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How to Start, Organize and Run an Email Prayer Chain

Starting an email prayer chain in your church or ministry group is an effective way to let members share, receive and pray for the needs of others. Email prayer chains use technology to quickly and reliably share prayer requests.

I serve as the coordinator of our church email prayer chain. We have 208 people on our prayer chain team who pray for each request and we receive and pray for 200 plus requests per month. Here are some of the essentials I’ve learned that will give you ideas on how to start, organize and run an email prayer chain.

 1. Learn about prayer chains and intercession.  

Whenever I experience times of difficulty, it is comforting to know that others are praying for me. When I was asked to coordinate the email prayer chain, I agreed because a prayer chain is an effective way to bring the power of many prayers to those in need.

A PRAYER CHAIN IS a way for people to gain God’s assistance through prayer for any need by permitting the Intercessor to pray as Jesus prayed. It is interceding or praying on behalf of one another.

I phone winter spring 010INTERCESSION IS a prayer of petition for the interests and needs of others. Just as the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God so we also intercede. (See Romans 8:26-27) The commitment to pray for others is a sacred privilege and is an example of faith in action.

2.  Receive approval from the church or ministry leadership to form a prayer chain.

There was already a prayer chain in place at our church when I was approached by the church leadership to become the Email prayer chain coordinator. If your church does not have a prayer chain, or had one in the past that has become inactive, begin by speaking to your minister about forming, re-activating or re-organizing a prayer chain. In my experience, ministers are very open to having prayer chains because they are extremely beneficial to the church and its members.

3. Find a prayer partner and begin praying over how to form a prayer chain.

If you’re starting, reorganizing or taking on the leadership of a prayer chain, ask God to send you a partner. Forming an organization is difficult and everyone needs a partner, especially someone who will pray with you. This is vitally important because there is always spiritual resistance to prayer and we all need God’s help.

If you don’t know a likely individual, ask your minister to recommend someone. When you are considering likely partners, look for someone who understands the vision of how people are being connected with God’s power. Also, they have a calling to intercede in prayer.

4.  Select a prayer chain coordinator

Whether God is calling you or someone else to be the prayer chain coordinator position, consider the following qualities this person will need.

–  The foremost qualification is that this person has a heart for prayer.

–  Good organization skills and be attentive to details.

–  For an email prayer chain, the person needs good computer skills.

–  Appreciate the need to send out prayer requests in a timely manner and have a flexible schedule that permits them to do so.

–  Have discernment when it comes to privacy matters and details in a request that may not be appropriate to share with a group.

–  Have a back-up coordinator who can take over the job when the prayer chain coordinator is traveling, ill, etc.

 5Select your method of receiving prayer requests

At our church there are a variety of ways in which people needing prayer can get a request to us.

Prayer cards available in the church sanctuary. In the racks on each pew we have a prayer card that has space for members to write down a request. These are placed in the collection plate when it is passed and given to the church secretary who shares them with the staff and the prayer chain. The church secretary scans the requests and emails them to me and I forward to the prayer chain. She then gives the actual cards to the appropriate ministers to pray over as well

Prayer cards attached to the church bulletin which can be torn off and when completed placed in the collection plate.

Phone calls to the church office or staff. People often call the church to give a prayer request. If they request that something be sent to the email prayer chain, the church secretary emails the request to me.

Capture let us pray for you afumcChurch website. Our church website has an icon of praying hands that people can click to request prayer. This leads to an online form where they fill out their request. When they choose ‘send’ it comes directly to the church email prayer inbox which is automatically forwarded to me. This is our preferred way to receive requests because we have a record of all of the requests in the church inbox archive. It’s usually a very simple process for a church IT director to set up a prayer mailbox and set it up so it will be forwarded to the prayer chain coordinator.

Verbal requests in person or direct to the prayer coordinator. Some churches use this as an alternative to email. I personally don’t recommend encouraging people to approach you at church asking you to put something on the email prayer chain. My respond, “would you mind emailing what you just told me so that I can get the entire facts the way you’ve told it to me?”

There are a number of reasons this may be a wise course of action. When people are telling you something verbally they tend to “over-share.”   Often they tell details that shouldn’t be broadcast, also, others around might overhear.   Having them write out the request helps them make a more precise and concise request.

Links in email church newsletters. If your church sends out a regular email newsletter, you can include a link to the prayer request inbox.

6.  Decide on your method of sending out email prayer requests to the prayer chain members

 In the past many prayer chains involved each person in the group telephoning the next person on the list with the request. However, today an excellent method that works well for us is to use an email newsletter service for prayer. We use Constant Contact since the church was already using it to send out our weekly ENews newsletter. We set up a separate account for the Prayer Chain and download the member names who wish to receive the prayer request.

Y0u   can create a long list of recipients.   As I’ve mentioned, we have 208 prayer chain members! An email newsletter format allows you to send to an unlimited list of names, depending on the plan you choose, in one process. Also, you can add new members at any time.

