The Prayer Vigil - Step One of Three in Growth and Rebuilding

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76 Million people do not attend church.  People are recognizing the spiritual part of their being.  Many are actively seeking a way to grow in spirit.  Know that there are people in your own community looking for a way to find God, to nurture the spiritual part of their lives. Mega churches have sprung up and several have membership from 12,000 to 20,000.  The percentage of volunteers in those Mega Churches is astounding. A couple of years ago I spent a week at Willow Creek in South Barrington, IL where they had 22,000 members and over 18,000 were signed up as volunteers in some capacity at the time I was there.  I was blown away at their success and productivity.  I participated in a seminar focused on building up volunteers in churches.  I studied their marketing strategy. Much of what they do will work regardless of the size church you have.  I also have worked in a marketing firm and served on a large church staff.  But I am a small church person.  So my heart is here and I have been pondering a plan to rebuild the small church community who find themselves with dwindling members and limited finances. To rebuild your small community or neighborhood church, you will need to get the people together that are on board with the idea of growth.  You may believe everyone wants the church to grow, but it isn't true.  Growth will represent change and some will go kicking and screaming into change of any kind especially at the church.  But remember the church is God's house.   It is in our care.  This is our watch. Organizing and executing a Prayer Vigil is a powerful tool in opening doors and windows of opportunity for your church.  A Prayer Vigil needs to be a 12 hour, or 24 hour time frame of continuous prayer for your church. You will need a sign up board showing the designated hours of the vigil.  People need to sign up for a one hour period of time where they commit to coming to the church and being in prayer for that one full hour for the church.  They will need to show up a little early, and perhaps stay a few minutes late for the sake of uninterrupted coverage. People will ask if they can just pray from home, but showing up and being focused at the church keeps those distractions we often experience while at home, at a minimum.  It is easier to pray in the sanctuary at church, especially for this longer period of time.  The short answer is no.  You want people to show up and pray for the allocated period of time, at the church and focused. It will be helpful to have between 8 and 12 people committed and excited to help make this event happen.  You can do this with less, but see how many you can get. Logistically speaking, 
  • -Divide the prayer vigil time into three or four hour blocks of time, and assign a leader to each block. 
  • -In a 12 hour vigil you will have three leaders with four hour blocks of time or four leaders with three hour blocks of time.
Leader support:
  • -Each leader should have their own list of the people who have signed up to pray for one hour during their block. 
  • -A day or so before, they need to call and check to be sure people are still planning to be there for the hour they signed up for. 
  • -Verify you are talking about the same hour and date. 
  • -The leader should say they are excited about the prayer vigil and glad this person has signed up for this important time set aside to pray for their church.  People are busy and value should be assigned to people's time and prayers.
The time block leaders serves a couple of other important functions as well.  We can be a chatty and social bunch in church congregations.  I have seen people show up to pray, and start chatting with someone in the parking lot or talking on their cell phone and an completely loose track of time. They go in to take over from the person who has now been there praying two hours and needed to leave an hour ago.  The leader keeps us on track and focused. I am all for kids in the service, more so than in the nursery.  But prayer vigil time is quiet and I have also seen two or three moms or grandparents show up and leave several kids each screaming at the top of their lungs, running up and down the hallways or parking lot.  The leader can also take care of these types of situations keeping things quiet and prayerful. If someone doesn't remember, or has an emergency and doesn't come for their hour, the leader can pray in their place as well so the vigil remains continuous prayer.  It is really good to have double coverage. Planning and setting the day: Give yourselves a little time to get the event organized and let people know it is happening. A Saturday is best.  Some people will be off work (not everyone), and you can end right before the Sunday Service.  Ending right before the service is a powerful finish for the prayer vigil.  You have a time where your whole group comes back together, and I think this is a very important part.  