It’s like setting 300 toddlers loose in a gym full of brand new Bubble Wrap. Or watching a stadium fill with fans for the season’s final game. Or maybe it’s like your 20-year high school reunion — filled with anticipation, excitement, and eagerness to know how it’s all going to go down.
Beautiful, frenzied chaos.
This is the scene of the Pray for Me Campaign launch at North Shore Fellowship (PCA) on a little corner of downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is a picture of the church breaking down generational barriers, creating time and space for intentional relationships, and taking a risk on something new.
Tony Souder, Pray for Me Campaign founder and Chattanooga Youth Network executive director, saw the need to address a major concern plaguing churches of all sizes and denominations. According to the recent book Sticky Faith by Drs. Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark, 40-50 percent of students from good youth groups and families will drift from God and the church after high school. Conversely, the authors point out, those who remain connected to the church share one essential similarity: They all have multiple adult believers (aside from their parents) intentionally investing in their lives. The Pray for Me Campaign seeks to keep students connected to the church for a lifetime by naturally creating a network of multigenerational relationships through prayer.
To kick off the Pray for Me Campaign at a local church, a launch event is held during which each student asks three adult believers from different generations to be his or her Prayer Champions for the school year. These adult believers use the Prayer Guide to help them stay the course in supporting their students through prayer, focusing on seven essential biblical traits: favor, wisdom, love, faith, purity, speech, and conduct.
A child beginning the Pray for Me Campaign at age 5 could have as many as 45 adults praying for him if he continues through high school. That amounts to nearly 10,000 prayers from adult generations on behalf of one student. At North Shore Fellowship alone, 60 students are being supported through prayer by more than 200 adult believers who are pleading with the Father on the behalf of the next generation of believers.
“We are trying to grow as a people of and in prayer. Pray for Me has helped us with this immensely; it comes with built-in accountability.”
North Shore Fellowship’s senior pastor, Robby Holt, affirms, “The Pray for Me Campaign has been an enormous gift to us at NSF. We aim to facilitate connections throughout the generations, and this prayer movement has become a major way this hope is realized in our body. We are trying to grow as a people of and in prayer. Pray for Me has helped us with this immensely; it comes with built-in accountability.”
The impact of the Pray for Me Campaign at North Shore Fellowship is growing as deep as it is wide. Campaign coordinator and youth volunteer Meg Day said, “I’ve felt a personal connection to the church since I was a student, which is rare, and I wanted that for the students at my church, too. I’ve seen God use the Pray for Me Campaign at North Shore in two primary ways. First, the students are being seen and welcomed into our church community….As our church welcomed them into its prayers, they’ve welcomed each other into their stories and struggles. Second, I’ve received feedback from the Prayer Champions of how…they have really enjoyed the Prayer Guide and have used it to structure their prayer life more directly. And, perhaps most meaningful to me, the adults are telling me that they are the ones being blessed by knowing our students.”
Fast-forward seven months, near the end of the school year at North Shore Fellowship. Sam (a pseudonym), a middle schooler whose family had been attending North Shore as well, joins the church on his own initiative and during Easter week takes his first Communion.
Those who remain connected to the church share one essential similarity: They all have multiple adult believers (aside from their parents) intentionally investing in their lives.
Sam knew all too well the pain of exclusion and the difficulty of trying to fit in, but he’s now beginning to experience what it means to be pursued, loved, and to belong. The Holy Spirit has been working in Sam’s heart, while at the same time moving specific members of the body to be increasingly affectionate, welcoming, and hospitable to him. The day after taking his membership vows, Sam said to his mom, “Mom, these people really love me.”
This is the power of prayer — a vehicle of God’s grace through which we are made able to both love God and love others.
Since launching in 2014, the Pray for Me Campaign has enrolled 141 churches in 29 states, representing 14 denominations with a total of more than 11,000 adult Prayer Champions. Fifteen PCA churches have launched the Campaign so far, with more to come as launch season kicks off this fall. To learn more about the Pray for Me Campaign, or launch the ministry in your church or student ministry, visit prayformecampaign.com or call 423-648-7937.