prayer

Picking your fight

Our church wouldn’t feel like home for so many if it wasn’t for our collection of diverse and engaging small groups. It’s within these small groups that people find family. In our fast-growing church community, they are a wonderful way for members of our congregation to make friends that last a lifetime, pray together, disciple each other and walk with each other through the joy, tough stuff and curveballs life can throw at us all.

But if in fast-growing and larger church communities small groups are where ‘church’ really happens – how do we ensure and facilitate our groups becoming and staying outward looking too?

The call in Isaiah 58 and 61 to serve the poor, bind up the broken hearted and serve those around us so that they might know the love of God is a call for us in our small groups too – and what a great place to start!

In our church, we are planning to encourage small group leaders to rally their groups together and ‘Pick a Fight’. We are going to suggest that each small group adopts a cause and devotes some of their time to make a difference in that area, whether that’s locally, or nationally!

For example, a small group that is mostly young families might choose to ‘Pick a Fight’ for their local primary school. They might decide to regularly pray for those that work and attend the school, attend PTA events and maybe become governors – anything they believe will bring a bit more of the kingdom of God to that part of the world!

Different small groups made up of those from different demographics will come up will come up with brilliant and diverse ideas. Some might want to focus on reaching out to those involved in local nightlife, supporting local refugees or even devoting their time to a local home for older adults – the possibilities are endless.

When we focus on loving our neighbour, the most beautiful miracles happen, and small groups seem like the perfect place for these miracles to begin. Having the support of loving friends and the prayers of a small group will encourage vision and help us take those first steps into action into loving our communities better.

So let’s go out there, and encourage our small groups to change the world!

By Jazz Crowne
Jazz Crowne co-ordinates the community outreach work for Emmaus Road church Guildford and oversees the churches midweek small groups. She loves a good coffee, a good joke and a good book, regardless of what it’s about.

Being a contributor not just an attender

If you attend a church for long enough you will no doubt be encouraged to join a small group. For churchgoers, a small group is usually active rather than passive. At church you can hide in the background and not participate, whereas I think a small group is all about participation. Even though I recognise this, I sometimes struggle myself to be brave and share a view point or open up about what is happening in my life.

I am trying not to hide behind my phone or clock watch and I am trying to contribute more than a couple nebulous words every meeting. I have been an “attender” and with each small group meeting I am trying to become more of a “contributor”. I think the phrase “you only get out what you put in” is apt when it comes to small groups.

If you’re like me and not the most confident person I want to encourage you to be brave in your small group and become a contributor, and here are some reasons why:

  • Like you and I there are many other people out there who struggle with confidence, so you are not alone. If you are brave and get involved you will encourage others to do so as well.
  • Many people go to small groups because they want to learn, they want to hear your views and reactions as it helps them learn. Your opinion might open a whole new way of looking at something for them.
  • Many people in small groups like to share their knowledge by asking questions you give other people the chance to get actively involved and share their own thoughts.
  • As a small group leader there is nothing worse than long silences when you are leading. When you share ideas or ask questions you can really enthuse and empower the leader.
  • People in your small group will want to pray for you and support you. The braver you are with sharing things that are happening in your life the more opportunities there are for people to come alongside you and support you – not only in the group but outside of it as well.

So if you are lacking in confidence take a deep breath and think of one thing you can do to make your small group experience better and do it. It could be switching off your phone or asking the group to pray for you. I’m not saying things will change like a flick of a switch, but life and small groups are journeys and sometimes the smallest steps can be the most important ones to make.

By Adam
Adam is a keen camper and loves going on adventures with his family. Whilst not in a field somewhere he enjoys working in the marketing team at CWR and worshipping at Gorse Hill Baptist Church.

Resource of the Month: Living on a Prayer


Living on a Prayer booklet

What is prayer really all about?

 

Written especially for the National Prayer Weekend, by Carla Harding with Pete Greig from 24-7 Prayer, this little booklet offers a contemporary and honest look at how effective prayer can be in a person’s everyday life.

Living on a Prayer addresses the questions Why pray? and How can I pray? It invites people to think about prayer in a way that relates to everyone’s ordinary lives, to think about the point of prayer, why they should pray and how to go about it.

This is an excellent resource for you, your small group or your whole church to give out to friends and neighbours to help them discover what prayer really is, providing an introduction to prayer and praying and a focus for thoughtful reflection and discussion.

‘God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)’

Living on a Prayer is available in individual packs of 10, or discounted with bulk box orders.

