The Pray for Me Campaign: Hope in Intergenerational Fellowship
Let me tell you a story of the church being the church in a way that has brought me great encouragement.
This fall, we launched our second Pray for Me campaign. Pray for Me originated from the realities that 1) a large number of students leave the church after graduating high school and 2) the students who stay in the church had meaningful relationships and investments before graduating.
The vision of Pray for Me is to connect each middle and high school student with three adults from three different generations who are committed to intentionally praying for them for the entire year. The hope is that, by the end of high school, a student will have a wonderful and varying group of folks in their church who have seen them through their adolescence with prayer and care. If deeper relationships arise out of the commitment of an adult to pray for a year, fantastic! But if not, there is equally as much value, as we know that God’s work through prayer is a hugely important part of the church (Ephesians 6:18).
So, on that glorious day in October, I watched with excitement as the sanctuary began to fill with the couple of hundred people who had committed to praying for a student for one year. The students lined the walls next to the pews, and our little space was packed to the gills.
One of the fantastic parts of Pray for Me is the design; the student has to take the initiative in asking three people to be their ‘prayer champions’ for the year. They are invited to be an active pursuer of relationships in their church. I love it. And not in the least because it makes for a bit of hilarious people-watching as adults of all ages stand nervously, waiting to be chosen in a typical middle school dodge ball-like team-picking experience.
Vulnerability on both sides: such loveliness.
And so, I watched the beautiful chaos of kids running down the aisle to get to that person they were seeking, I kept my eye on a particular high school senior, Gina*, who had been in my small group since last fall. Gina came to our church as the girlfriend of another student in our youth group, and had had an incredibly trying couple of years dealing with a very broken family. Right before she and her boyfriend broke up this fall, she decided that she wanted to become a member of our church in spite of the fact that her family did not attend. She wanted to make it her own.
Knowing that Gina did not have reliable parents or an incredibly stable home, I prayed for her as she made her selections. Most of the students don’t personally know all of the adults they ask to pray for them at Pray for Me and again, the adults are not committing to mentoring, just to praying. However, sometimes they’re inspired to invite deeper relationships with the students – this was a great hope of mine for Gina.
As the hour wound down, and people began to filter out of the sanctuary, Gina came up to me with a broad grin on her face. Not only had the three women she chose asked for her phone number and expressed a desire to know her more, but they had already scheduled a date to do dinner together.
Gina has been adopted into a new family, our church, who will teach her how to live like a daughter, to receive the love and blessing of being delighted in, pursued, and known. The great brokenness of her family, which she will continue to have to live in until graduation, is not the end of her story (Romans 8:14-19, Ephesians 1:4-6, Galatians 4:5-7).
I feel eternal gratitude for the beauty the Pray for Me structure provides, as it creates an intentional time and space for connection. Ideally, this sort of connection happens all the time in the church; but in reality, it happens less than we’d hope. A catalyst simply isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s pretty great. It can look a variety of ways, and I would highly recommend considering how you might implement something similar to foster intergenerational relationships in your body.
Find out more about Pray for Me at prayformecampaign.com.
*Gina’s name has been changed to respect her privacy