If you are doing a 12 hour vigil, you can begin at noon on Saturday, and end at Midnight on Saturday and then it will only be a few hours until the Sunday morning service.  For a 24 hour vigil, you can begin at 8:00 am on Saturday, and will be able to end at 8:00 am on Sunday morning. I always worry about midnight to 6:00 am coverage on the 24 hour vigils, but somehow teenagers and night owls get it done.  Some people work nights and this is no problem, some just stay up all night anyway especially on the weekends.  It would create something like jet-lag for me, although I have heard it is a wonderful experience praying in a candle lit sanctuary at 3:00 am, but I may never know. Prayer Points and Notes: Have some half size sheets of paper with points and notes about the common interest you have in growing the church.  A few suggestions follow here, but feel free to make your own point and note sheet.
  • -Most Holy God, we pray your blessings on this church, help it to grow.
  • -Let this church be a place where people find you and nurture their faith.
  • -Let people always feel your presence here and speak to our spirits.
  • -Let this be a church of service and love.
  • -Let this church be a place where people grow in their spiritual walk.
  • -Help us to understand what we need to do to bring new people here.
  • -Reveal to us the changes we will make so people can find you here.
  • -Open the way for us the way to share our faith.
  • -We pray that your will is done here, God, not ours, but your will. 
  • -This church be Your House, a House of Prayer, and let it grow.
  • -Show us how to invite and welcome new people here.
  • -How can we be a blessing to the community and the people who are seeking you God?
  • -Let us be a people who shine the light and love of the Gospel.
  • -Let us be a congregation of grace and love.
  • -Reveal to us how we build this church up.
  • -Bring peace and understanding to the members of the church.
  • -How can we let new seekers see the value in being children of the Living God?
  • -If changes come here, help us accept the changes and let them be useful for our spiritual growth.
  • -Let us embrace change and call it good.  Allow the change to bring about the best in each of us.
  • -Let this church expand it's membership and it's mission.
  • -Let anyone in our community who has ever thought of visiting here, come and see what this church has to offer now.
  • -You showed the world what grace and redemption look like up close, help us to walk in your way and share it with other.
  • -Life is growing and changing in all areas.  Help us continue to grow in our spirits.
  • -Gracious God, we pray your blessings on this church.  Help us grow and be a blessing.
 With an hour to pray, read each of these and contemplate them.  Make sure bibles are in each pew or seat.  But encourage people to pray and not just sit and read for an hour. Some people can pray with music going, and some cannot.  If you use music, make sure it is soft and not disruptive.  You can have upbeat, inspiring music at the service tomorrow.  It will be a time of worship and rejoicing. Be sure to pray together in worship the following morning.  Read Mark 11:22 through 11:25 aloud in church.  Have faith and watch for miracles.  You have just opened the doors of possibility to create something great in your church with God.  You have opened the windows to be a blessing in the community and to expand.  Fear not. Believe and have faith in God.    Later this week - A Marketing Plan - Step Two in Growth and Rebuilding


Oh Erin, this is lovely; "Growth will represent change and some will go kicking and screaming into change of any kind especially at the church. But remember the church is God’s house. It is in our care. This is our watch." I love to extend that to all life as well, it is in our care. Love Wilma
Thank you so much Wilma for sharing your thoughts. It should extend to the rest of our lives as you say. Thanks also for reading this long post. I usually am a 300 word blogger, but this series about coming to the aid of small churches has been on my heart for awhile, and though it is lengthy, I must share it.
Very good advice for those who want to build their church community. One of the biggest draws to a church would not be what is done within the confines of the church rather what is done beyond the walls of the church, what the community of church does in the community of people.
Hi Erin .. me too .. I love small churches, particularly our older churches here in England. I love the way you've set it out .. and given ideas for the reasons to go forward and the reasons we need to consider a way forward. Churches need to change to adapt to the future before perhaps being swallowed by the hordes, who don't really suit my style. Prayer in a candlelit church at 3.00 am on a starry clear night would be amazing and uplifting. So many people as you say are looking for ways to find their spiritual path and the learning that presents. Really interesting post - thank you .. I look forward to the next two .. Hilary

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