Pastoral Incompetence, Incompetent Advice, and Prayer Chains

“You know, your church should really have a . . .”

Every pastor has heard sentences begin like this. Who knows how the sentence will end, but probably with you doing something you’re intentionally not doing after much thought and counsel. Most people assume you’re not doing it because you’re a moron.

“You know, our church should have a prayer chain.” This is one I’ve heard countless times. “The last church I went to had a prayer chain and I just loved it, I could keep up with everything and everyone.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why we don’t have one.” Now listen, if your church does a prayer chain, great, go for it. I am not seeking to dictate what your church does.

I and the board of our church have discussed this issue many times. We don’t have a prayer chain. Here is a brief list of reasons why:

They promote gossip.
They too often share things people don’t want shared.
I’d rather have people in my church talk to each other and be friends and find out what to pray for.
They promote gossip.
Our church isn’t that big; it’s not hard to keep up.
Anything the whole church needs to know is announced at church. Want to know what’s going on at church? Here’s an idea: go to church and you’ll know.
They promote gossip.

I’m not interested in any arguments on these points. This is not up for debate. Nothing you can say to me will change my mind.

Prayer chains are not biblically mandated. Prayer for each other is; but I believe prayer is centered on love. Love would be friends with people and know how to pray for people.

I’m not convinced that having groups of people praying makes a difference anyway. Again, not seeking to argue, just don’t see any proof in the Bible that the more people praying the more likely a prayer is to be answered in the desired way. What I do see is that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. It just takes one person.

I have explained these points to people, and even if they disagree, they must admit that it’s been thought about. Yet inevitably people will call upon our lack of a prayer chain as proof we are incompetent and don’t know what churches “are supposed to do.” It never dawns on anyone that maybe, just maybe, while you were skipping church, there were other people in the church actually putting thought into what the church does and doesn’t do.

“Prayer chains are really nice,” I’m told. “I get an update all the time on what people are doing.” The whole concept of a prayer chain will be explained to me again. “You can use phone numbers, or email, or text, or handouts at church.”

“Yes, yes I know. We’ve decided not to do that here. We think if you just get to know people you’ll know what to pray for.”

“Our last church did this. We had a prayer Point Person, you could just contact that person and then they’d call the next and then they’d call the next and so on. Everyone would know then.”

“I’m totally clear as to how they work. I’m glad you ladies enjoyed it,” because let’s be honest, it’s pretty much a lady thing. An Old Lady Thing at that. I’ve never had a man ask for a prayer chain. Old ladies are the only ones who pretend to care to want to know that much information about people. The odds that this information is primarily utilized for prayer is questionable.

I know several instances where a young unmarried girl got pregnant and before you know it, it’s all over the prayer chain. The old ladies are busy that day. This stuff happens. I don’t think it’s worth it.

I don’t bring this up to bash your prayer chain at your church. Do what you want. I’m just saying I can make just as strong a case not to do one as anyone can make for why to do one. I have thought about this. We do things on purpose. I’m not ignorant of what other churches do.

One reason I became a pastor is so I didn’t have to do all the stupid things your church does! Amen? Amen.

It would be cool if people assumed their pastors actually were paying attention and actually put care and thought into what was going on in the church. For the most part, I can attest that pastors are generally paying attention to what’s going on. Of course, if I had a prayer chain at my church, I’d probably know better.

One thought on “Pastoral Incompetence, Incompetent Advice, and Prayer Chains

  1. We have a text service that we use to notify people of weather cancellations or other schedule changes. Someone once asked me if I could start using it to send out prayer requests. I voiced similar concerns as yours, though not with the same devastating transparency you’ve used here. “Want to know what’s going on at church? Here’s an idea: go to church and you’ll know.” Best. Line. Ever.


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