old Testament statutes came to Jesus and asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus gave his famous reply, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Mark 12:28-32).

Like the scribe who came to Jesus, I was a confused small-groups expert just a few years back. I kept hearing advice from a plethora of small-group authors and speakers, each promoting different methods and models. All of them were confident and persuasive, but their contradictory theories couldn’t all be right. Someone needed to do cut through the confusion by doing serious, scientific research on what really creates healthy, growing small groups. We needed to look past the models to discover the key underlying principles.

I wanted to get to the bottom of things. I wanted an answer to the question, “What’s the most important part of leading a small group?” I completed a Ph.D. degree and did extensive statistical research involving over 3,000 small-group leaders in more than 200 churches to probe that question, and the answer I found was surprisingly simple.

The most important dimension of leading a group is your prayer life—your connection to God as a leader.… Out of the hundreds of questions we asked, the leaders’ answers to the following questions yielded the most pivotal results:

  1. How consistently do you take time for prayer and Bible reading?
  2. Are you praying daily for your non-Christian friends to come to know Jesus?
  3. How many days in the past week did you pray for your small-group members?
  4. Do you pray for your group meetings in the days leading up to it?
  5. How much time on average do you spend in daily prayer and Bible reading?

Why Is Prayer So Important?

Why does the prayer life of the leader make such a difference in the health and growth of a small group? The research doesn’t tell us why, it only tells us that a very strong correlation exists. But I don’t think it’s hard to figure out.

Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing”….

Basically, our research statistically proved John 15:5! If you want to see Jesus’ life flowing in your small group, stay connected to him!

Well, how do you measure on those five questions?

Brothers and sisters, you have influence in a church, a small group, or a ministry. Prayer is important for you and for them. Draw close to your Heavenly Father and just witness the results in your people, your family, and your soul.

Praying for you right now,

Pastor Reg

My 10 Weeks as Interim Senior Pastor

My 10 Weeks as Interim Senior Pastor

Spring Children’s Pageant, March 23, 2014

“Has it been 10 weeks already?” “He is on the road back to Lakewood right now?” I asked these questions just a couple weeks ago, as Pastor Jim and his family returned to LC3. He was probably asking the same questions, of course.

We are glad to have Pastor Jim, Jaci, Bethlehem and Tarike back from enjoying a well-earned sabbatical after Jim’s 14th year of ministry at LC3. It was a joy for me to serve as LC3’s Interim Senior Pastor for the 10 weeks they were away.

Now on this side of that 10 week commission, I want to share an inside look from the eyes of a “senior pastor.”

First, a little background. Since 2001, when I moved to Washington State to enter seminary, I have completed numerous pastoral classes; read many pastors books; had several pastoral mentors speak into my life. I have worked closely with Pastor Jim for over a decade. I was even a pastor’s kid my entire childhood!

But, as happens with most things, experience taught me much that cannot be discovered in books and classes. Experiencing is different than knowing.

Here are a few major lessons learned from the teacher of experience.

A senior pastor must constantly work to stay in front of communication

He must proactively schedule astute and thorough communication on every front; contemplating incessantly if there is ANY more communication needed or that would be beneficial.

This includes every type of communication: Vision casting communication, relationship building communication, expectations and planning communication, motivating communication, conflict resolution and reduction communication; any other type of communication he can think of. Constantly. Tirelessly. Regularly asking God to graciously give him the right messages to tell the right people, at the right time. Because if something is missed, someone is let down or uninformed; opportunities are lost; irritation replaces unity.

“Senior pastor” is a unique position of service

The role of senior pastor differs notably from those of associate pastor or ministry leader. As an associate pastor, which I have been for almost nine years, I spend a great deal of time in the trenches of building relationships and equipping leaders, teams, and groups for ministry and mission. As an associate pastor I have more intimate awareness of details, needs, and opportunities, and more time to address them.

The role of senior pastor, however, (at any church larger than 150) requires a broader form of leading, teaching, “visioneering,” and administrating. Though the senior pastor must spend at least some time in relationship building, equipping, counseling, visiting, etc. in order to remain an effective and informed overseer, the majority of his time and energy must be spent on matters of larger perspective. A helpful analogy of this role is moving from the shepherd of a flock to a rancher who directs many shepherds and a much larger flock.

Again, I knew this, but, after these 10 weeks, I have experienced it. Experiencing is different than knowing.

It is different. As an associate pastor, I shepherd more, relationally. In fact, as a small groups/community/discipleship pastor, I have given my life to the relational aspects of the Christian life.

Senior pastors know the necessity of relationships among the Body, but contribute to them by setting vision, modelling relationships with their leadership teams, and then equipping and unleashing these leaders to carry out that work through the church.

I have known this, but experiencing is different than knowing.

Senior pastors carry bigger loads

Senior pastors carry bigger loads of responsibility, pressure, demands, attention, exposure, and of attack from the enemy. Accordingly, the role requires bigger loads of prayer, bigger shoulders, more discipline, more accountability, more humility; more teamwork.

I have known this, too, but experiencing is different than knowing.

It meant a lot when Pastor Jim told me he believed without a doubt that I was ready for this experience. And, by God’s gracious work in my life, I felt ready. But, the load is big, which is clearly why Pastor Jim continually asks the LC3 Family for our prayers, which are for his benefit and ours. This is why Paul instructs the church on behalf of its leaders: “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thes. 5:25).

Back to Normal…For a Few More Days

Jim’s return means getting my life’s normal craziness back. It is enjoyable to recognize how these experiences are already translating back to my involvement with small groups and adult ministries. Good communication, humble servant-leadership, healthy relationships with my teams, dependence on God; capacity for bigger loads – I am grateful to have grown in these areas…by experience.