 

Also available: Why Pray?
Why Pray? is an easy-to-read booklet looking at the most famous prayer in the world, The Lord’s Prayer, trying to answer some of the most burning questions about prayer, including why we pray and who is listening. Find out more…

 

NPWJoin the nation in prayer - 29 September – 1 October 2017

At the heart of the National Prayer Weekend is the desire to see people in our local communities know and encounter God through the power of prayer. Local people praying for their local neighbourhood can transform the nation. One life, one street, one community at a time.

Find out more and Join in with the National Prayer Weekend on 29 September – 1 October 2017.

National Prayer Weekend 2017 – Join In!

The National Prayer Weekend is an opportunity for Christians to show God’s love to those around them in a real and tangible way, as small groups, churches and communities unite in prayer for their local area. The National Prayer Weekend is inspired by CWR’s roots of personal and national transformation through prayer and Bible reading.

The idea is simple. Ask people in your local area whether they would like prayer. Gather prayer requests together and pray for the requests during the National Prayer Weekend 29 September – 1 October 2017.

You can hold your own prayer weekend and pray with your small group or whole church. And you won’t be alone. We’ll be making available free resources to help you plan your weekend, including a How To Guide, which includes useful hints, tips, fun ideas and more.

We believe that local people praying for their community can change lives. Make God’s love known to the people around you. Your street. Your community. Your prayers.

Get involved and sign up for the National Prayer Weekend 2017 today.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about National Prayer Weekend

With National Prayer Weekend on its way, we’ve been out and about interviewing people who joined in with the National Prayer Weekend last year and also friends who are getting involved with 2016. Watch the video for a taster of the great stories, thoughts and hopes that they shared with us, and remember to share the video with your friends on Facebook.

 

About National Prayer Weekend

The idea is simple. Inspired by CWR’s roots of personal and national transformation through prayer and Bible reading, the National Prayer Weekend is an opportunity for Christians to unite churches and communities in prayer for their local area.

Working with churches and organisations all over the country, including Hope, 24-7 Prayer, Neighbourhood Prayer Network, Evangelical Alliance and Gather, we are asking individuals, groups and churches to pray for their communities. To gather prayer requests from the people around you in your local area and introduce them to a God who loves them through the power of prayer. We want to bring Christians together to unite communities across the world in prayer for their local area.

If you would like to join in, click below.
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National Prayer Weekend: What will you pray for?

Central to National Prayer Weekend 2016 is the heart to see people in our local communities know and encounter God as their Father through the power of prayer … and that’s why we asked what they would like to pray for!

We know that God can do immeasurably more than we can even imagine. So it is with great expectation that we invite you to join in during 23–25 September 2016 as we pray for our local churches and communities.

Join In now to be kept up-to-date with the latest news and resources to help you take part in your own prayer weekend.
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Resource of the Month: Living on a Prayer


Living on a Prayer booklet

What is prayer really all about?

 

Written especially for the National Prayer Weekend, by Carla Harding with Pete Greig from 24-7 Prayer, this little booklet offers a contemporary and honest look at how effective prayer can be in a person’s everyday life.

Living on a Prayer addresses the questions Why pray? and How can I pray? It invites people to think about prayer in a way that relates to everyone’s ordinary lives, to think about the point of prayer, why they should pray and how to go about it.

This is an excellent resource for you, your small group or your whole church to give out to friends and neighbours to help them discover what prayer really is, providing an introduction to prayer and praying and a focus for thoughtful reflection and discussion.

‘God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)’

Living on a Prayer is available in individual packs of 10, or discounted with bulk box orders.

 

Also available: Why Pray?
Why Pray? is an easy-to-read booklet looking at the most famous prayer in the world, The Lord’s Prayer, trying to answer some of the most burning questions about prayer, including why we pray and who is listening. Find out more…

 

NPWJoin the nation in prayer – 23-25 September 2016

At the heart of the National Prayer Weekend is the desire to see people in our local communities know and encounter God through the power of prayer. Local people praying for their local neighbourhood can transform the nation. One life, one street, one community at a time.

Find out more and Join in with the National Prayer Weekend on 23-25 September 2016.

My faith isn’t private

I’ve been a Christian since birth, or at least, since I can remember. I grew up in a Christian household, went to Sunday school and then various youth groups. I found a church while at university and went on and off, always going to my ‘home’ church during the university holidays. Sometimes I felt close to God, sometimes He was pretty far down the priority list. But I always described my faith as personal, specific to me, private… My encounters with God were nice, enjoyable, comforting…

On 17 September 2013, my husband and I invited several church-goers in their 20s and early 30s to join us for a new small group. The group flourished and we all enjoyed discussing the Bible, our faith and the odd contentious topic in a safe environment. I still thought my faith was fairly private, but it was nice to be able to talk about it with like-minded people. We all took it in turns to lead a session, and one week one of the boys led a very challenging session on miracles, which included showing a film about God doing big, showy miracles in a church in America. This was new to me, and I didn’t understand it. What it did achieve, however, was to open my eyes, just a little, to the possibility that God didn’t need to fit into my understanding, and that I didn’t need to understand why He did what He did. I just needed to embrace it.

