June 28, 2011

Balancing bible study and prayer requests: Leadership Tips

Leading a Bible study has a number of challenging dynamics for the leader, one of which is finding the best place and time for prayer. There is a delicate balance that occurs between providing a time of prayer while also gently guiding the group back to the study. Praying for each other is a healthy function of a small group but can become problematic if the leader is not well prepared.

Our experience has been that...

Prayer requests can take far more time to talk about than the prayer time.

Prayer needs can dominate the Bible study time and leave little time left for the actual study.

Limiting time or cutting people off can cause conflict.

Unchecked and unbalanced prayer time can become a “therapy” session, which can be an unsafe place for the group.

A “laundry list” of needs is given, and over time noone remembers and hurts go deeper.

We've come up with a creative way to address these issues and have found that it really works. Begin by purchasing a beautiful scrapbook photo album. Choose one that that has a place to slide in the photos as well as some lines next to each picture slot where requests can be written. Provide colored card stock and pens before the meeting and have a pretty basket/gift-bag in the center of each table.

Pass around the card stock and pens at the start of the meeting. Those who have a prayer request can write it out on the paper and then place it in the basket. They can also take the card stock home and return it at the next meeting with a photograph of a person they would like prayer for (with name and a few details). Assign one person to briefly pray for the needs represented in the basket.

This is where you can make this truly creative. Each week a member volunteers to take home the basket and the album. This person will take each written prayer/photograph and slide it into a page in the album. On the lines beside the slot this person will write out her own prayer for this need. They will pray for all the needs collected in the album and make notes or add verses as the Holy Spirit leads.

The album should be returned every week and then sent to a new home every week. Every need is prayed for, and no prayer request is forgotten. The photographs put a face to the need, and each woman who volunteers to be "Keeper of the Book" for a week takes time to thoughtfully and diligently pray. This helps her remember these needs, and each person who is prayed over can see the comments, prayers and Scriptures that are added on their behalf.

Mid-way through the study (e.g., week 6 or 7 during a 12-week study), we share Connection Time. The leader reviews the whole album with the group by asking for updates, reading some of the scriptures noted beside the prayer requests, etc. This should be repeated at the end of the study. Depending on the dynamics of the group, you might choose to continue the evening with more in-depth prayer or simply have snacks and a time of fellowship.

At the end of the study series, the leader will th have a beautiful book of prayer memories that she will honor by keeping it in a confidential place. She will also take time to treasure the people and needs as the Holy Spirit prompts her to pray long after the study is over

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