Friday, January 23, 2015

Our Wednesday Night Church Service - Kids Programs and Prayer Meeting

A brother pastor asked me to describe our typical Wednesday service to him as he is planning to launch one in his church. I thought I might reply here as I am always glad to share the things we do and even happier to glean good ideas from others. Take a look at our plan and let me know how your church prays.

The goal of this time is to encourage the saints. So we generally sing 3-4 songs that remind us of the Gospel and what God has done for us in Christ.  We also read through books of the Bible (one chapter at a time). The reader is a man who is trained (or in training) who, once he completes the reading, gives us a two-minute devotional based on one of the verses from that text. There are multiple reasons this is limited to two minutes, including the fact that we have all the kids with us.
We also ask the children for prayer requests during this time. Generally this takes 3-5 minutes of responding to raised hands and jotting down how we can pray for them. The adults pray for these requests later in the evening.
Sometimes we add other components like small group prayer, testimonies, a special presentation of some sort. We think of this service as something akin to a really great family meeting. We want it to be encouraging, enjoyable and Godward. I want the guy who is faithfully slugging out in a difficult work environment to look forward to getting his family to church on Wednesday because he knows he is going to be encouraged.
After a short prayer we all disperse to our different activities. 

7:30-8:45 Adults
The adults head to a room to spend the next hour in prayer. We do not really teach in our prayer meeting. We may look at a text of Scripture to help fuel our arguments in prayer, and take some specific requests for prayer, but our goal is to actually pray for a good 50-60 minutes. (For an idea of how we pray, see the “Prayer Sheet” at the bottom of this article.)
Due to the size of our prayer meeting we often have to divide the group into two.

7:30-8:45 Kids and Youth
The children and youth are divided into age-appropriate classes where they receive instruction in the Word (we currently use materials from Children Desiring God and The Gospel Project) and have a time of play in the gym. Through the years I have been the main proponent of play and some day I should write a post on why I think there is spiritual benefit to the church when it is encouraged.

Everything is done by 8:45 so that the parents with little kids can get them home and to bed and prepare for the rest of the week that we just disrupted with our late night! That said, there are generally many people here until well past ten. I stay behind to meet with a group of men I am mentoring.

Prayer Sheet
On the back of our song sheet is condensed listing of these requests:

Church Family
  • we rotate through the list of members, praying for 16 a week

GraceKids Class
  • we rotate through each of the classes and pray for all the children in the class by name

  • we use Operation World and pray for whatever country falls on the date of our prayer meeting
  • we summarize a few key points for prayer and give a little data on the country

  • we pray for all the elected officials of our area from city councillors to our Prime Minister (one per week)

  • we pray for two area churches each week
  • when we are on our "A" Game we contact that church for prayer requests earlier in the week

Auxiliary Ministries
  • we have two ministries outside of our church that we support financially and we pray for one of them every week

  • we significantly support two missionaries and pray for one of them each week

Church Ministries
  • we rotate through a list of all our church ministries and pray for several of them each week

  • we pray about what was preached the previous Sunday, asking God to help that truth take root
  • we also pray for the preaching of the coming Sunday

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Not all elders are Elders (but, a wise pastor still listens carefully to them)

My old friend, Hill, left this earth a couple of weeks ago. I will miss him a lot. 

Hill became my friend as an older man. I was privileged to sing him a silly song I wrote when he turned 85 and I was honoured to pray with him in the hospital when he was 90 and preparing for glory.

He was saved a little later in life, even though that life had been spent almost entirely in the church. A keen observer of people, he was always more aware than he let on of what was going on around him.  After I had known him a few years, I began to seek his opinion on lots of things. He had a good eye for future pastors in our church and sharp radar for the snakes. He had a sense of church life and could tell when things were growing stagnant or spiritually dull. His powers of deduction were not perfect, but they were helpful to me on more than a few occasions.

I have been thinking a lot about him and his influence on me over the last few days. Hill taught me that unique place that older saints can hold in a church. At 90 years old, he had been around the block a few times. And each time he picked up another lesson, another observation or another skill. A Christian that faithfully reads His Bible, prays for his church, attends that church and serves in her is getting an education in ecclesiastical affairs. A young pastor ought to pray that God fills up his church with some of these wise and watchful saints for they will help him to steer the ship more steadily. 

Hill was past the years of effectively serving as an Elder in the church - that is, bearing the office of Elder/Pastor/Shepherd/Bishop/Overseer/Steward. And some of his doctrinal convictions would have made him serving at this church a little difficult - he did love some odd duck TV preachers! But, his faithfulness to God over many years made him one of our sages. He was a man who helped this church from behind the scenes. He was like one of the elders of long ago who sat at the city gate and could be appealed to for practical wisdom and good advice.

All this to say, if your ministry goal as a pastor is to funnel old people to the fringes so they don’t "get in the way of what God is doing…" well, you ought to re-think that. 

“You shall stand up before the grey head and honour the face of an old man, 
and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD."

(Leviticus 19:32 ESV)