020: ZOOM Prayer Meetings
Will ZOOM continue to play a key role in church life once the COVID-crisis is over?
I think that there is one place where it might, and it probably will at Banstead Community Church, and that’s prayer meetings.
ZOOM prayer meetings I reckon are here to stay.
When lockdown began in March 2020, our weekly prayer meeting went online, and we haven’t looked back or longed for what we had before (unlike the Sunday worship gatherings).
Why is that?
Here are four reasons why ZOOM prayer meetings have in our situation at Banstead Community Church turned out to be more beneficial than our weekly in person prayer meeting prior to lockdown.
Firstly, more people have been able to attend.
Our midweek prayer meeting is every Thursday between 8 and 9pm. This meant that it was difficult for both parents of young children, older folk who don’t come out in the evening or who are shut-in, and those who jobs requires a long commute, to attend.
Since moving to ZOOM our prayer meeting instantly became more accessible, such that around 60-65% of all the adults in the church (before it would be 30-35%) will be at meeting now plus some of the young people.
Secondly, more people have been praying.
Moving the prayer meeting to ZOOM gave us an opportunity to change the way the prayer meeting ran. In the past, we would announce a subject to pray about and then leave space for anyone who wanted to pray to do so. Generally, it would be the same people who prayed each week.
Instead of announcing the topic and then having a time of open prayer for it, we’ve now decided to ask specific individuals to pray for this. We’ve found that more people are willing to be asked than would have prayed out loud during open prayer. Also, others have been willing to do so if given opportunity to prepare a written prayer before the meeting. As a church we have benefited from hearing different voices and a greater variety of voices lead us in prayer.
Thirdly, more prayer meetings have been able to take place.
After the first month of using ZOOM for our prayer meetings, we added a second weekly prayer meeting on Tuesday morning from 9-9.30am. The benefit of using ZOOM is that a 30-minute prayer meeting is only 30 minutes. It has also meant that some of our members have been able to stop work to join in or have been able to listen in while commuting.
Fourthly, more opportunities to pray with others.
ZOOM has enabled us to have a monthly joint prayer meeting with New Life Church in Middlesbrough who we are in partnership with. Past trainee pastors have been able to join us. It has been great to have mission speakers based in this country or overseas give presentations. We have had other FIEC pastors give updates about their church in person so we can pray for them.
So, why have prayer meetings worked so well on ZOOM?
I think Glen Scrivener is on to something when he tweeted, “There’s something about the verticality of prayer which overcomes the horizontal problems with Zoom.” It could be that because prayer meetings are primarily vertical (us to God) rather than horizontal (to each other) that being physically present is not as vital as with a worship service where actually gathering is.
I recognise this won’t be the case for every church, but in our context where over 80% of the church have a computer or tablet and could access ZOOM, prayer meetings this way has been a really blessing and why I think they will probably be here to stay.
(Photo: Julia Joppien)