Starting Gospel Movements on Campus: Prayer

by Paul on November 10, 2009

Every once in awhile I like to create scenarios that require me to think about implementing Gospel planting strategies and applying tactics in new environments.  This is this is the first of a 21 part series talking about ways to use Gospel planting strategies with online and offline tactics to catalyze Gospel Planting Movements on a University Campus.

People list prayer as an element of their strategic plan all the time.  Unfortunately, few actually develop prayer beyond that initial bullet point or paragraph.  Far too often, the fact that we are praying for the lost on university campuses is assumed.  The fact that people are praying for our ministry and the harvest on university campuses is taken for granted. The fact that we get university students coming out of the harvest to pray for their classmates is expected.

But, far too often, prayer is left unspoken and we move forward in our own strength.  We accept results that are less than they could be if we had prayed, and used every means in our power to mobilize prayer.

Every Gospel Planting Movement in history was preceded by a prayer movement. Why do we think a movement on a university campus would be any different?

If we want to start movements among University students, we have to mobilize prayer for the lost on University campuses.  Prayer must become more than a bullet point on a piece of paper.

Personal Prayer

David Watson talks about the dedication Gospel Planters have to prayer in countries like India and Africa:

In a recent meeting of the top 100 church planters in our ministry, we looked for common elements among these high producing leaders.  Each of these church planters, along with the teams they led, started more than 20 churches per year, each.  One group started more than 500 churches in the previous year.  The only common element we found in all these church planters was their commitment to prayer.  There were other common elements, but the only element that was present in every team was a high commitment to prayer.

These leaders spent an average of three hours per day in personal prayer.  They then spent another three hours in prayer with their teams every day.  These leaders were not all full time religious leaders.  In fact, most of them had regular jobs.  They started their days at 4:00 AM, and by 10:00 AM were at work.

These top performers also spent one day per week in fasting and prayer.  The whole team spent one weekend per month in fasting and prayer. (

That sounds like a lot of prayer, but if you only prayed 5 minutes for each member of your team and for each lost person you know, you would burn through a lot of time pretty quickly.

Leaders shouldn’t spend most of their prayer life trying to get God to do stuff for them.  Prayer that catalyzes movements isn’t about your Christmas list.  Leaders pray to know the mind of God and His plan to reach the lost on His university campus.  If you aren’t talking with God, how are you supposed to be tied into His plan?

When I’m praying for long periods of time I have trouble focusing.  I used different things to keep me on-task.  I’ll create a playlist that is an hour long and use the songs to guide my prayers.  I’ll have pictures of the people I’m praying for in front of me.  Sometimes (though I have to be careful not to get distracted), I’ll go through my Facebook friends list and use it to guide my prayers.

Are you setting aside the time to pray and fast personally?  Are you setting aside the time to pray and fast with your team?

Mobilizing Outsiders

Personal prayer is crucial for leaders who want to catalyze a Gospel Movement on university campuses.  Unfortunately, personal prayer is not enough.  Leaders charged with the responsibility to catalyze Gospel Planting Movements on campus must mobilize others to pray for the lost on that campus.

Develop a Personal Prayer Network

Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote awhile back that talks about one way to develop a personal prayer network:

Soon after we accept them into the program, I ask each of our summer missionaries to number a sheet of paper from 1-30.  Next to each number they write the name and phone number of a Christian friend – no repeats.  Each day they are to call the person with the number that corresponds to that day of the month.  So, on the 15th they would call number 15 and so on.

When they call, they say something like this:

“Hey [insert name]!  I have your name on my prayer calendar for today.  I’m going to be praying for you on and off throughout the day.  Is there anything you want me to pray about?”

Then they pray with the person right there, on the phone.  After they are done, they say,

“Thanks for letting me pray for you.  I would appreciate it if you would pray for me sometime today – when you get a chance.  I’m involved in a summer missions program.  We trying to reach the lost online.  We could all really use your prayers.  I appreciate it.”

Then they end the conversation.  Obviously it won’t go like that, word-for-word, but you get the idea.  The point is that each summer missionary is now involved in a prayer ministry rather than merely recruiting people to pray for them.  It is much more relational.

