I’ve struggled with the opening sentence of this post. That’s because on one hand, urging youth leaders to pray for their teens is such a cliché, but on the other hand it’s something too many youth leaders neglect.
I don’t want you to feel guilty about not praying enough, because guilt is not a good emotion when it comes to prayer. Prayer is born in a relationship, in love, not in guilt. So if prayer is an aspect of your youth ministry you want to grow in, that’s fine. Know that God loves you and knows your heart. So, no guil trip here.
But, I do want to offer some suggestions for those who wish to pray more, deeper, or simply differently for their students. As you may have found out for yourself already, praying for your teens consistently isn’t always a walk in the park. It easily evolves into a naming of names, a praying of ‘lists’ and not an actual conversation with God about those kids you care so much about. So here are five creative ways to pray for your students.
1. Pray using Social Media
If you have any social media account (and I’m kind of counting on the fact that you do) you have no doubt befriended many of your teens. So go to your friends, visit your student’s timelines or feeds or posts one by one and pray for them.
Look at what they’re posting. What are their concerns, their worries? Is there anything you can specifically pray for? Look at their pictures. Do they seem to have (Christian) friends? Maybe that’s something to pray for.
I have several students who regularly post something about feeling alone, wanting to hang out with somebody…anybody, really. So I’ve started praying for them to find good friends, friends that will have a positive influence on them.
Use your students’ social media updates to find things to pray for, as you get to know your students better at the same time.
2. Pray using your small groups
Does your youth ministry use small groups? Then this is a good method for you. Make a list of the small groups and their leaders and pray for one group every day.
You can pray for each teen individually, but also for the group as a whole, for their time together and for unity and fellowship. And don’t forget to pray for the small group leaders!
If you don’t know all the kids that well, ask the small group leaders for specific input and prayer points. Most small group leaders will have specific things to pray for, both for their individual students as for the group as a whole. You can even ask the small group leaders to send you head shots of each students so you have a face to go with the name of you have many kids in your group.
And if you have kids that don’t attend small group, put them in a separate ‘group’ and pray for them as well.
3. Pray using mindmaps
Are you familiar with the concept of mindmaps? I hope so, because they are a marvelous tool for your brain to brainstorm, to remember things and to visualize processes or thoughts. But they can also be used for prayer, especially if you’re praying for a smaller group, like a small group.
Just put ‘prayer’ or ‘prayer request’ in the middle, make a line for each student and put in prayer requests, prayer promises or associate with things you know about them to come up with things to pray for yourself. If you have a students who’s big into baseball for instance, put his team on your mindmap and pray or him to have a positive impact on his team, his coach, maybe even parents. You can also jot down hobbies, favorite subjects in school, known issues of a student, etc.
Make the mindmap colorful (you can even put a small photo in of each of the teens), creative and have it ready when you pray. You can add to it every time and even write down answered prayers. You’ll notice after a while you won’t have any trouble remembering the smallest details of their life!
4. Pray while walking
I used to do this a lot when I was a volunteer, only while riding my bike (I’m Dutch remember, we do everything by bike 🙂 ). I had to ride my bike to work every day, which took me about thirty minutes. It was an excellent time to pray for my students, because nothing was distracting me and there wasn’t much else I could do anyway. I loved these quiet times with God early in the morning and had whole conversations about a lot of youth ministry related stuff. You can obviously also use it with other forms of exercise that don’t require you to pay much attention…
5. Write out Your Prayers
I guess I am extremely good at relaxing, because I have a tendency to fall asleep when I pray. When I close my eyes, I relax and it’s really hard for me to stay awake. That why I started writing my prayers down.
An added benefit is that I can reread my prayers and see what God has done. I also jot down any prayer request I get or any prayer promises I make, so I won’t forget to actually pray for them. I just write my prayers out, like a letter to God and then spend some time in silence to wait for His answers.
I hope these five suggestions have inspired you to try some different approaches to praying for your students. If you have any other suggestions, drop a comment!