“Who wants to close us in prayer?”

It’s the one question that can shut down a group in record time.
Quickly, every head turns away from making eye contact.
And the silence… it’s deafening. The kind of silence when you half-expect a random tumbleweed to come rolling through the middle of your group. It’s the kind of silence where the sound of crickets would be a welcome noise.

This scene has played out in every small group I have worked with over the years. And I bet you can relate. There’s something about asking students to pray out loud that makes them clam up tight.

I asked the girls in my small group recently, “Why doesn’t anyone want to pray out loud?” Their responses included: “I don’t know what to say… I am afraid I am going to say the wrong thing… I don’t want to forget any of the prayer requests… I don’t want to sound stupid…”

I wish there was an all-in-one solution for teaching students how to pray. I’ve walked students through the “formulas” that can help them organize a prayer (praying the outline of the Lord’s Prayer, following the format of an A.C.T.S prayer, etc.). We’ve talked about how praying out loud doesn’t have to be formal—that it’s just a conversation between you and God. But despite my best efforts, they still seemed intimidated and unwilling to step up.

So how do I get them past the crickets and be willing to pray out loud? Here’s one way I’m helping them overcome their prayer “stage fright.” I have told my girls that one (or more) of them will close us each time we get together. In an effort to help the process, I’ve used a variety of methods to try to encourage them to step up. Here’s the story behind one of my favorites.

We were finishing up our small group one Sunday evening and it came time to ask who wants to close us in prayer… silence. So, in a desperate act, I grabbed my water bottle and put it in the middle of the group and said, “Okay, we’re gonna spin the bottle to see who prays.” And there it was, a completely random way to get someone to pray. Just spin the bottle and whomever it landed on, would close us out. It’s worked great so far. I’ve found that more they pray, the more comfortable they are with it.

I guess sometimes it’s just coming up with something new to take the awkwardness out of what seems intimidating.

How do you get your students to volunteer to pray out loud?

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Kristie McCollister

Kristie has worked with students for 25 years as a director of student ministries, a small group leader, a Sunday coach, or a coach for student sports teams.

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