Group leaders often spend much time engaged in actions that enhance group life. Preparing the meeting place for the group gathering, studying the upcoming Scripture passage, thinking through the many questions that might arise, connecting with group members between group meetings, giving wise counsel to individuals in the group, and meeting the varied (and oftentimes emotionally draining) needs of group members, just to name a few. These are all important aspects of group life.
However, while these things do make a difference, the one thing that often gets overlooked—or crowded out by other responsibilities—is praying for group members by name. There are at least five reasons this is essential:
1. Prayer honors God. God is the only One who has the ability and the authority to meet the spiritual needs of group members.
2. Prayer creates discipleship. Discipleship isn’t a job that a small group leader does. Discipleship happens when the Holy Spirit works in the heart of someone willing to be shaped by God’s Word as it is planted in the heart of the disciple.
3. Prayer establishes a bond. When a group leader prays for the specific material, relational, and spiritual needs of a group member, a bond with that group member is created that can only be described as the bond between a spiritual parent and a spiritual child.
4. Prayer recalls the group’s purpose. Praying for group members by name on a daily basis reminds the group leader daily that they are shepherding a group of people, not just overseeing a group on behalf of the church.
5. Prayer invokes God’s response. God responds when we pray. When the group leader sees God answering prayers that he or she prayed on behalf of the group, the faith of the group leader grows and that strong faith rubs off on group members.
Rick Howerton is the Small Groups and Discipleship Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. He has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought-after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual as well as A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. He is also the co-author of Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making and Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups. But Rick’s deepest passion and his goal in life is to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.”