When you look at the numbers, it is pretty powerful.  We have 10 summer missionaries.  Each one makes their own list.  That means that 10 people per day, 300 per month, will be praying for them and the program.  The only commitment our summer missionaries had to make was to call a different person each day!

We have our missionaries begin this activity the month before the program begins, continue throughout their assignment, and pray for the month after their assignment is over.  We’ve learned that Satan like to attack especially during those times. (

My summer missionaries loved this part of their day!  Many told me how surprised their friends were that they would call and pray for them.

This is just one example.  However you do it, you need a personal prayer network.

Mobilizing Prayer for the Lost

Personalizing lost university students to outside Christians is essential for raising prayer support for that university.  Online tools can help us listen to the conversations of lost people.  Here is one way, using Twitter and

  1. Go to
  2. On, click on the ‘Advanced Search’ link next to the search box.
  3. Type your search term in the ‘All of These Words’ box.
  4. Scroll down to ‘Places’ and enter your zip code or the city in which your target university is located.  Set ‘Within this Distance’ to something that makes sense to you.
  5. Click on the ‘Search’ button at the bottom of the screen.
  6. Pray for people who, as evident by the content of their tweets, are lost.  To view their profiles, simply click on the tweet on to go to Twitter.

You can set up a blog where you journal about what you and your team are doing on campus to catalyze movements.  On this blog you can share prayer requests and remind people to pray for the campus.  You may even write prayers word-for-word to guide people as they pray.  If you set this blog up in WordPress, people can subscribe to updated posts via Twitter, RSS, or email.

I would also set up a Facebook page for people who want to pray for your campus.  Advertise this page on the bottom of email to Christians.  Also, advertise the page on your ministry blog.  Post prayer requests on the page once a day and ask people to click ‘Like’ if they prayed.

Once a week, schedule a Skype conference call to pray for the campus.  Have people send you their Skype info if they want to be part of the group for that week.  You can also set up a Tokbox conversation to do the same.

However you do it, you need to mobilize Christians outside your team to pray for your work and for the lost on the campus.

Mobilize the Harvest to Pray

As students come to know Christ, build the DNA of praying for their friends and their campus into every Bible study you have.  You can build this DNA into Discovery Bible Study Groups with people you are discipling into a relationship with Christ.  You can read more about Discovery Bible Study Groups on David Watson’s blog at–-establishing-core-values-dna-in-new-churches-part-2/.

You also need to have prayer for the campus as part of every activity you have with Christians on campus.  It needs to be the first part of every meeting rather than the last.

There are just a few ideas about developing and implementing a prayer strategy for a university campus.  The next post will focus on Scripture and implementing Scripture as part of a strategy to catalyze Gospel Movements on university campuses.

If you are working on a university campus, I’d love to hear how you’ve worked prayer into your strategy.

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{ 2 trackbacks }

Twitted by johnkking
December 2, 2009 at 8:29 pm
Starting Gospel Movements on Campus: Communities and Silos
December 3, 2009 at 11:04 am

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry Dorn November 11, 2009 at 11:58 am

Holdng in mnd and prayer for a person you are reaching out to isthe most imortant part of outreach. In my new book, "The Cross and the Psychiatrist," I tell of taking the time to reach each individual and the effect it has on them. Find The Cross and the psychiatrist at o google it. Terry Dorn

grace_c November 11, 2009 at 12:16 pm

"Every Gospel Planting Movement in history was preceded by a prayer movement. "

That is such a true statement. I've noticed in my own life and ministry that when I have stepped out to do something without sufficient pray, I have often found myself ahead of God or off track. Prayer is definitely the first step toward any ministry.

Thank you, as always, for such an anointed and inspiring article.


Beth February 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm

As a team leader of campus ministers, we have really reevaluated our own lifestyle of prayer this year. We made personal goals and are holding each other accountable to that. We organized a 24 hour prayer vigil including 2 corporate prayer times for today, National Collegiate Day of Prayer. We are hoping it is going to turn into a regular weekly campus-wide prayer time.

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