By Kim Butts
Recently, Harvest Prayer Ministries was part of a Missions Fair at Grace Heartland Church in Elizabethtown, KY. Each of the 20 missions it supports (foreign and domestic) was situated at tables around the perimeter of its activity center. Each had a display and materials set up to inform people about how God was utilizing the ministry for His kingdom purposes. The missions team had created a passport that people took with them from table to table where they could visit with missionaries and ask questions, etc. Tables were also set up in the corners with finger foods from various areas of the globe for people to sample as they “traveled” around the world getting their passports stamped at each mission. The church supplied a stamp for each missionary appropriate to his or her particular mission. HPM’s stamp simply said Prayers. I took the opportunity to challenge each child (all of the kids wanted their passport stamped), family or individual to pray for all of the missionaries/missions in their passport as I put our stamp in the appropriate place.
Although the missionaries had all been prayed for during the first worship service, my brain began to generate all the ways a church could do a missions fair with an even greater emphasis on praying for the missionary families, their mission and people they serve. Here were some of the suggestions I was able to make to the missions team for next year:
- Consider a week of 24-7 prayer leading up to the Sunday missions fair. Have focused and creative prayer stations for each missionary/missions organization that you support. Ask the missionaries to provide you with specific prayer requests that are for their family/marriage/etc. as well as requests that are focused on ministry. Have their pictures in the prayer stations, and provide a synopsis of what they do for the kingdom. In this way, people in the congregation will have opportunity to pray for and get to know these families in a more intimate way ahead of the missions fair so that when they see them face to face they have a greater awareness and love for them. **If you are interested in learning more about how to develop a week of 24-7 prayer for your church, connect with Kim Butts (VP of Networks for Harvest Prayer Ministries): firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On the day of the Missions Fair, recruit people to choose one or more mission as a prayer focus for a year. For example, have a sign-up sheet with spaces for 3-5 names (or more depending on the size of your church) where individuals/families/small groups can commit to praying for a particular missionary or mission. Once all of the slots are filled, others can be added to the prayer team if there are more who wish to participate in this prayer effort. The missions team can coordinate purposeful prayer gatherings once a week/month where everyone comes together to pray for the missions of the church. There is great flexibility here. Another option is for each missionary’s prayer team to meet regularly together for prayer.
- Prior to your Missions Fair, each Sunday during worship, designate one missionary/mission to focus on in prayer to keep him or her before the congregation. Everyone in the church should be familiar with what missions they support as a faith community. This can be done very creatively as well. Also, whenever one of the missionaries is present in the worship service, bring him or her up front and pray for him or her! This is a good practice year round.
- Gather as much information as possible about the people served by your missionaries. For example–use Operation World to gain more information about a particular nation or people group. Or, in the case of a domestic mission, learn what kind of population is being served–orphans, homeless, crisis pregnancies, etc. This will help you to pray more specifically for the hearts and lives of those who have needs. Begin to feature people groups and information about different populations being served through the missions of the church via slides during the service, in short video presentations, in the bulletin, on the website, through email newsletters, etc. Any way to help people become familiar with the missions ministry of the church is good! Encourage people to pray as they become more informed about “how” to pray for others.
- At the Missions Fair, consider signing people up who might have an interest in going on short-term trips for the purpose of praying for and encouraging your missionaries, both foreign and domestic. Provide adequate training in advance for those going on a prayer journey, so they are committed to interceding “on-site with insight.”
There are many additional ways to uplift the missionaries/missions supported by your church in prayer. All it takes is some creativity on the part of your missions team, or others who would like to see all of the church’s missionaries covered in prayer. If you want to get your church focused on praying for the kingdom purposes of God, this is a great way to introduce people of all ages to prayer as the strategy for missions and towards their part in His global work.
Kim Butts is the co-founder and vice president of Harvest Prayer Ministries.