I have written here before that summers were the busiest time of year for the student ministries I served after 1987. I always felt that the best way to start a summer was the same as the best way to start a day- with prayer. After a few hit & miss ideas, I decided to try a Chain of Prayer as our summer kick-off- and I never looked back.
The Chain of Prayer is not an original idea, and there are lots of ways to do it. Today I will share with you the things that worked best with my groups over the years. We would pick a set number of hours on a date at the beginning of summer vacation and set them aside for our COP. We did as many as 24 hours and as few as 6; it really depends on the size of your ministry and how many students you can get involved. The hours would then be divided into half hour sections. Students would be asked to commit to 30 minutes of prayer at the church. The idea was that for whatever number of hours we chose, there would be someone praying for our church, our youth ministry, our summer programs and our people. It's a very powerful idea.
I know of groups who have done this and allowed students to pray at home and just call in at the beginning and end of their session, but I don't feel like that has quite the same impact. If everyone comes to the church (sanctuary, chapel, youth room, your office- you make the call!) then there is a greater connection. Plus it allows you to provide the pray-er with devotional materials and a conducive atmosphere, such as a darkened space with candles. Thirty minutes can be a long time for a teenager, and it helps for them to be in a place that feels like a sacred space for that time. Also, everyone coming to the same spot allows you to keep an ever-growing list of prayer requests as each person adds their own joy and concerns. And finally, everyone coming to the church allows for you to greet and thank each participant and pray for them, as well as walk each person in and out of the space to keep the chain connected. That was always my favorite part...
I have a couple of final tips for leaders. It's fine to have more than one person praying at a time, but try not to have best friends sharing a time slot. They may have difficulty with focus. Secondly, do NOT play music in the prayer space. We need to to teach our youth the wonders of "being still" and enjoying silence. If they want to sing a praise song or break out a hymnal, that's wonderful! But don't just provide background noise. And finally, be willing to fill the gaps. If a student (or adult volunteer; they can sign up too!) doesn't show or no one signs up for any specific time slot, you need to fill that 30 minutes. The whole idea is that for those hours, your group is in a unbroken chain of prayer to the Father. As Fleetwood Mac would say, "Never break the chain."
So give it a try! Start small and see the amazing things that can happen to your group when you teach your students how to pray. I'll see you Thursday to tell you about The Great Race. Join us!