A while later, during a session about prophecy, we all prayed for each other in smaller groups. I prayed for a friend who was in the process of buying a new house and in my mind as I prayed I saw an image of my friend and her husband sat in a sitting room with a Christmas tree in the background. A few weeks later she sent a picture of her new house – it was the same as the house I had seen in my mind as I prayed, and they had moved in by Christmas. I was excited and amazed, and my eyes were opened a little more about the possibilities of God’s power and love.

Gradually over the following months, I experienced more of God, always when with my small group. In a session on fellowship, friends had words from God for me, and I saw pictures in my mind which I believe came from God and which tied in with images that others had that evening. I attended a Friday night worship session a couple of times and felt buoyed up in my worship by the presence of other Christians. My meetings with God became breath-taking, awe-inspiring, profound…

And that’s when I realised it – my faith is so much stronger when it is held up by other Christians. All of my ‘big moments’ with God over the past two and a bit years (and they are getting so much more frequent) have happened when I am with people. My faith isn’t private – it is communal, loud, often filled with tears and laughter and so much bigger because my friends help it to grow. I love getting to talk about God with my small group. But even more than that, I love getting to meet God with my small group.

So if you, like I did, have a ‘private’ faith, I would encourage you to seek out ways to interact with God while with other people. If you are part of a small group, don’t just ‘study’ God or talk about Him – talk to Him, and help each other meet Him. Go to your small group expecting to meet God, and ready to share Him with each other.

About Suzie Lambert

Suzie is an HR advisor at a small oil and gas recruitment company. She is an active member of her local church, contributing in a variety of ways including singing in the band, leading the intercessional prayers, and co-ordinating one of the small groups. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, hanging out with friends and has recently started taking on fitness challenges.

Start local, think national, go global

One of my favourite things about my small group (other than the hobnob biscuits) is the priority we place on prayer. Sometimes though, we get caught up in only praying for each other and forget about things outside of our group.

A well-used prayer formula for things bigger than our own life bubbles is: start local, think national and then go global.

LOCAL – Pray for opportunities to be light in your community. Put down the hobnobs and go for a prayer walk around wherever it is that your group meets. Ask God for opportunities to love the community around you.

NATIONAL – Pray for our country’s leaders as we approach the EU referendum in June. Pray for the Church in Europe, that no matter what the outcome of the vote is, it might be united and continue to grow.

GLOBAL – I recently read a brilliant prayer on World Earth Day (April 22) written by Pope Francis. Maybe you could use the following lines as a start for praying for our planet?

‘O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in Your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognise that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards Your infinite light.

We thank You for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen.’

Whether or not your small group prays for your local community, nation or global issues already, it would be amazing to turn the focus away from ourselves and pray for the things going on around us.

About Emily Owen

Emily Bio Pic smEmily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

The family feel…

One of my favourite things about my small group is its strong sense of community and support – excuse the cliché – it really has got a family feel.

I know that the group support me, that they care about me and I miss them if someone can’t make it to the group. But, I have to be honest, it has taken me over a year of meeting with my small group to reach a point where I do feel ‘at home’. There have been times when I feel uncomfortable about speaking out in discussion, when I haven’t wanted to pray out loud and when actually I just want to skip the group altogether and do my own thing.

I’ve tried to figure out what has got us to the point where people feel confidents to share, to be vulnerable and honest and have come up with practical ways that have developed our small group from a Bible study to a caring community with God at the centre:

  1. Prayer – there is nothing that strengthens friendship more than praying together and for each other. By bringing God into friendships they will strengthen.
  2. Take a break – Pause your normal routine to factor in a social event and plan an activity: dinner, a walk, bowling or whatever you want. You get to know a different side of people when you laugh and have fun together and learn more about people when you step outside of your normal surroundings.
  3. Keeping touch – as it’s currently the Easter holidays your group might be taking a break and have decided not to meet for a couple of weeks. Start a group message or email so that you can still encourage each other, swap prayer requests and stay in touch whilst you aren’t physically meeting up.

You can’t force a ‘family feel’, or suddenly expect everyone in your group to be best friends, but by investing time in each other outside of the ordinary small group pattern you will begin to develop a small community of genuine support and love for one another.

 

About Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.