It is user friendly. The email newsletter program we use is simple to understand and use. The technical staff at Constant Contact is always available and ready to assist.

The look can be customized. We have our prayer chain “newsletter” set up with the church logo plus a picture of our prayer chapel. We also have links to the church website, twitter and Face Book accounts.

People can unsubscribe without you having to process it. On the email newsletter there is an “unsubscribe” button. If someone no longer wishes to receive the prayer requests, they can simply hit “unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email.

Multiple reports. This enables me to know the participation and activity and any email addresses that “bounced” the names of those who might have “unsubscribed” and no longer wish to receive the requests, also provides group totals for the month.

Budget considerations. If you are considering using an email newsletter service for your prayer chain, decide what features you need. For smaller groups and basic service, there are free email newsletter services. Fee based newsletter services usually charge a small monthly subscription fee. For fee based services, the cost of the email newsletter service would need to be written into the church budget under the appropriate work area, such as the congregational care, outreach or the worship committee.

7.  Consider how you will write the content of prayer requests.

On our prayer chain, I made a decision not to change or edit requests. I forward to the prayer chain exactly as I receive, with the exception of editing grammar or clarification to understand request. I personally feel that passing on the request exactly as received keeps it true to the desires of the person making the request. Also, I always include the person’s name making the request (exp: From name or From Anonymous) followed by the request. Including the name of the person who made the request gives any prayer chain member who feels led to find out more about the situation the opportunity to directly contact the person who requested prayer. That person can then share as much or as little as they wish.

On occasion I receive a request that I feel uncomfortable sending out because of the sensitive content. Instead of sending this to the prayer chain I consult with the church staff before proceeding.

8.  Decide how often you will send out requests.

Being a prayer chain coordinator is a time commitment. Setting up a system that works for you as to how frequently you send out requests is very important. Here are some of my tips:

–  Monitor your inbox often.   My inbox alerts me on my cell phone and desktop when I have a prayer request.       My basic rule is request(s) need to be sent in a timely manner, meaning determine which ones are urgent and send these out immediately.

–  Decide how often you will send out an email. I send out requests every Monday and daily as I receive. If they are not time and date sensitive (such as a scheduled surgery etc.) I will ‘hold’ in the queue and send out at the end of the day; this also allows me to add any that I receive through out the day.   Others may prefer to send out requests as soon as they arrive or to send out daily at the same time each evening.

 9.  Select the volunteers.

 Our prayer chain already had a large group of volunteers when I became the Email Coordinator. If you are starting a prayer chain the best place to go for recommendations for names of potential volunteers is your church ministry staff. They often know things you may not know about potential volunteers, such as whether they are able to keep things confidential, which is an important trait of an intercessor.   They also may have access to data where people have indicated areas of interest, such as new member profiles and time and talent surveys. They also will know who has participated in church prayer meetings in the past, such as National Day of Prayer services etc.

Our prayer chain consists of church members, not limited by gender or age, who are committed prayer warriors. Discuss with your ministerial staff whether or not they feel it’s appropriate to include non-members or former members who are living in a different city on the church prayer chain.

Once you have a list of potential volunteers, seek the approval of the church ministry staff before contacting the individuals.

10.  Invite members to join the prayer chain and provide the purpose and guidelines of the prayer chain.

After receiving approval contact each individual by phone, email or letter inviting them to be a part of the prayer chain. Meet with them including the pastoral liaison and explain the purpose of the prayer chain and distribute guidelines.

11. Guidelines for prayer chain members.

– List the Church Liaison and Prayer Committee Leadership with contact information.

– Provide a statement about the purpose of the prayer chain.

– Include the flow chart of receiving and distributing prayer request. Although in an email prayer chain participants won’t need to pass on requests themselves, it’s important for them to know how to make requests so they can pass on this information to others and/or they can make requests themselves.

–  Include general information of when requests are normally passed along. Letting the prayer chain members know the usual timetable will help them know what to expect.

–  Include expectations that prayer chain members will open the emails as soon as possible and pray in a timely manner.

–  Remind the members that this is a prayer chain, not a care line. If people need help or assistance with emergencies encourage them to contact the ministerial and/or counseling staff.

–  Confirm names, addresses, phone numbers and email address of prayer participants.

–  Distribute the list of prayer chain members to the church leadership.

 11.  Set up confidentiality guidelines

One extremely important guideline is absolute confidentiality. Although a Prayer Chain by definition is not a private way of communicating, the information passed along must be private. The names of persons requesting prayer and their personal situations are not open for discussion or to be questioned. If someone on the prayer chain has concerns about a request, have them contact the church leadership. The prayer chain participants are not to reveal prayer requests to others who do not receive the prayer request emails.

It also might prove helpful to add a notice at the end of each email reminding members of the confidentiality of the information shared, much like the notice businesses put on their internal emails.

