Sunday School classes along with other small groups have greatly benefited from the quick, casual and convenient use of email when sending out electronic prayer guides to their groups. Nevertheless, when communicating fragile prayer petitions, kingdom etiquette should remain in effect.
Before including any prayer need in the electronic prayer guide, ask yourself the following questions:
- Would (I, the person with the prayer need, or my classmates) feel embarrassed if I shared certain details in an email?
- Could this information be used in a legal matter or accused as being libel?
- Do I have any reasonable doubts about including this prayer need in the email?
If the answer to any of the three is “maybe” or “yes”, then do not include it, or at least make it more general. For instance, just because Sister Bessie shared every detail of her recent stomach problems does not mean that you have to. A simple request that she receives healing for her stomach issues is more than enough for a prayer guide. If Brother Arthur has asked for prayer for marital problems he is experiencing with his wife who never comes to church, you may want to simply state that prayer is needed for this man’s family.
Let the “peace of Christ reign in your heart” regarding the prayer petitions to be mentioned by email.
Typically, your small group members will know that their spoken petitions will end up in your electronic prayer guide if this is your common practice. Periodically, let your group know that should they not want something listed to let the appropriate person know.
Always remember to use general email etiquette by limiting sentence length to 20 words or only two lines. Do not capitalize all the words, as that is the same as shouting at your recipients. It is recommended to be as succinct as possible by using bullet points and short paragraphs. Last but not least, do not forget to use good grammar, spell-check and limit the use of visuals.
Here are a number of suggestions for handling your group’s precious prayer petitions with care in an email:
- Be proactive. Give prayerful consideration to the list of prayer needs as you plan your email content.
- Be wise. Leave subject line blank or use a general title like “List” or “Guide.” Remember, some small group members submit their employer’s email addresses.
- Be responsible. Resist including too many details, opinions or comments that can border gossip.
- Be selective. Do not take liberties in sharing information unless permission is granted. For instance, if a prayer need was shared in Sunday School, then it is fair to assume it can be listed in the group’s email, provided it passes the etiquette test and all class members are aware of the electronic prayer guide. But, if it is something you hear second hand, do not list it. All petitions listed should come from the appropriate person in your group.
- Be succinct. Using long paragraphs discourages the readers.
- Be considerate. Exclude marital problems, financial crisis, and refrain from detailing some medical issues, unless you can word it well. You may want to get a second opinion.
- Be professional. Never use your group’s distribution list to share unsolicited advertisements or other miscellaneous information.
- Be systemic. Try to limit the prayer email to one per week, and sporadically send out urgent requests when necessary. It is also recommended that you alternate prayer needs alphabetically and in alpha reverse order.
- Be inclusive. Only send the electronic prayer guide to those in the same small group to build a comfort level for sharing.
- Be safety-conscious. For security purposes, use first names only when practical. Use discretion when communicating members are away from their homes .
- Be cautious. Remember, emails have permanence.
- Be accurate. Read and reread the email to insure you are appropriately and properly representing the prayer need.
- Be positive. When listing the prayer request, use positive wording and scripture that your small group members can use in their prayer time.
- Be conservative. Keep the small group members updated with the progress of prayer request without being overly detailed or giving minute-by-minute updates.
- Be discretionary. Let your small group members tell their own story when appropriate. It is acceptable to state that a member has an unspoken prayer request.
- Be respectful. Do not add members to email distribution without their permission, and always use the blind copy feature.
- Be assertive. Promptly clear up any misunderstandings.
By following these user-friendly guidelines for electronic prayer guides, everyone will benefit.
Scripture(s): Colossians 3:15
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Award-winning author Gina Duke is a wife, mom and the Director of Women’s Ministry at her local church. With a B.S. in Organizational Leadership, she is able to bring a clear word for authentic Christian living. Through her book, “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press), she imparts 1 Peter 4:7 with the gift of structured prayer journaling. If you would like to schedule Gina to speak on prayer or host a prayer journaling workshop, click here for more information. You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TheGinaDuke.
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