By Bill Tenny-Brittian

Many churches have a “greeting time” built into the worship service. In some, the time is a fellowship moment set aside for meeting and greeting visitors. Other churches use the time more liturgically to invite participants to “pass the peace” between one other. I’ve heard a number of pastors speak about how “disruptive” this time can be in the flow of the service and how difficult it is to reintroduce a worshipful spirit to the congregation. To that end, I’d like to offer an alternative to the “greeting time” that I promise will disrupt the service, but will do more to maintain a spiritual focus than almost anything else you could do.

Get the participants to pray for one other.

You may want to train a number of pray-ers in advance of this event, but in any case, you’ll need to give the participants some instruction in praying (since many North American Christians are uncomfortable with praying aloud and many claim they don’t know how to pray aloud). Here are some sample instructions you could use:

  1. Turn to someone new your whom you did not come with.
  2. Ask them, “How can I pray for you today?”
  3. When you’re asked, answer the question in three sentences or less.
  4. Pray briefly for your partner either using the words they used or by praying something like, “Lord, you heard _____’s need [concern, joy, praise, fear]. Hear our prayer and send your Spirit.”
  5. Then trade roles.

If you’re concerned about visitors or unchurched guests, consider training a number of pray-ers in advance with the instructions to seek out these folks, to pray for them, but to not expect them to pray in return. Some may, but others may be uncomfortable yet.

The results of this prayer time will, in time, heighten the spiritual awareness of the congregation, as well as provide the training so participants become effective praying disciples.