12.  Immediately notify ministers of requests where intervention is needed.          

On occasion you may receive a request from someone who needs immediate help or intervention. Examples would be someone who is suicidal, severely depressed or where child abuse or other abuse is noted. It is always wise to immediately pass this on to the minister or the church staff so they can use their professional training to decide what intervention(s) is needed. Our church has a 24-hour pastoral care line where one of the staff who is on call will respond to emergencies. If in doubt, it is always wise to contact someone.

 

 

13.  Pass along praises and answers to prayer.

 

Encourage people who make requests to get back in touch later when their situations improve, progress is made or the crisis has been resolved. Receiving praise reports helps encourage the intercessors that their crucial work is making a difference in people’s lives. Put a heading on the email newsletter for praises and answers to prayer. I list a praise report first and identify by typing “PRAISE FROM…..” in another color. Remember that things getting “better” are an answer to prayer. So don’t hesitate to pass along news of progress and perseverance as answers to prayer along with healings and final recoveries.

 

14.  Decide how to handle inactive prayer chain members.

When dealing with prayer chain members who have stopped opening the emails to pray for requests, I decided to take off my corporate/business hat and put on my church ministry hat. While it makes sense for businesses to purge rolls and lists of those who are unresponsive, I feel that in a church it’s best to err on the side of harmony. After all, these are volunteers and purging them from the prayer chain might have a negative effect. They have agreed to participate on the prayer chain, and the option is always open for them to ask to have their name removed from the email list.

 

It’s possible that the person’s life has changed in some way that’s preventing them from participating as they’d like. Maybe they’re swamped with work and family obligations or are experiencing a downturn in their health. They may also be experiencing burn out or compassion fatigue because of a personal crisis they’re dealing with. Maybe their computer is in the shop. Some prayer chain leaders like to be in occasional personal contact with members to see how things are going with them and to offer encouragement and support.

 

15.  Expect resistance and accept personal God’s help, provision, protection and care.

Prayer is a potent, spiritual force that unlocks God’s power. You may encounter obstacles that seem to come out of nowhere. Some may be a result of the unseen spiritual workings who is very much opposed to effective prayer. Others may come from opposing worldviews that elevates action, science and human power and wisdom over faith. Others may come from the busy-ness of life when distressing prayer requests pop up when you don’t have the time to handle them.

 

Keep yourself grounded in the Bible and close to Christ. Enlist others to pray for you and the members of the prayer chain. Put on the protective spiritual armor of God. Practice good spiritual self-care. Allow you to make mistakes and learn from them. Find a co-leader or a back-up leader for the prayer chain who can share the task with you. Don’t be afraid to let someone else take over when you need a break. Seek wisdom and counsel from others when something is hard to deal with.

 

16.  Accept the fact that not everyone will have as strong a vision of the mission as you would like.

Most likely you’ll have a reality dose that not everyone participating on the prayer chain has the same vision you do. A few may be a part of the prayer chain in order to receive updates on what’s going on at church. Since I’m very passionate about prayer, I came to terms with this by realizing that this ministry isn’t about me but rather about the people requesting prayer. Know that people are on different spiritual levels and accept where they are.

 

17.  Consider how long to continue praying for a request.

Since our prayer chain receives 100 plus requests a month, it’s obvious that members aren’t able to continue praying the whole list. A suggestion is to instruct prayer chain participants to open the email request as soon as possible and to continue praying until the Holy Spirit gives you a release that prayer has been heard.   Then be led of the Holy Spirit to continue in prayer for any request that really touches your heart.

 

 

 

 

18.  Plan training sessions, thank you recognition times and other opportunities for prayer chain participants to bond.

 

Based on the needs of each congregation and the church leadership, effort needs to be made to bond this group and maintain the purpose of The Prayer Chain such as a training session and/or a Prayer Breakfast. The Prayer Coordinator should work closely with church leadership and the prayer chain participants to insure guidelines are followed.

 

Also, consider having some way to recognize the ministry of prayer chain participants. At our church we had a drop-in, in the prayer chapel after Sunday School for prayer chain participants. We enjoyed meeting and talking with each other and we presented each person with a book on prayer. We ran announcements in the bulletin and the church newsletter about the gathering so the congregation as a whole would be aware of the faithful ministry of the prayer chain participants.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.   And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked for.

I John 5: 14, 15 NIV

participants. We enjoyed meeting and talking with each other and we presented each person with a book on prayer. We ran announcements in the bulletin and the church newsletter about the gathering so the congregation as a whole would be aware of the faithful ministry of the prayer chain participants.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.   And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked for.

I John 5: 14, 15 NIV

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How to request and receive confidential prayer

How to stand in the gap in prayer

How to pray together using a conference call prayer line

How to pray scriptures

How to start an intercessory prayer group

Prayer breakfast ideas

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