And, now? Now it is time for my family’s sabbatical. We leave this Thursday, and will be back at the end of May. I will likely write something about that experience as well, except with many more (and cuter) pictures. Please pray for us as Sarah and I attend a Church Planting conference, as I work on my Doctor of Ministry Dissertation, and as we spend some quality time with our family and longtime friends. I look forward to returning to His service with you all, refreshed and energized.

For His glory and our joy,

Pastor Reg

Top 10 Posts of 2012

Here are the top 10 most viewed posts of 2012. It has been a remarkable year. Enjoy the look back!

10. “The Christian Life is a Team Sport,” A Letter from Pastor Jim

9.  4 Stages of the Bible’s Discipleship Process

8.  Best Small Group Ice-Breaker Ever?

7.  7 Days of Prayer before Kick-Off

6.  Discipling Men in Small Groups, Part 2 – Getting Them and Keeping Them

5.  Early Testimonies from the HEROES Series

4.  Faith In Action Weekend, 2012: RECAP and VIDEOS

3.  How Important is Leadership? Part 2 – Leading Jesus Mission: KONY2012 – A Test Case for Leading Mission

kony2012

2.  HEROES – at LCCC, Fall, 2012

Heroes

And, the most viewed post this year, with over FOUR times as many views as number two…

1.  Communion in Small Groups – More than a Good Idea

communion_t

With 615 views this year, this post has reached a bigger audience than our church alone. I praise God for what it may contribute to the worshipful experience of small groups around the world. Making communion common has been a tremendous growth area in the worship and relationships of Lake City Small Groups. Praise God.

And, praise God for a memorable 2012 and all He has waiting for us to experience together in…

2013

Blessings on our homes!

Pastor Reg

P.S. Here is what’s in store for the upcoming Semester, kicking off on January 20! 

Winter/Spring Semester, 2013

Here are a few important dates to put on your calendar right now:

1.  The 2nd annual Lake City Family Summit happens Saturday, January 12, 9:00AM-1:00PM. NFL quaterback Jon Kitna and his wife Jen will be our primary speakers, along with several breakout sessions.  As usual, the small group leaders training will be contained in one of those 50 minute workshops. How small groups fit into the BIG picture of the church as God’s Family is an exciting major theme for this year’s summit. Don’t miss it!

2.  If you miss the Summit, a small group leader training make-up session happens Sunday, January 20, during 2nd service (10:50AM-12:10PM), in the Gym.

3.  The Official Kickoff Week of Winter/Spring Semester is the week of January 20. Of course, groups have autonomy to start earlier or later, based on their semester plan.

4.  Pastor Jim resumes the Luke Sermon Series on Feb. 2/3, a good option for any group who would like to study Luke’s gospel along with the weekend sermons. We will have resources.

7 Days of Prayer Before Kick-Off

Pray

Small Group Leaders, Assistants, Members, Pastors, Designated Elders,

This 7 Day Prayer Calendar is for ALL of us to pray daily from Sept. 11-17, during the week preceding our small group kickoff.

7 Day Small Group Prayer Calendar

 

Let’s commit to laying a massive foundation of prayer for our church’s “Forgotten God” fall sermon and small group series!

Here’s how: Print this document – 7 Day Prayer Calendar before kickoff.  Then, email or mail a copy to your group members (or send a link to this post). Finally, make yourself accountable to your spouse or prayer partner, and pray, each of these days for your small group! 

Make Contacts

Please make good contact with your returning members and the new contacts forwarded to you. People are anticipating getting plugged in this fall!

Blessings on your homes,

Pastor Reg

 

Here is a copy of Microsoft

Top 10 Ways to Learn to Pray Together

-By Mark Howell

Praying together at the end of a small group meeting is one of the real challenges for almost every small group.  The very common fear of public speaking (number #1 fear for many) is compounded by the unspoken belief held by many that it’s important to speak an unfamiliar dialect when praying.

What can a leader do (who may have their own struggle) to help members learn to pray together?  Here are my top 10 ideas:

  1. Distribute index cards and pens and ask each person to write out a simple one sentence prayer request.  Swap cards and read them aloud.
  2. Ask each person to fill in the blank and say one thing they’re thankful for:  “God, I’m thankful for my ______________,”
  3. Pull a chair into the middle of the room and suggest that since Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20), “in tonight’s meeting let’s speak to Jesus as if He was right in that chair.
  4. Sentence prayers with no conjunctions (and).  One idea only.  For example, “God help me with __________.”  “God I’m thankful for _______________.”  “God be with Dean tonight in a way he can sense.”
  5. Ground rule: You can only pray for a personal concern tonight.  Nothing for your sister’s husband’s co-worker’s daughter.
  6. Ask your members to pair up or get in groups of three. I’ve written much more about this idea in The Power of a Spiritual Training Partner.
  7. Read Psalm 8 from a modern translation.  Move the group outdoors and ask each person to thank God for a specific aspect of nature.
  8. Choose a verse about prayer (for example, Philippians 4:6-7).  Print it for each member.  Talk about each phrase.  Ask each member to complete the phrase: “I’m most anxious about ______________.”  Then, simply express it to God: “God, I’m anxious about _____________.  Thank you for being a God who cares.”
  9. Many of the Psalms are actually prayers.  Have each member choose a section of a Psalm they can identify with to share as their own prayer.
  10. Print copies of Psalm 61 (or a Psalm of your own choice) from The Message.  Have your members read it aloud together.

These are just a few ideas.  There are many, many more that will help leaders and members who struggle with this powerful aspect of group life.  Do you have one that’s worked for you?  Use the comments [or the LC3 Small Groups Community forum] to share it with the rest of us!