For the next few weeks I will write about the eight practices of missional communities, what Campus Renewal Ministries calls “Spark Groups.”  These eight practices are described with greater detail in CRM’s Spark Course, which trains missional community leaders.

#3 – Pray and Plan

The next practice of a missional community or Spark Group is prayer and planning.

A missional community really does not exist until you pick a people group, partner with others, and start meeting weekly for prayer and planning.

Prayer Changes You

This is God’s secret purpose in prayer: To change you.  At least two things happen when you and your partners begin to pray for your people group.

First, your vision will grow.   As you pray for the gospel to be demonstrated and declared within your people group, you will notice your vision growing in depth and clarity.  You will begin to dream together and God will give you direction for what next steps to take as a missional community.  Praying together each week will help you remember why God has placed you in your people group.  Prayer will keep your eyes fixed on God’s purposes for you.

Secondly, your compassion will grow.  As you pray for those in your people group who are far from God, you will notice God changing your heart toward them.  You will begin to love them more which makes you pray for them more which makes you love them more and the cycle goes on and on.  As you pray for individuals, God will speak to you about them and show you how to love and serve them. You will find that you’re more mindful of individuals instead of falling back to your human “default setting” to think only of yourself.

Prayer Changes Others

This is the mystery of prayer: We participate in God’s sovereign plans.  You have heard people say “prayer works.”  It’s more Biblical to say, “God is at work, and He uses the prayers of His people to accomplish his work.”  In other words, prayer itself is not the answer. God is the answer, but he allows us to join Him in all He is doing by simply praying.

It has also been said that God does nothing except in answer to prayer.  This could very well be true.  When God wants to do something in someone’s life, He first will lead believers in that person’s life to pray for them.  This is why missional community’s need to focus the majority of their prayers on individuals in their people group.

“Next Steps” Intentionality

We not only need to pray together weekly, we also need to have a plan for every week.  At the end of your prayer meeting you simply need to ask, “What are a few next steps for us this week?”  It’s not mechanical.  It’s Biblical.  God wants us to live with intentionality. Each week missional communities need to determine what they want to do together or individually over the next week.

It’s helpful to ask everyone to describe a simple “win” for the week.  Meaning, ask what one thing can each person do in the coming week to move the mission forward.  These should be little things and measurable things like planning to invite a friend to lunch, to host a football watching party,  to join a study group, to invite someone to church, to share your testimony with a friend, etc.

Each week when you meet to pray and plan, start by sharing how your “wins” for the week went.  Rejoice in what God is doing and encourage one another to stay on God’s mission.

Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the misssonal community movement at the University of Texas.