Ways Your Church Can Focus on Praying for Missions
By Daniel Cason
It is often mentioned that there are three ways that a church can actively be involved in missionary efforts around the world: a church can give, pray, or go. Of the three, it seems that praying gets the least amount of intentional effort amongst our churches. We understand the need to constantly remind church members to give in order to keep our financial commitments to missionaries, and a great deal of intentionality goes into getting people to go on mission trips. But when it comes to praying, we are prone to just assume it is getting done. If we really believe that prayer is as powerful as we think it is, it is time we start being more intentional about focusing the members of our congregation on prayer.
For the past 15 years or so the church that I pastor, Zephyr Hills Church in Asheville, NC, has hosted an annual Prayer Summit event for world missions. The Summit is the highlight of the year for our church. It allows us to refocus on our prayer efforts and get to know and encourage our guests better than what could be achieved in a Sunday morning service.
If you are interested in doing something like this at your church, there are five steps I would suggest to make your Prayer Summit the most effective time possible.
- Be needy!
Our denomination has been blessed with people in our national offices that will do anything within their power to help the local church, and the IM staff is no exception. Every year they have been an essential part of the planning process from helping us connect with missionaries, to providing materials, and even participating in the Summit in person. If you ask them, they will help!
2. Be intentional!
When considering which missionaries to invite, be diverse from year to year. IM is working in a multitude of fields, and while you won’t be able to participate in all of them by giving or going, you will be able to be actively involved by praying for those fields. As you expose your people to a diverse group of missionaries, their vision for the entire world will begin to expand. You will also notice that the people will feel an attachment to different fields thus expanding the impact of your prayer involvement.
3. Be clear!
It is vitally important that your church members and invited guests understand the purpose of the Summit. Most often when a missionary comes to your church it is with the intention of raising monthly support, which is of course essential. If, however, you are going to increase the focus on prayer, it is helpful to have dedicated times when you are not asking people to give. Church members may decide to start supporting a missionary they meet, but that is not the primary goal. Your Summit will be much more encouraging to all involved if it is clear that your intentions are to remove the pressures of fundraising and focus on increasing participation in prayer.
4. Be reasonable!
As church leaders, we are tempted to have an intense focus on the number of people that come to events that we plan. We want as many of our church members to participate in these events for their own spiritual growth and the overall success of the event. But we all know that when the word “prayer” is in the title of the event, you are not going to get the same level of participation as you would if there was any other focus. That is okay! A Prayer Summit is a great opportunity to practice patience with a focus on long-term goals as opposed to short-term success.
5. Be praying!
It should go without saying, but a successful Prayer Summit will only come through the work of God, and prayer is the main tool that God has given to us to reach that end. Leading up to, during, and after the event, spend meaningful time in prayer for the speakers, the participants, and yourself for God to stir up a greater commitment to participating in His mission around the world.
The final encouragement I can give as you consider hosting a prayer-focused event at your church is to simply remember that praying for missionary efforts is as much of a command from our Lord Jesus as actually going on mission trips. Luke 10:2 records these words from Jesus, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
“A Prayer Summit is a great opportunity to practice patience with a focus on long-term goals as opposed to short-term success.”
Author bio: Daniel Cason has been blessed to be the pastor of Zephyr Hills Church in Asheville, NC. The credit for the ideas shared in this article is truly due to his friend Danny and his efforts in increasing our participation in World Missions at Zephyr Hills.