Recently, I asked students to turn in written prayer requests as a way to start off the year right. I invited them to write down an invitation to ask God to move in their life in a specific area. Some students did nothing with them, but some dove in. Some dove in deep.
How deep? Well one girl, at the end of service, on her very first time in our youth group, walked up to me and handed me a prayer card. As she started to walk away I read it and realized that it said her mom had died just five days earlier. It doesn’t get any deeper than that. The truth is, she wouldn’t say it to me, but she would write it down. I called her back. We hugged and cried. We prayed.
As she walked away and as I had this card in my hand, I realized I was holding a deep spiritual need that I would have never known about had we not had these cards. She sat at a table of girls and talked and smiled and said nothing about it.
As a youth worker, I can’t afford to not know that kind of stuff. We can’t afford to not know this. Too much is at stake. If you work with high school students, let me encourage you with just one thing: Find a way to gather the prayer requests of your students.
For this purpose, I want to strongly encourage you to: USE PRAYER CARDS.
Why? Well, if the story above isn’t reason enough, then here are my top three reasons:
1. STUDENTS WILL WRITE STUFF THEY CAN’T OR WON’T SAY OUT LOUD:
Plain and simple, call it the consequence of a texting generation or simply chalk it up to fear…but the truth is, when I hand a group of students a prayer card and ask them to write down what is weighing them down spiritually, often I find that someone has written a need they have not uttered to me or anyone else in the room.
I was reminded this last Sunday that every weekend I need to remind students that we have cards they can write stuff on and leaders who want to love on them in the midst of their unfolding life story.
2. WE CAN’T BE WITH STUDENTS ALL THE TIME:
I know you want to be a resource in the lives of your students. But you and I cannot do that 24/7 and God can. The best chance I have of coming alongside a student as a spiritual influence in their life is actually not to be with them more, but rather to constantly remember them in prayer. Apart from it being spiritually powerful, on a brutally practical level, it also helps me in the times I am with them too. I do a better job of remembering names, have a greater sense of spiritual connection and have more meaningful things to talk about when I’ve prayed for them all week.
To this end, prayer requests that are written down are a gold mine for my spiritual investment in a student as I ask God to do what only God can do in their lives.
3. THEY SET YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY APART:
Maybe they can hear music in youth group and at home. Maybe they can connect with friends at school and in your church. Maybe they can go to the snow on a trip with your ministry and with their family. Sure, maybe the activities and opportunities of church and life collide in a lot of different ways.
But when you offer a student a chance to communicate a spiritual need in their life every time they come to your ministry, you set yourself apart as a place where students know they can go to cry out to God in-and-among a faith community in ways that are both profound and distinct. And that…that is a one-of-a-kind thing that the church is supposed to be.
Sure, use a YouTube video and play relevant music and write Bible studies that relate to their lives—but don’t miss the opportunity to do the one thing they don’t do anywhere else: write down a prayer need so you and I can join them in the incomparable privilege of taking a life to God in prayer.
So, I hope you join me in this prayer card priority if you don’t already do it or even if for you, like me, it sometimes gets casually addressed instead of intentionally called out. Let’s change that.
I suppose that could look like 1,000 different things, but here’s the one we use in our ministry if you want to download it for a sample.