Revd Steve Wild explains some of the background to 24/7 and how you might go about organising such an event in your church.
The 24/7 prayer movement began in England in 1999 with a group of young people who felt that they should try to pray non-stop for a month. From this beginning, the prayer meeting has become a chain of non-stop prayer meetings spreading through British churches and into other parts of the world.
24/7 prayer works through a network of prayer rooms where groups have pledged to pray 24 hours a day for a week or more. They then keep the flame of prayer alight for that period. The prayer passes from location to location. This is linked up on the Internet so that groups can find out where other people are praying that day.
People learn to pray by praying. People involved in 24/7are not experts and often find prayer a struggle. These opportunities for prayer can be an important part of a person's faith journey.
A church could set up a 24/7 prayer event like this: choose a ‘Prayer Room', label the door and equip the room for non-verbal prayer with paint, paper, card, crayons, clay, other creative items and a graffiti wall. Other useful items include: a globe, night- lights, candles (these to be used with supervision and a fire extinguisher available), a cross, photographs or newspaper cuttings. Lighting is important – small table lamps with coloured shades make a relaxed atmosphere, as do bean bags and comfortable arm chairs.
Register the 24/7 prayer event through www.24-7prayer.com. As the date to begin approaches, a member of the 24/7 prayer support team will contact you by email or phone to check that everything is running smoothly. She or he will also pray for your venture. A Prayer Room shared by all the church provides a strong sense of being part of a community carrying each others' burdens, celebrating the breakthroughs together and ministering to one another. It could be said that 24/7 is not a radical discovery but is the oldest, simplest idea there is… that we were made to walk in intimate friendship with God.
Young people today are as likely to turn up at a prayer meeting at 3am as at 7.30pm! 24/7 captures the imagination. There is something about this extreme challenge. It is exciting to be with God for a whole hour – especially in the middle of the night. People may paint a prayer, work with clay or write a poem. Being creative makes prayer easier for many people. Out of this has grown the idea of teams of young and older people holding 24/7 prayer missions at seaside resorts, college/ university campuses, or at events like the Glastonbury Festival and abroad in places like Ibiza.
Safeguarding and Health and Safety Considerations if organizing a 24/7 style event.
Preparation issues - for 24/7 Prayer events
Preparation, risk assessments and checklists are necessary to plan an event that will be safe for all those participating. Plans for an event should always be discussed in advance and endorsed at Church Council/ Circuit or District according to the level at which it is planned or hosted.
Ground rules for all those taking part need to be clear, especially in respect of spontaneous prayer activities late at night and be included in publicity leaflets for participants and organisers. These will include:
Issues to do with security of the premises -
Who has the key? Who knows about the premises? Who looks after the door (especially at night)?
Can these things be done by one person or are two necessary? What happens in an emergency (medical/ fire etc.)?
24/7 prayer events should not take place in private homes unless it is an adult only group event and more than three people.
Safeguarding issues -
Consideration needs to be given to ensuring more than one adult and more than one young person are present at any time of the day or night
No one should be alone with a young person,
No child should be alone with adults.
If this occurs because people do not turn up as planned, parents should be informed immediately and the organisers can insist that the young people be fetched home, unless other participants/ responsible adults are found straight away. A back up rota may be considered.
There should be a signed agreement of parents obtained for under 18s (as in 'Worth Doing Well') for all overnight events (whether waking or sleeping) and clear understanding of who is responsible for the young people, while they are at the premises.
Issues of transporting YP (as above - i.e. not alone) should be considered carefully.
Ensure that organisers/ leaders of youth or mixed age 24/7 events have Disclosures done in advance
Please refer to our Camping and Residential guidance if there are to be 'sleepover' events for 24/7.
If you need more information about the Methodist Church's Safeguarding policy and guidelines visit www.methodist.org.uk (then ‘Information', ‘Children', ‘Safeguarding',) or obtain a copy of the ‘Safeguarding' publication which sets out the current policy and practice of the Methodist Church as it seeks to protect the children and young people in its care. In addition it sets out the action that needs to be taken by all churches, Circuits and Districts following the decision of the 1998 Methodist Conference that no person who has been convicted of or has received a formal caution from the police concerning a sexual offence against children may be a local preacher or hold office.
Copies of the booklet can be ordered from MPH (Methodist Publishing House, 4 John Wesley Road, Werrington, Peterborough PE4 6ZP tel, 01733 325002) - Price £2.50.